HC Deb 04 August 1834 vol 25 cc935-8

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

Mr. Alderman Thompson moved, as an Amendment, that it be read a third time this day three months. Considering the additional labour which of late years the Speaker had to undergo, he could not understand why the salary of that officer should be reduced to a lower rate than that at which it stood in 1790. During the last six or seven years the number of hours occupied by the Speaker in the discharge of the duties of his office, had increased fifty or sixty per cent, and, during the last two years, to a still greater extent. With respect to the other officers of the House, he did not think that they were at all overpaid; but if they were, their salaries ought to be reduced at once.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

said, that, as the Bill, in consequence of the proviso moved by him, did not affect the present Speaker, his objections to it were so far diminished. Still he thought that there were no situations in the country, the duties of which were of so onerous and arduous a description as those of the Clerks at the Table. It should be recollected also, that those Gentlemen were cut off from all connexion with society. They were, in fact, unable to make any appointment of a convivial or social nature. One of the objects of this Bill was said to be to put an end to sinecures, among which the office of Clerk of Engrossments was reckoned. It was true, that the duties of that situation were not heavy, but it had always been considered as a retiring office for one of the Gentlemen who had very arduous duties to perform in that House, and who was not entitled to receive any retiring allowance. He considered the measure to be one of pitiful economy, and unworthy of a reformed House of Commons.

Mr. Hume

was surprised to hear the hon. Member characterize the Bill as a measure of pitiful economy. The hon. Member was wrong in supposing that the office of Clerk of Engrossments was reserved for the Gentlemen who transacted laborious duty in that House; for Sir E. Stracey, who held that situation and another sinecure office besides, had never performed any duty in that House. With respect to the salary of the Speaker, he did not think that that officer, who was only employed for six months, was entitled to receive a greater salary than the First Lord of the Treasury, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who were occupied during the whole year.

Mr. Goulburn

never heard a proposition which caused him so much surprise as that which had been made for the reduction of the Speaker's salary. So far from the duties of the Speaker having diminished since the year 1790, when the amount of the salary was fixed, they had, in fact been at least doubled; and it was matter of astonishment to him how the faculties of any man could bear the additional labour which had latterly been imposed on the individual filling the office of Speaker. The increase which had taken place in the value of money, in consequence of the return to a metallic currency, was often put forward as a reason for the reduction of the salaries of public functionaries; but that argument had no application in the present case, because, as he had before stated, the salary of the Speaker was fixed in 1790. For forty-four years the country had gone on paying the Speaker the present amount of salary, with the full conviction, that it was not more than a fair equivalent for the labour of his office; and as reference had been made to the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he must say, that he never regarded the duties of that office as at all equal to those which were performed by the Speaker. Before 1790, the office of Speaker was much more valuable than at present, because it used to be the practice of the Crown to join other lucrative situations to it. Thus, Mr. Speaker Onslow was Treasurer of the Navy during the time he occupied the Chair, and Mr. Speaker Cornwall was in the receipt of an income from a sinecure. Indeed, before 1790, the emoluments of the Speaker seldom fell short of 10,000l. or 12,000l.; and when at that period Mr. Pitt proposed to fix the Speaker's salary at 5,000l., the House felt indignant at the proposition, and raised the amount to 6,000l. His objections to the measure were not removed by the introduction of the proviso, enacting that the present Speaker should not be affected by it; for the duties of the situation were not, in his opinion, over-paid; and the effect of that proviso would only be to place the present Speaker in an invidious position.

Mr. Tooke

did not think the present allowance too much for the first commoner in England: compared to other officers of the realm, it was not more than it ought to be.

Mr. Ewart

thought the sum now proposed to be given was sufficient to insure an adequate discharge of the duty of the office, and was, at the same time, adequate to maintain its dignity.

Colonel Williams

said, the House ought to consider the means of the people.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

thought, if the people of England were not able to pay enough to support the dignity of that officer who maintained the majesty of the people, they must be poor indeed.

Mr. Shaw

said, the question should be left to the decision of future Parliaments, especially as it had been agreed that the measure was entirely prospective, and could not affect the salary of the present Speaker.

The House divided on the Amendment;—Ayes 22; Noes 37: Majority 15.

Bill read a third time and passed.