HC Deb 18 July 1832 vol 14 cc521-5
Mr. Dawson

said, he wished to call the serious attention of the House to the subject of the salary paid to the Governor of Londonderry Fort for doing nothing whatever, and which money, he thought, might be appropriated to a purpose of public benefit. The motion which he intended to submit to the House on this subject was, "That an address be presented to his Majesty to release the Irish Society from that part of their charter, which obliges them to pay 200l. a-year, and the rents of certain lands, to the Governor of Londonderry and Culmore forts, on condition of their applying those sums to the building of a stone bridge over the river Foyle, or any other improvement in that district." At present the Governor of Londonderry and Culmore Forts, who had really nothing to do, for the office was an entire sinecure, received his salary partly from the Crown, and partly from the Irish Society. He received 318l. a-year of the public money by an annual vote of that House; 200l. a-year from the Irish Society; and he was also invested by the Irish Society with the property of certain lands about Culmore, producing an annual income of from 600l. to 700l.; so that the whole of his income amounted to very nearly 1,200l. a-year. He would now inform the House of the purpose for which the Irish Society had been empowered to grant these sums of money to the Governor of Londonderry Fort. This society existed in the town of Derry, and had been incorporated by charter in the time of James 2nd, and had been put in possession of almost the whole of Londonderry, with this condition, that they should manage their estates for the civilization and improvement of that part of the country. But besides the improvement and civilization of the country, King James had another object in view, and that was the Protection of the Protestants who had settled in the county of Londonderry; and he therefore appointed an officer, under the title of Governor of Londonderry and Culmore Forts, to watch over the safety of the Protestants, and directed the Irish Society to give him a stated yearly salary for the performance of that duty. But, whatever services this officer might have rendered to the inhabitants of Londonderry in former times, at present he undoubtedly did no service at all. The soldiers were not placed under his command, and he was never looked to by the people for any protection. Such being the case he proposed to appropriate the money now paid to the holder of this sinecure office, to the purpose of defraying the expense of building a stone bridge over the river Foyle. At present, the only means of communication between the counties of Donegal, Tyrone, and Londonderry, was an old wooden bridge, for the privilege of passing over which very heavy tolls were exacted from the people; and he did not know of a greater benefit that could be conferred on the inhabitants of those counties, than the erection of a stone bridge, free of toll, without the expenditure of a single shilling of the public money. He could not imagine what objection could be made to the motion which he proposed, except that it might be urged, that the abolition of this sinecure would be taking away a means of rewarding such men as had distinguished themselves in the military service of their country. Though he admitted that there was some weight in this objection, still, as these funds had been given to the Irish Society for the specific purpose of introducing civilization and improvement into that part of Ireland, the people had a just right to expect that the money should be employed for the advantage and benefit of the district, in preference to being paid to any officer, however distinguished or meritorious. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Althorp) had pledged himself to the abolition of all sinecures, and he was now called upon, in fulfilment of his own pledge, to do away with this sinecure office; and the Government, who had expended vast sums of the public money in the improvement of the southern part of Ireland, were bound in fairness to assist in forwarding an undertaking which would prove highly advantageous to the northern part. The people of the north of Ireland were particularly entitled to the consideration of Government, for while the southern parts of Ireland had broken out into a state of insurrection, they had continued peaceable and obedient to the laws. He understood that it was intended to give the office of Governor of Londonderry Fort, which was now vacant, to an hon. and gallant Officer, a Member of that House (Sir J. Byng), and he most readily admitted that, if the office were to be continued, that hon. and gallant Officer fully deserved to receive such a reward. But he certainly did not expect that the hon. member for Middlesex would vote for the continuance of that sinecure. He did not know how the hon. Member behind him (Mr. Hume) would vote; for he had confessed, that on the division on the Russian loan, he would vote that "black was white." But he supposed that he should have the support of the other hon. member for Middlesex (Mr. Byng), for he did not believe that that hon. Member had solicited Government to give this sinecure situation to his gallant relative.

Lord Althorp

said, it was true that he had stated himself to be opposed to all useless sinecures: but he had never expressed an opinion that those offices which afforded the means of rewarding distinguished and meritorious military officers were useless sinecures. The granting of such situations to undeserving individuals was not certainly to be justified; but he thought that they were, when properly disposed of, most useful and beneficial. He had no doubt that the present Motion would be very popular with the Corporation of Derry. They would, no doubt, be highly pleased to be relieved from the payment which they were bound to make to the Governor of Londonderry Fort, but he thought that the House would be of opinion, when they recollected all the circumstances of the loan of money which was made to the Corporation of Derry for building a bridge over the river Foyle, that that Corporation had not any very strong claims on their consideration. He should hardly have believed it possible that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dawson) would, in his peculiar situation, have stood up in that House, and made the present proposition. The object of it was too clear to escape the notice of any person—it was to gain popularity in that part of Ireland; and he could not avoid again expressing his astonishment that the right hon. Gentleman should have put himself forward in the matter. It was not a public benefit that was sought to be obtained, but only the advantage of a particular district and town, and, in his opinion, it was impossible for the House to support the proposition.

Mr. Hume

had heard with great regret the statement made by the noble Lord, that such places as the one under discussion ought not to be abolished. How could any reduction in the expenditure of the country be effected, unless the expenses of the military establishments were cut down? He thought it would be far more honourable for those officers who were entitled to rewards, to come before that House and receive them from the people, instead of drawing incomes from sinecure offices. His vote on the question of the Russian loan had been commented upon by the right hon. Gentleman. He begged to inform the right hon. Gentleman that he voted against that motion, because he believed that it was brought forward from factious motives, and not from any desire to benefit the public.

Mr. Byng

said, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dawson) was quite right in stating that he had not applied to give this sinecure office to his brother; though, had he followed the right hon. Gentleman's advice, which he was not in the habit of doing, he should have made such an application; for the right hon. Gentleman had frequently told him, out of the House, that he would not be acting like a brother, if he did not try to get the situation for his hon. and gallant relative.

Mr. John Fane

supported the Motion. The hon. member for Middlesex, whom he had no wish to resemble, displayed his love of economy in the saving of sixpences, while the economy of saving millions was far above his care.

Mr. Alderman Venables

contended, that the bridge over the Foyle was an object of great importance, and said that he would vote for the Motion. He could assure the House that the Irish Society was disposed to do all in its power to promote the object for which it was instituted—the benefit of Ireland. The office in question ought, in his opinion, to be abolished.

Sir Henry Hardinge

rose for the purpose of supporting the same principle out of office which he had always maintained while in. He thought these offices ought to be maintained for the purpose of rewarding officers who had well served their country. He was not a little surprised at finding his right hon. friend (Mr. Dawson), who had always supported him in this principle through thick and thin while in office, now bringing forward a motion inconsistent with all his former votes. His right hon. friend had formerly declined to vote with the hon. member for Middlesex when he attacked these military rewards for past services, and he was sorry to see him now pursuing a course so inconsistent with his then conduct. He thought the suggestion of the hon. member for Middlesex, as to officers coming to that House for rewards very unconstitutional, for it at once took the power of rewarding merit out of the hands of the Crown. Besides, if they were to come to that House for rewards, it would be opening a dour in endless intrigue to procure them by their interest with individual Members.

Motion negatived.