HC Deb 16 August 1833 vol 20 cc719-31

The House resolved itself into a Committee of Supply on the Miscellaneous Estimates.

The following votes were agreed to without discussion:—12,275l. 12s. 3d. to make good the deficiency on the Fee Fund for the Colonial Department; 13,500l. for the Fee Fund of the Privy Council; 2,000l. on account of salary to the Lord Privy Seal; 7,500l. for contingent expenses and Messengers' bills in the Treasury Department; 6,284l. for contingent expenses and Messengers' bills in the Home Department; 39,600l. for contingent expenses and Messengers' bills in the Foreign Department; 50,600l. for contingent expenses and Messengers' bills for the Colonial Department; 5,453l. for contingent expenses and Messengers' bills for the Privy Council; and 4,366l. for contingent expenses and Messengers' bills for the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, &c.

On the Motion, that a sum not exceeding 1,264l. be granted to defray the expenses of salaries and allowances to certain Professors in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge,

Mr. Warburton

said, he had no objection to the grant, if there were no University surplus funds that were available to this object.

Mr. Pryme

supported the grant, because the Universities had no funds applicable to this purpose.

Mr. Ewart

objected to the grant, on the ground of the exclusiveness of the Universities. If dissenters were admitted, they would have much pleasure in agreeing to a much larger sum.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, that the admissibility of dissenters into those Universities was the opinion—he could not say of the majority, but—of a great mass of the residents at the Universities. It was a growing opinion, and there was every probability, before Parliament met, that it would be a matter of discussion in the Universities. They ought, however, to be left to take their own steps on the subject, lest compulsion might defeat the important object in view.

Mr. Potter

could mention to the hon. member for Cambridge a method of increasing the funds of the University, namely, to admit the sons of dissenters to participate in the honours of science and literature. At present, as was well known, a dissenter could not send his son to either of the Universi- ties, for, before they could take a degree, it was absolutely necessary that they declared their adherence to the doctrines of the Established Church.

The vote agreed to. The House resumed.

It being three o'clock, the House adjourned; and, in the evening sitting, again went into a Committee of Supply.

On the Motion, that 70,875l. for the salaries of Consuls-General, Consuls, and Vice-Consuls for the ensuing year, be granted,

Mr. Hume

observed, that the contingent expenses connected with this grant amounted to 6,500l. which was charged for the moiety of expenses incurred for chaplains, chapels, hospitals, and burial-grounds, in foreign countries. He had reason to doubt whether this was a wise grant. He understood that clergymen who had livings in this country, but were residing abroad, were in the habit of getting representations signed by the English residents in those countries, stating, that if the Government would pay one moiety of the expense of employing a chaplain to perform divine service for them, they would themselves pay the other. He was likewise informed, that when Government consented to pay one moiety, the English residents abroad refused to pay the other; but the clergymen did not complain of this, as their object was answered by obtaining the grant from Government. He thought, that the Committee ought not to lend itself to this plan of enabling our countrymen to live comfortably in exile abroad. At Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, and some other places, where we had consuls, the expense of providing a chaplain was defrayed by the English merchants of those places. He thought, that that should be the case generally. He was happy to find, from the statement annexed to this estimate, that the noble Lord had not filled up certain consulships which had become vacant, because they were not wanted, that he had reduced the salaries of several vice-consuls, and that he had promised to reduce still more as opportunity offered.

Viscount Palmerston

said, that he could have no interest in making such appointments in places where chaplains were not wanted. He always took the recommendation of the residents at the place, liable, however, to the Bishop of London's approbation of the professional character of the chaplain recommended. A chaplain was appointed at every place where a consul was resident, under the notion that the existence of a sufficiently extensive British community to require a chaplain, was proved by the fact of a consul being appointed by the Government to watch over their interests. He made a point of seeing that the moiety subscribed by the British residents was paid to the chaplain before he granted a farthing to him out of the public revenue. It was the intention of Government to withdraw consuls from all places where they were not required; and, as a proof that that intention was not to waste itself in mere words, he instanced the three consuls whom he had withdrawn from ports in the United States. The Committee would scarcely believe how numerous the representations were which he received from the mercantile part of the community, demanding that consuls should be appointed in places where they did not exist at present. He wished it to be distinctly understood, on the one hand, that he would not hesitate to withdraw consuls from those places in which they were not wanted; and, on the other hand, that he should not be reluctant to appoint new consuls in those places where a new distribution of trade rendered them necessary.

