HC Deb 09 July 1835 vol 29 cc395-9
The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that if the Motion, of which he had given notice was likely to lead to any controversy or discussion he would postpone it; but he was confident that hon. Gentlemen would be satisfied with the course he had taken when they recollected the nature of the Motion he had to propose, as well as the conduct of the individual who was particularly connected with it. He need hardly state that the object of his Motion had reference to the retirement of one of the officers of that House. A Treasury Minute was on the Table, and copies of it were in the hands he believed of every hon. Gentleman, and alluded to a proposed retiring allowance to be given to the Sergeant-at-Arms who had attended that House. It appeared from the document on the Table that the Gentleman he had alluded to had for a long period discharged the duty of Sergeant-at-Arms to that House; it was unnecessary for him to enumerate that Gentleman's claims to their consideration, for there was no hon. Member who was in the habit of attending the House who did not know and fully appreciate the services of Colonel Seymour. Every hon. Member was fully aware of the rare combination of gentlemanly manners, with the proper exercise of the authority intrusted to him, manifested by that individual, and which rendered him so fit for the office he had so long held. That hon. Gentleman had addressed a letter to the Speaker on the 6th of June, stating the length of time that he had served the House, and that he was no longer competent to discharge the duties of his office with satisfaction to himself. But he should best explain the case, by reading the letter, which the right hon. Gentleman did as follows, Saturday, June 6, 1835. My dear Sir,—I request you to allow me to trouble you upon a subject of some importance to myself. I am desirous of telling you that, finding my health to have been suffering considerably within the last three or four years, and being quite convinced that the climate of London and the hours are very detrimental to me, I wish to resign my office, provided I may be permitted to do so, retaining the difference between my salary and that to which my successor, by an Act passed last year, will be entitled. I believe you are aware that the office of King's Sergeant attending the House of Commons is held by patent, and that the salary is 2,300l. per annum 300l. of which is in lieu of a house, the Sergeant having formerly been provided with an official house, which was given up by my predecessor, Mr. Coleman, senior. The salary of my successor, as fixed by the Act of last year, is 1,500l. without any allowance for a house, making a reduction and a difference of 800l. per annum. Having myself been almost twenty-four years in the House I am inclined to hope that my asking to be permitted to retire, with the difference between the two salaries secured to me during the remainder of my life, will not be considered unreasonable, especially when it is remembered that no charge whatever will be incurred or imposed upon the country beyond that which is at present paid, and to which I should continue to be entitled by my patent. If what I have submitted for your consideration shall appear to you to be such a proposition as I am justified in making, you will oblige me particularly by taking such steps as in your judgment may be advisable for making it known to the Government, in order to its being carried into effect, in the event of its being approved of. I have only to add, that my private fortune being a very small one, I could not, under any circumstance, resign my office, unless a retiring salary should be secured to me. (Signed) HENRY SEYMOUR. To the Right Honourable the Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the Treasury Minute approving of and recommending the application. According to all former precedents the gentleman who retired from the office of Sergeant-at-Arms, attending that House, was allowed a retiring salary; and from all previous cases that had come before him, it appeared Colonel Seymour was entitled to much more than he had stated in his letter to the Speaker. The proposition which that Gentleman made, if adopted, would be attended with no expense to the public. The allowance which Colonel Seymour desired was only equal to the difference between the salary now paid to him and that which by the Act of last Session was directed to be paid to his successors in the office he now filled. There would, therefore, as he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) said before, be no loss to the public; and if the Motion were agreed to, he trusted that it would be long before the ultimate saving would take place, which would result from the difference between the salary of the present and future holders of the office of Sergeant-at-Arms attending that House. There were certain Commissioners appointed by Act of Parliament to fix retiring allowances for the Officers of that House, and those Commissioners were certain Members of the Government, and the Law Officers of the Crown. Colonel Seymour, therefore, could have obtained what he desired without coming to that House; he had, however, thought it better to appeal to the House; and he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) fully concurred in the view that Gentleman had taken. He was sure that it must be a gratifying duty to the House to recommend to the notice of his Majesty one who had so long and faithfully discharged the important duties of a high Officer of that House. He begged hon. Gentlemen to recollect that the suggestion as to the course he had then pursued had originated with Colonel Seymour himself. The proposition he intended to make was in conformity with the case which had occurred when Mr. Coleman, the former Sergeant-at-Arms, had retired. The Motion that he had to make was, that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, praying him to make such provision or allowance, as he might graciously think fit, to Henry Seymour, Esq., the Sergeant-at-Arms attending that House, and that the House would enable his Majesty's Treasury to carry such order for allowance into effect. The right hon. Gentleman concluded with proposing a Resolution to the above effect.

Mr. Hume

stated that he was a Member of the Committee that had laid on the Table of the House a Report recommending that the servants of that House appointed after the date of the Report should receive salaries of a different nature from those then paid, and therefore he might be justified in making an observation on that occasion. He was satisfied that the present Sergeant-at-Arms was entitled to receive his full salary of 2,300l. a-year as long as he chose to retain his office; but by the Act of last Session his successor in office was only to receive 1,500l. The Gentleman alluded to did not feel that he was able to discharge the duties of his office, from the state of his health, and he was certainly entitled to receive the difference between his present salary and that which would be paid to his successor. In his opinion, nothing could be more honourable than the course pursued by the Gentleman in question, and the House was bound to mark the sense they entertained of his conduct. When he heard of the announcement of the retirement of Colonel Seymour, he had expressed his surprise and regret, and he would only repeat that he was sure the House fully appreciated the loss of his services.

Sir Matthew White Ridley

cordially supported the Motion. He begged to remind the House that the present Sergeant-at-Arms had held that office for a long period, during which he had most attentively and considerately performed all its duties. Mr. Clementson, the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, had held that office for thirty years, his father having filled it for about the same period before him, and it was impossible that the duties of the office could be more ably discharged than they had been by that Gentleman. Indeed, all the duties connected with the situation, had been properly discharged since he had known the House of Commons, and he should cheerfully vote to comply with the wishes of Colonel Seymour.

The address was agreed to nemine contradicente.