HC Deb 01 August 1832 vol 14 cc991-6

On the Motion of Lord Althorp, the House went into Committee on his Majesty's answer to the Address respecting the Speaker's retirement from his office.

Lord Althorp

then spoke as follows: Mr. Bernal—In rising to make the Motion which I think it proper for the House to adopt respecting the Speaker of the House, who is about to retire from the Chair of this House, I do not think it necessary, after what has passed on a former occasion, to say anything whatever on the merits of that right hon. Gentleman. The House has so unanimously approved of his conduct in the Chair, that it is not necessary for me to touch further upon that subject. The right hon. Gentleman in the speech which he had made from the Chair, had decided that he would not put himself in comparison with his predecessors. Whilst the right hon. Gentleman was present it was difficult for me or any Member to state an opinion on a subject of so delicate a nature; but having had the honour of sitting in this House, and of seeing the Chair filled by other Speakers, by Gentlemen very eminent for abilities and knowledge, I have no scruple (however great was Lord Colchester's knowledge of the laws of the House, and however eminently he performed his duty in defending its privileges), I have no hesitation, as far as my experience goes, of saying that, during the period that the present Speaker has sat in the Chair, all the facilities of public business have been greatly increased. The right hon. Gentleman, I am convinced, need not be fearful of putting himself in comparison with any predecessor. I have, therefore, a right to say, that whatever have been the claims of other Speakers on the liberality of Parliament, the claims of the present Speaker are at least equal. The right hon. Gentleman has sat in the Chair as many years as Lord Colchester, not, certainly, so many years as Mr. Speaker Onslow—but that I believe is the only exception to be found. But no previous Speaker has ever filled that Chair for an equal period, when the duties of it were so frequent, constant, and laborious, as they have been during the occupation of it by the right hon. Gentleman. I believe that the number of hours (not saying the number of Sessions or years) which the Speaker has filled that Chair in the performance of his arduous duties are greater than those of the period of Mr Speaker Onslow, al- though he occupied the Chair for the very long space of thirty-three years. I will now state what have been the precedents for granting pensions to Speakers of this House upon their retiring from the Chair, and I will begin with Mr. Speaker Onslow, for it was not always customary to vote such grants. The pension voted to Mr. Speaker Onslow was 3,000l. a year upon his own life, and upon the life of his son, without any limitation as to his appointment to office. That period has passed so long, and the value of money has since so much changed, that what was then 3,000l. a-year is a very much larger grant than any which I can venture to propose now. But I have a right to limit the grant by precedents of more recent times. As to Lord Sidmouth, it is known that when he ceased to become the Speaker of the House, he was appointed to the station of Prime Minister, and he afterwards continued to hold many eminent offices. He therefore did not receive any pension as Speaker, but he received a pension as a public servant. There was no reversion granted to his son, as his son was in possession of a very considerable sinecure office. The grant to Lord Colchester was 4,000l. a year, and 3,000l. a-year to his first successor, and the 4,000l. a-year was to be reduced by one half in case of his accepting office under the Crown of an equal value. This was the only limitation in the grant. I have now to propose that the House do grant to the present Speaker a sum of 4,000l. a-year for his own life, subject to the same condition that was imposed on the grant to Lord Colchester. I shall also propose the grant of 3,000l. a-year to the son of the right hon. Gentleman; but, as the son has a reversion to a sinecure office, I have to propose that when he acquires that office his pension shall cease. This is the limitation to the pension; and the Resolution I now propose is to carry this into effect. Having now stated, as briefly as I could, the precedents and the grounds of the vote, it is not, I hope, necessary for me to say more in order to induce the House to adopt it. I must observe that we are not by any means to consider it a general rule to grant pensions to the Speakers of this House upon their resignation of the Chair. Cases may occur in which it may not be right to do so; but the case of the present Speaker cannot but be considered as one in which it is necessary to do so. I shall now move—"That the sum of 4,000l. a-year be granted out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, to the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton, and that the grant do take effect the day after the right hon. Gentleman do cease to hold the office of Speaker of the House of Commons, and that it be settled in the most beneficial manner; and that 3,000l. a-year be granted out of the Consolidated Fund to be settled in like manner upon and continue during the life of the next heir male of the said right hon. Charles Manners Sutton."

