§ On the first Paragraph being read,
§ Mr. Herries
said, that as Chairman of the Committee in which this Bill had, he might say, its foundation, he felt it necessary for his own sake, and for the sake of those with whom he then acted, to offer a few remarks on the Bill. To the general principle of the Bill he was as ardent a friend as the right hon. Baronet; but though he agreed in the principle, he differed from the right hon. Baronet as to some of its details, and his object in thus adverting to it was with the view of making the Bill as perfect as he thought it might be made. One part of it on which he differed from the enactments of the Bill was that of having two persons of equal authority at the head of the department, each to act in the absence of the other, but for this absence there was no regulation, as neither of those parties were to be under a higher authority. This, he thought, would be productive of inconvenience, inasmuch as it tended to bring about a practice which it was a professed object of the Bill to avoid—of having the duties of principals done by deputies. He was of opinion that the Clerk of the Pells might be retained under some other name, if it were thought proper, but as a recorder of the acts of other officers. If two officers were appointed, they should be a check upon each other. The Comptroller-general should undoubtedly have an opportunity of being occasionally absent, provided it were without de- 562 triment to the public service; but he was afraid, if the Assistant-comptroller were to be permitted to act, not pro hac vice, but in all cases for the Comptroller-general, this office would degenerate into a sinecure. The assistant should be permitted to act for the principal only under the special authority of the Exchequer. In case of the unavoidable absence of the Comptroller the chief clerk might be authorized to act for him. He (Mr. Herries) objected to the appointment of two officers to the same situation. He should reserve other observations on several of the clauses of the Bill; he thought he could offer some suggestions in order to carry into effect the objects of the right hon. Baronet.
§ Sir James Graham
said, that he listened with the utmost deference and respect to the suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman, who combined with a knowledge of these details much practical experience. He (Sir James Graham) was anxious to continue the ancient system of the Exchequer so far as it was found effective; he was desirous that the control of the present day should be at least as efficient as the former control. The subject of dispute between him and the right hon. Gentleman was, whether the present double check was more efficient than the single check provided in the Bill before the House. He (Sir James Graham) had stated his reasons already for thinking that the single check, as provided in the Bill, was most efficient. It was to be recollected, that this single check was an entirely independent officer. He proposed that the offices of Comptroller and Assistant-comptroller should not be filled by persons holding any other appointment from which they were removable by the Crown. Another objection of the right hon. Gentleman was, that the office of the Comptroller-general might degenerate into a sinecure. But he proposed to insert, in the second clause, that the assistant should exercise the powers of the Comptroller only in the event of the illness or occasional and necessary absence of the Comptroller; he also proposed to provide that the Comptroller should exercise his functions in person, and that both officers should be removable by an Address from either House of Parliament. These, he thought, would be found sufficient precautions for preventing the principal office degenerating into a sinecure. If there were a double check, as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, there must be a provision for the occasional absence of both 563 officers, by the appointment of two assistants, and, therefore, there would be four officers instead of two.
§ Mr. Herries
referred to the nature of the appointment of Lord Auckland, as Commissioner of Greenwich Hospital, by Act of Parliament, which expressly stated that it was to be during his Majesty's pleasure; and he contended that this would disqualify him for the office of Comptroller-general.
§ Sir James Graham
replied, that the effect of the appointment of Lord Auckland in Greenwich Hospital was during life.
§ Mr. Herries
must still insist, that as the object of the right hon. Baronet was to keep the Comptroller-general from the influence of the Crown, if the Act of Parliament stated that the office in Greenwich Hospital was to be held during pleasure, it did not remove the individual from the influence of the Crown; he was, therefore, incapable of holding the office of Comptroller.
§ The several clauses of the Bill were agreed to, as verbally amended, and the House resumed.