Mr. Cobbett

objected to paying the consuls by salaries instead of fees. When they were paid by salaries, the consuls were generally absent from their posts, and took no interest in the business of the merchants trading with the port at which they were stationed. It was quite different when the consuls were remunerated by fees proportioned to their activity in the discharge of their duties. He also wished to be informed whether there were any chaplains attached to the consulships which we had in the United States?

Viscount Palmerston

asserted, that the statement which had just been made by the hon. member for Oldham was not warranted by fact. The consuls might sometimes be absent from their post, owing to ill health, or to family circumstances, but generally they were at their posts, performing the duties with which Government had intrusted them. He defended the system of salaries, and contended, that it was better to throw the charge of keeping up our consular establishments upon the general revenue, than upon the private commerce of the country. He was not aware that any payment was made by Government, on account of chaplains employed in the ports of the United States.

Mr. George F. Young

rose to ask why so high a salary as 1,500l. a-year was paid to our Consul General at Hamburgh? The salary paid to that consul was higher than the salary paid to any other of our consuls, save those employed in the states of South America, whose emoluments were high beyond all proportion.

Viscount Palmerston

said, that the Consul General at Hamburgh was also a diplomatic agent to the Hanseatic towns. In point of fact, he was more of a diplomatic than of a commercial agent; and his salary was fixed more in reference to the salaries of the diplomatic servants than to those of the commercial agents of the country. The hon. Member had adverted to the salaries paid to our consuls in South America, which he had denounced as extravagant and enormous. Now, the hon. Member ought to recollect that in countries where the precious metals were produced as they were in South America, money was of less value, with regard to commodities, than it was in this country. He must take that opportunity of saying, that he had inquired into the case of the reverend Thomas Penrose, who was receiving a diplomatic pension, and who had formerly been attacked by the hon. member for Oldham. That gentleman had served his country, from the year 1791 to the year 1820, in a diplomatic capacity. He had served in Russia, in Prussia, and in Italy; and, during his residence in Italy, he had the good fortune to render a very signal service to the commercial interests of this country. By the timely intelligence which he had, some how or other, obtained of the movements of the French troops, and which he instantly communicated to our merchants at Leghorn, he enabled them to carry off property to the amount of 500,000l., which would have been lost within twenty-four hours afterwards, if that intelligence had not been given them. Mr. Penrose at that time was not in orders, and it was not until he had quitted the diplomatic service that he had taken orders.

Mr. Clay

said, that, high as the salary of the Consul-General at Hamburgh was, it was not so high as the salary of the Consul-General at Morocco, or at Algiers, or at Tunis. The two first of these consuls had 1,800l., and the last 1,600l. a-year.

Viscount Palmerston

said, that the salaries given to our ministers were not more than would enable them to live respectably and decently in that society in which they must move, in order to perform well the duties assigned to them. As to the American ministers, he would say, that they got a double salary for the first year, to meet the expenses of the outfit,—that was, they received three-years' salary for two years' service, after which time there was generally a change of ministers; but it had been admitted by the American Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that the ministers from that country to other states were underpaid.

Mr. Cobbett

thought that the average service of the American ministers was four years. They were, in general, very clever men, and it was proved in their cases that high salaries were not necessary to the efficient performance of the duties of Ministers. At the same time he did not wish to see our foreign ministers underpaid. As to the case of the reverend Mr. Penrose, it appeared from the returns before the House, that he was Chargé d' Affaires only from May to October, 1800. That was only five months, though the noble Lord had said, that he had been in the public service twelve years. If the return was wrong, it was not his fault. He should like to know when he became a clergyman. It was certain he had been receiving the incomes of two livings for twenty-years, besides his pension.

Mr. Hume

remarked it was strange, that though the services of this Gentleman had been performed before 1800, he had not received his pension till 1812.

Lord Palmerston

said, that he knew no more of it than from the documents which he found in his office. Amongst those was a letter from Mr. Wyndham, in which he stated that Mr. Penrose had been his private secretary for ten years, during which he was engaged in diplomatic missions. It was not stated that he had been Charge d' Affaires more than the time stated in the return.

The Motion agreed to.

