HC Deb 09 February 1836 vol 31 cc214-24
Mr. Hume

rose to move that all payments made by Members for the delivery of Sessional papers from the Vote-office, and all gratuities paid to doorkeepers, messengers, and superintendent of the Members' waiting-room should cease. The salaries of the Speaker, and of the Sergeant-at-arms were already regulated by Act of Parliament, as recommended by a Committee of the House, and it became necessary that the remaining officers should be remunerated in a similar manner. At present they were paid by fees, without any system whatever; some being paid to the housekeeper, some to the doorkeepers, and so on, by which much extra trouble was created, so that it became obvious to all that some new regulation should be adopted. With that view, the Committee recommended a consolidation of the different duties, that the fees received by the different individuals should cease, and that Members of Parliament should not be put to any unnecessary expense for obtaining papers that were necessary to enable them to do their duty. Nothing could be more unsatisfactory than to have an establishment paid in half a dozen different ways, and if hon. Members would look to the items composing the income of the different individuals of the House, they would see the necessity of some alteration being made. The fees for the delivery of the Sessional orders were proposed to be abolished. In 1832, the late Mr. Mitchell, the deliverer of votes, received 4,719l. from the House in support of that office, which was composed of the following items:— salary, 1,400l.; fees from Members for delivering papers, 1,957l.; produce of the sale of 100 sets of papers, 1,250l. He (Mr. Hume) considered the selling of papers to be a bad practice. Papers which had cost the country 2,748l. were sold by Mr. Mitchell for 1250l. By the plan proposed to be adopted, a saving would be effected to the amount of 2,819l. The Committee, in the life-time of Mr. Mitchell, fixed the salary of his successor at 800l. The present holder of that office, therefore, came in without any claim for allowance on account of any change that Parliament might think proper to adopt. The Committee also came to a resolution, that the allowance for three clerks should be 600l. a-year, and for messengers and supernumerary clerks 500l, a-year, making together 1,900l. instead of 4,719l., which was before paid for the discharge of the same duties. The next officers whose situations were considered by the Committee were the two doorkeepers of the House of Commons. They received salaries vary ing from 600l. to 990l. a-year, according to the liberality of hon. Members in making their gratuities. He was sure no individual would say that such a state of things ought to continue. It was contrary to all principle, that Members should be called upon to pay for attending their Parliamentary duties. The Committee, therefore, recommended that every servant of the House of Commons, having specific and limited duties, should receive fixed salaries; and that whatever loss the pre sent holders of these situations might sustain, should be fairly allowed for by the Treasury. He had seen the Secretary o the Treasury on the subject, and be was enabled to state that that hon. Gentleman was perfectly ready to act justly towards those individuals whose situations would be affected by any new regulation adopted by the House. He, therefore, could not see any objection to the Resolution he was about to propose. If it should be agreed to, the result would be a better and more efficient discharge of the business of the House, without injustice to any body. He was not prepared to state the exact incomes of the different individuals who would be affected by the order; but he understood that there were only two—Mr. Stevens and Mr. Gifford—who had purchased their situations, all the rest had obtained theirs by appointment. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving a resolution to the effect stated in his speech.

Major Beauclerk

had no objection to the principle of the resolution, but he thought the House would do well to consider the proposition before they changed the salaries of individuals who might have vested rights in their situations. That those individuals would throw themselves on the bounty of the House, he had no doubt; but when the very satisfactory manner in which they discharged their duties to the House was considered, he thought it became hon. Members carefully to watch their interests. He therefore hoped he should not be doing anything improper in proposing that the present salaries of those individuals should be continued during the time they might hold their situations.

Mr. Poulter

never saw persons who so uniformly and respectfully performed their duties to the House, as those officers did who were constantly attending at the door of the House. They always paid to every hon. Member the most uniform attention and respect. But the House ought to look to more important considerations than that. He thanked the hon. Member for Middlesex for bringing forward the whole measure, in order to its final settlement. Anything more disgraceful than the practice which now prevailed could not be conceived, by which appeals were made to Hon. Members for fees or gratuities, not recognised by the House, but as matter of private emolument; thus raising a conflict in the minds of hon. Members, whether they should yield to the suggestions of their private feelings, or act upon their sense of public duty. He had for a long time submitted to pay these fees, but in the last Session, he told the parties he must postpone doing so. He could assure the House it was from no desire to save his money; but he thought it his duty not to continue any longer a most exceptionable practice. "Why, Sir, exclaimed the hon. Member, you are making this House a mere opera-house. Do we come here for our own private purposes, or do we come here upon public grounds? We come here for the performance of a high public duty, and yet we are made to pay for taking our seats, as if we were in a theatre. I say it is a most scandalous system, and altogether unbecoming a deliberative assembly to sanction." The Sessional papers were delivered to them for public purposes, and their delivery ought to be at the public expense. If he were not correct, let the House declare that it was the duty of Members to pay those fees, and he should most willingly pay them; but at present he thought it matter of high principle to refuse such demands.