The Chairman put the Resolution, and

Mr. Hume

rose and said, that he would take the present opportunity of stating that he had invariably found the present Speaker attentive to all applications relative to the duties of his office, and that the attention was accompanied by an amenity of manners extremely grateful to all who had to transact business with him. He now wished to notice what would be of importance to future Parliaments. It was, in his opinion, a novel proceeding to grant pensions to retired Speakers, and he should propose, on some future occasion, a Resolution that would make it certain that other Speakers were not to rely on such a pension. The right hon. Gentleman had been put into the same situation as his predecessor, and it was right that he should be provided for in the same manner, but it should be enacted, that no future Speaker should have any claim to a pension. The situation ought to be a post of honour, and many of the most eminent and most distinguished men would be willing to take the Chair without any pension whatever. He should not oppose the present vote, but enter his protest against any such grants in future.

Sir Robert Inglis

observed, that almost every Speaker of that House had held some other office together with the Chair of that House, which had been the case from the time of Mr. Onslow, when Gentlemen of large lauded property aspired to the Speakership. He could not but bear his humble testimony to the justice of the praises that had been bestowed from both sides of the House upon the right hon. Gentleman. The House had had such a Speaker as they were not likely to have again—a person who combined the most gentlemanly manners with a knowledge of the business of the House that approached almost to instinct. The House would look in vain for another Speaker who should combine in himself so many claims to general respect.

Sir Charles Wetherell

said, that when the late Lord Colchester received his grant of the pension, he was in possession of an office worth about 1,800l. a-year, which he had acquired by services prior to his becoming Speaker, The son of the present Speaker was entitled to the reversion of the office of Register of Wills, and the amount of his receipts would be made up of shillings paid for inspecting wills, and of other petty fees. He should wish in lieu of the reversionary grant to the son, that the pension to the present Speaker should be 5,000l. Mr. Abbott (Lord Colchester) held his place of 1,800l. upon the Irish List during the whole time of his being Speaker of that House, and he now thought that a more liberal grant ought to be made to the right hon. Gentleman who was about to retire from the Chair. The office to which the right hon. Gentleman had a reversion was a freehold office. In the present case the holder of the office was the only son of a late Archbishop of Canterbury, and he thought that the mere adventitious circumstance of that person being an only son ought not to prejudice the present Speaker of the House. He wished to ask the hon. Member for Middlesex, whether he supposed that, because a commoner wasted his constitution in the service of the House, a proper remuneration should not be made to him? Looking at the pensions granted to preceding Speakers, and to the emoluments they had possessed, he begged to say he did not think it fair that the son of the Speaker should lay down his pension in the event of succeeding to another office.

Lord Althorp

said, that in any thing he might say he wished it to be known that no man could more highly estimate the talents and merits of the present Speaker than he did. He felt that the hon. and learned Gentleman had placed him in an unpleasant situation, inasmuch as he was compelled to argue the case on a principle of economy: but, looking to the present salary of the Speaker, which was 6,000l. a-year, he thought that the proposition to give two-thirds of his salary was just and fair. As to the second point, he must contend that the arrangement by which the son of the Speaker was required to give up his pension in the event of succeeding to a certain office, was a fair one. It was to be considered that the son of the Speaker was also heir to a considerable freehold property. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) agreed with the hon. member for Middlesex, that it was not to be made a matter of course that the Speaker in future should have a pension; but it was going too far to say that no Speaker should have a pension.

Mr. Hunt

expressed his admiration of the conduct of the Speaker. He did this as the only openly avowed Radical in the House. If the noble Lord had moved 5,000l. a-year to the Speaker, he should have supported him, but at the same time he thought the sum proposed was liberal. He hoped that future Speakers would adopt what he believed had been the present Speaker's motto, namely, to ride the House with a snaffle rein, and not with a curb.

Sir Charles Burrell

concurred in all that had fallen from the hon. member for Preston. He did not believe that any Speaker had an opportunity of saving money, and he must condemn the argument of the hon. member for Middlesex as evincing bad economy.

Resolution agreed to, and the House resumed.