On a Resolution, that a sum not exceeding 13,150l. be granted for the salaries and expenses of the Commissioners of public charities to 1834,

Mr. Tooke

objected to the amount of this vote. The Commissioners had a salary of 800l. each, besides an allowance for travelling expenses. He thought that if those large allowances were continued, it would protract the business of the commission to an immense extent. These commissioners had already cost the country upwards of 50,000l. [Mr. Hume: Ay, more than 150,000l.] That would afford a still stronger ground for limiting the expenses. He would, therefore, propose to reduce the vote by the sum of 2,500l., so as to cut off the travelling expenses.

Mr. Hume

would suggest to his hon. friend to take a different course, and to object to the vote altogether. He did not see why the country should be called upon to pay these Commissioners 800l. a-year each, when the same number might be selected from retired Commissioners of several departments who were now receiving retiring pensions. There were, for instance, the seven retired Commissioners of Stamps, who were as well able to perform public duties as he was, and better. These Commissioners, it was found five years ago, could not agree as to the manner of discharging their duties, so that three of them could scarcely be got together to perform the public business. Instead of dismissing the whole, as it would have been perfectly right to do, the late Government pensioned them all off on retiring allowances, and appointed seven more in their stead, though three would have been found abundantly sufficient to do the business. Now, what he would suggest was, that the Commissioners of charities, and Commissioners for other purposes which might become necessary should be selected from such retired public officers, and thus an immense saving of expense would be made, and the business be as well done.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, that the appointment of these Commissioners of charities was by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Government could not be blamed for continuing them. They had done what they could to lessen the expense over which the Treasury had control, by diminishing the salaries from 1,000l. to 800l. each. He admitted the principle laid down by his hon. friend, that where the Government could find amongst the retired public servants men competent to the discharge of important public duties, they should select them instead of appointing men who had not before been employed and the Government had acted upon that principle by selecting 700 persons who had retired on allowances, and giving them appointments, by which a considerable saving had been made to the public but it did not follow that a retired public officer was always competent to fill new situations which might be required. A man, for example, might have been a very efficient Commissioner of Stamps, and not fit to be appointed a Commissioner of public charities. He would admit that amongst the retired Commissioners of Stamps, there was one individual of whose great learning and talents he could not speak too highly, but this could not be said of all retired Commissioners.

Mr. Harvey

thought, that 800l. a-year could not be considered too much for barristers who gave up their practice as such, in order to attend to their duties as Commissioners; but in the present case, he thought the Commissioners were more than paid for what they did; for, in fact, in their circuits through the country, they consulted more their own bodily disorders than they did the business for which they were paid. There were already about sixty volumes of Reports, and yet there were few, if any, counties, in which the inquiry was completed. If one wished to examine into the charities of any particular county, he had to search for them through many volumes, where parts appeared. The cause of this was, that instead of taking one county, and going through with it, they spread themselves from time to time over several counties, according as their bodily necessities or their tastes dictated. When they met in London, one said, "I should like to be this year in the neighbourhood of Harrowgate, the waters of which will be good for my scrofula." Another desired to take advantage of the hot wells of Buxton, and a third would like to avail himself of the bracing air of Brighton; and in this way the inquiries were disjointed, and would cost the country an immense sum before they were completed. They had already cost the country a quarter of a million. It appeared from the inquiries already made, though half the counties of England had not yet been gone through, that the sums applicable to education in those counties in which inquiries had been made amounted to 600,000l. a-year, and that there were 2,000,000l. of money in the hands of trustees. This was a sum which, if properly inquired into, and prudently applied, would be fully sufficient to give education to every child in the country, without any additional expense.

Amendment withdrawn, and vote agreed to.

On the question, that 55,967l. be granted to his Majesty for defraying the charges of retired allowances, and superannuations of persons having been employed in public offices, and in the public service,

Mr. Clay

was of opinion, that the system of retired allowances and superannuations was so radically bad, that no improvement could be made in it. He disapproved of allowances to persons, no matter in what service they had been, whether in the army or navy. The principle should be given up, and nobody should be paid except those who were efficient, and actively employed. He did not wish that existing interests should be touched, but he wished to see a prospective plan laid down on the principle he advocated.

Lord Althorp

wished it to be known, that in every appointment made by the present Government, a special agreement had been made, by which five per cent was deducted from the salary of the office towards the Superannuation Fund; and, further, that persons accepting those offices should be subject to any arrangements to be made by Parliament regarding both salaries and superannuations.

Mr. Hume

asked why a superannuation allowance had been given to a Mr. Brownrigg?

