HC Deb 25 July 1832 vol 14 cc735-7
Mr. Spring Rice

having moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of Supply,

The Attorney General

rose and requested the House would indulge him with their attention for a few moments. He understood that in an early part of the evening some observations had fallen from an hon. and learned Member on an appointment which had recently been made by his noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. He regretted that he had not been informed by the hon. and learned Member that it was his intention to bring the subject before the House; for had he (the Attorney General) been present, he should have been prepared to have immediately given a perfectly satisfactory explanation of the conduct of his noble and learned friend. It had been supposed that the Lord Chancellor had, in his statement of last year, intimated an intention that was entirely inconsistent with the step which he had just taken. His Lordship, in the discussion alluded to, did certainly declare his opinion, that the payment of judicial salaries, especially that of the Great Seal, by fees and sinecure offices, was unsatisfactory and inconsistent with the dignity which ought to belong to those offices; and, therefore, that it was most desirable that such a mode of remuneration should be got rid of. But his noble and learned friend had actually prepared a Bill on the subject, which was perfectly ready to be laid on the Table of the House of Lords; and which the Lord Chancellor would have introduced into the House of Lords some time ago, but for circumstances over which he had no control. The death of Mr. Scott, and the subsequent appointment, would make no alteration whatever in the Lord Chancellor's determination to proceed with the Bill, one provision of which was the abolition of the very office in question. But, until some arrangement were made with respect to that office, there were some important duties connected with it which it was absolutely necessary should be discharged; and that arrangement could not be made until the Lord Chancellor's Bill became, as he hoped it would become, the law of the land. While the office did continue in existence, therefore, his noble and learned friend felt it to be his duty to his family to confer it on an individual who had so strong a claim upon him as his brother. But, he repeated, there was nothing whatever in that act which was inconsistent with the former declarations of his noble and learned friend. He hoped the House would not think that he (the Attorney General) had acted unreasonably in taking the earliest opportunity to remove any impression which might have been made unfavourable to so distinguished an individual and public officer.

Mr. Goulburn

quite agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman that he did right to take the earliest opportunity of vindicating the noble and learned Lord; but he must maintain, that the hon. and learned member for St. Mawes equally did his duty, when he thought that there was anything reprehensible in the conduct of a public officer, in taking the earliest opportunity of bringing the subject under the consideration of the House. With respect to the Bill to which the hon. and learned Gentleman alluded, at the present period of the Session it might be exceedingly difficult to get it through Parliament.

Lord Althorp

said, that he did not understand that his noble and learned friend had any idea of passing the Bill in the present Session, although it was his intention to introduce it, and to explain the new arrangements which he meant to propose.

Mr. Robinson

hoped it would be per- fectly understood that, however the office in question might be dealt with hereafter, the public would not hear of any claims respecting It, founded on vested rights.

Lord George Bentinck

wished to know, if it was the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to bring in any Bill giving compensation to the Lord Chancellor for the loss of fees consequent upon the new arrangement?

Lord Althorp

replied, that in the earlier part of the evening he had stated, that it was his intention early next week to move the Miscellaneous Charges of the Civil List, and he would then advert to the Bill for regulating the salary of the Lord Chancellor, and for placing all judicial salaries on a permanent footing.

Mr. Hume

thought, that at this late period of the Session, it would be better to take a sum on credit, and make the definite arrangement in the next Session.

Lord Althorp

observed, that if he postponed the settlement of those questions, and then in another Parliament should be unable to carry them, it would be imputed to him that he had so acted on purpose. He himself was satisfied, that in a Reformed House full justice would be done to every claimant; but as there were others who entertained a different opinion, he would not run any risk.

The House went into a Committee of Supply.

Several votes of the Colonial and Ordnance Estimates were agreed to without observation, and the House resumed.