Mr. Spring Rice

said, that with regard to Mr. Brownrigg, he had been Secretary of the Inland Navigation Board. The Government had considered it expedient to abolish the office, and it was on that account he had been allowed 300l. a-year. He (Mr. Rice) was convinced, that in place of this allowance being a burthen to the public, it was a saving. The officers of the Inland Navigation Board were not entitled to a superannuation allowance, because their duties were of a temporary nature; but in this case Mr. Brownrigg had been appointed to the office thirty-three years ago. At the time of his appointment, he was a civil engineer in good practice, and was obliged to abandon his profession on taking the situation, and at the age of eighty-four he was allowed this retiring allowance. In all other cases the officers of this Board had been refused any allowances, although strong claims had been made in behalf of some of them. But when they found a man who had abandoned his profession for the service of the public, and had continued in that service for thirty-three years, could they permit him, when the office was abolished, to be left perhaps to starve, at his advanced age? In this case, too, there would be no additional expense put on the country, but only a small diminution of the intended saving. He thought the House would be of opinion, that the Government had not done wrong in this case; and he felt convinced, that the statement he had made of the services of Mr. Brownrigg would be satisfactory both to the House and the country.

Mr. Hume

was ready to admit any just claim of humanity, especially when attended with length of service to the public; but he had been informed, that Mr. Brownrigg was a man of independent fortune.

Mr. Edward Ruthven

said, that Mr. Brownrigg kept his carriage, and lived in good style, and had been agent for some years for the Marquess of Downshire.

Lord Althorp

said, that if Mr. Brownrigg were found on inquiry to be in the circumstances stated by the hon. member for Kildare, his allowance might still be rescinded. He wished to explain to the House the system which he had followed in regard to the abolition of offices. There were two ways in which they could be abolished. The one was by waiting till the office became vacant by the death of the person holding it; the other, by abolishing the office at once, and making an allowance to the person who held it, for the loss of his situation. The course which he had followed was the latter. He wished the public to have a part of the benefit of the abolition at once; and the course had another good effect—it prevented all danger of the office being filled up when it did happen to fall vacant.

Mr. Robinson

said, that if the system of granting superannuations were abolished altogether, persons holding offices would then save as much out of their salaries as would make a provision for their old age, but that as long as the system of granting them in any cases was followed, claims would continue to be made, which, in some cases, it might be difficult to withstand. He hoped, that superannuations would be done away with altogether.

Sir James Graham

had already stated his intention of bringing forward a Bill on this subject next Session. He hoped, therefore, that the business would not be delayed any longer by a continuance of the discussion, as the Session was near its close, and much business had yet to be done.

Mr. Cobbett

said, that the Estimates ought to have been brought forward in the middle of the Session.

Lord Althorp

approved of their being brought forward early in the Session, but circumstances had prevented the Government from bringing them forward at an earlier period of this Session.

Sir Edward Knatchbull

I hope, then, that we are to understand, that no circumstances will again prevent the Government from bringing them forward in the early part of the next Session?

Vote agreed to.

On the Motion to grant a sum of 56,000l. for printing the Acts of Parliament, &.c,

Mr. Hume

was glad to observe the immense saving that had taken place in this department, and he was happy to have the opportunity of giving the Government the credit of it. The thanks of the country were due to the Government for what they had done, and if some recommendations which had been given to the Government were acted on, a much greater saving might yet take place. Acts of Parliament which had before cost 4d. a sheet, were now to be had (and the circumstance ought to be universally known) at 1½d. a sheet. The consequence was, that the cost of delivering these Acts of Parliament to the Magistrates was much diminished. By the way, he objected to the continuance of that system of delivering copies of the Acts of Parliament to the Magistrates. He was not satisfied that they were fairly delivered. There was no evidence given of the arrival of the copies, and, for aught that was known, all that money might be thrown away. He thought it should be left to the Magistrates to provide themselves. He hoped, that the precedent which had been set, with reference to Acts of Parliament, would now be followed with regard to Parliamentary Papers, and that they would be sold, for the money thus obtained would be a great saving to the public. There was another head of expense to which he wished to call the attention of the House. It was that of printing the Journals of that House. There were now 62,000 volumes in store, not one-half of them was ever used, and yet the expense of reprinting them amounted to no less a sum than 89,000l. He hoped the Government would not allow the Journals to be printed beyond what was needed for the two Houses, with a small surplus, and that the practice of supplying Members who sat for a single fortnight in that House would be put an end to. If these things were done, they would lead to a reduction of one-half the expenditure.

Vote agreed to.

On the proposition to vote 18,700l. 18s. 6d. for the civil expenses of our North American establishments,

Mr. Hume

expressed a hope, that the whole amount of the expenses of the religious establishments in those colonies would be withheld. He thought, that the income of the Catholic Bishop of Quebec ought not to be paid by this country. The religious establishments of those colonies, unless the Government meant to assimilate them to Ireland, ought not to be a burthen on the people of England.

Mr. Secretary Stanley

said, that the expense would not be greater than at present, as the reserved lands for the clergy would in the" course of time be sufficient for their maintenance. The grant to the Catholic Bishop had been long sanctioned by Parliament, and was given to that prelate in lieu of his former revenue. He was glad the hon. Member had mentioned the name of the Protestant Bishop of Quebec, as it gave him an opportunity of stating a circumstance as rare as it was honourable to that excellent prelate. He believed, that nearly the whole of his income was devoted to the benefit of those over whom he presided. He would also state, that such had been the increase of the number of Protestants in Canada, in consequence of emigration thither, that the Bishop of Quebec had made an application to Government to have a suffragan Bishop appointed for Upper Canada, but not at any expense to this country; for in the most disinterested manner he offered to give up 1,000l. a-year out of his own income of 3,000l. to pay the suffragan. He, however, had felt it necessary to decline the offer, as it might lead to expectations which could not be realized, for after the death of the Bishop of Quebec there were no funds from which the 1,000l. could be paid. The offer, however, was not the less generous and praiseworthy on the part of the right reverend prelate.

Mr. Labouchere

said, that the Roman Catholic parochial clergy in Canada were well provided for. They were comfortably situated, and their incomes arose out of tithes. It was different with the Bishops; if they should be deprived of their incomes they would be reduced to almost a state of poverty. On principle, however, he agreed, that the sooner the supporting of those ecclesiastical establishments was got rid of, the better it would be, not only for this country but for those establishments themselves. He did wish, that faith should not be broken with those ecclesiastics who had been induced to migrate on the promise of being provided for by this country. He trusted the hon. member for Middlesex would not persist in depriving of his emoluments a person respected in the lower province of Canada.

Vote agreed to.

Lord Althorp

said, that as the next Resolution which he had to move was new, he thought it necessary to explain why he considered it his duty to bring it forward. He was aware, that where money was advanced by the Government for the purpose of forwarding education, it was frequently mischievous—and that it was more desirable to leave schools to be supported by private subscription than public money. But in setting new schools on foot—especially in building school-houses—subscriptions were frequently deficient, and it was for the purpose of building new school-houses that he would now propose that a sum of 20,000l. be granted. This sum he proposed should be placed at the disposal of the Treasury, but no part of it should be ex pended but at the suggestion of the two great School Societies of the kingdom—namely, the National School Society and the Lancasterian School Society. He thought, that the House would approve of the proposal. The noble Lord concluded by moving, that a sum not exceeding 20,000l. be granted by his Majesty in aid of private subscriptions for the erection of school-houses for the education of the poorer classes in Great Britain,

Mr. George F. Young

could not hear the name of Lancaster mentioned without expressing a regret, that a person who had done so much for his fellow-men should be allowed to pine in exile and in poverty. He hoped that something might be done in his behalf.

Sir Robert Inglis

had never heard an Estimate brought forward in that House with greater surprise than the present. It was the commencement of a new system, the extent of which they could not know. He could not but express his surprise, that such a proposition should have been brought forward without notice, at the very end of the Session, and at two o'clock in the morning. He was not prepared, however, to oppose the Motion; but he thought the noble Lord ought to delay it.

Lord Morpeth

could not but thank the noble Lord for the proposition, which, in his opinion, would be highly beneficial.

Mr. Hume

would oppose the Motion, but not on the ground assumed by the hon. Baronet. He opposed it because bethought the plan of giving assistance to schools bad, and there would be no end to the demands for assistance from all parts of the country. The result would be, that it would give dissatisfaction instead of being of service. He would suggest to the noble Lord the propriety of postponing the Resolution till some plan was formed which would extend to the community in general, or, at all events, till some inquiry could be made as to the propriety of the grant.

Lord Althorp

quite agreed with the hon. Member, that the giving of assistance to schools after they were established was not proper, but the object of this grant was to give assistance towards building school-houses.

The Vote agreed to—The House resumed.