Sir Robert Inglis

hoped that the House would not be led to believe, by the eloquence of hon. Members, that the question was one of public economy. Hon. Members were called on by the Resolution to save their own pockets alone, and nothing more. It might be right or it might be wrong, but that was not the question. In the first place, respecting the delivery of the Sessional papers, he was bound to state that no charge was made to any hon. Member who applied for them personally at the Vote-office, in the exercise of his Parliamentary functions. If hon. Members wished to have them at their own houses, residing, as many of them did, in the extreme west end of the town, why should they not be called on to pay for the accommodation? With respect to the second branch of the resolution—gratuities to officers of the House—he would only say, that it was perfectly optional to hon. Members to give or withhold them. When they were inclined to give them, no order of the House could prevent spontaneous liberality. When they were not, there was nothing to compel them. The fact was the Resolution, divested of all its accompaniments, would only have the effect o saving the pockets of individuals, but no of benefiting the public in the slightes degree.

Mr. Kearsley

said, that as soon as the hon. Member for Shaftesbury(Mr. Poulter) had paid up his arrears, he should be prepared to give his support to this resoution.

Mr. Fraticis Baring

said, that he looked at the Resolution as a part of the new plan recommended in the Report of the Committee, which had far its object the entire revision of the system by which the officers of the House were remunerated. He did not regard it, as the right hon. Baronet had stated, as a mere vote for the purpose of saving their own pockets. No one who had read the Report could say that he present system did not deserve the attention of the House. Other parties were looking with some sort of jealousy at the mode in which their public servants were paid. Those who were doing their best in. aid of the public service, and who saw their own salaries year after year reduced, could not be indifferent to the fact, that the salaries of the officers of the House of Commons remained untouched. He admitted that the duties of the House were well discharged, and that the persons now in possession of office ought to be considered with great tenderness, and he should be perfectly ready to agree to a y amount of salary the House might consider the present holders entitled to receive. If it were true, that one of the door-keepers received above 1,100l. a-year, and another 600l., he would ask whether, referring to the salaries allowed to other public servants, the House was justified in continuing such large payments? Was it to be said that the House of Commons, acting as a check upon the expenditure of every other public department, shrunk from looking at the salaries of their own servants? But they could not reduce those salaries, unless they abolished the fees. If, however, hon. Members were careless as to putting the money into their own pockets, let the fees still be paid, and applied to a general fund, out of which the salaries might be paid. The right hon. -Baronet said, a charge would be transferred from individuals to the public; but if the whole of the recommendations of the Committee were adopted, no charge on the public would take place. He did not think the charge made against the hon. Member for Middlesex, of wishing to save his own pocket was decent or proper, after a Committee had recommended the adoption of his resolution. For the reason he had stated, he should support the Motion, looking upon it not as a single vote, but as the first step towards the adoption of the plan recommended by the Committee, which deserved the attention of the House.

Mr. Goulburn

thought that it was not a question that came strictly within the legislation of the House. It was rather one of personal accommodation of individual Members. The doorkeepers were in the habit of undertaking various duties not incumbent on them, and taking trouble and attention in a variety of matters which hon. Members ought to attend to themselves. They separated papers and kept them distinct for hon. Members, who, if they did not like the trouble of keeping their own papers in order, ought to have no objection to give proper compensation to those who did. They were already, it was true, paid by salary; but it was in the contemplation of the House to compel them to undertake the other duties which they now discharged for the convenience of individual Members. He thought the precedents alluded to were not in point, for clerks in public offices had now their regularly defined duties and salaries, with retiring allowances on which they could depend; but these individuals were differently circumstanced, and hon. Members ought to be allowed to pay them as they pleased for facilitating their business. He knew something of the feelings of clerks in public offices; he knew that they were a class of men not less devoted to the interests of the public than those two individuals who officiated at the door of that House, and he thought himself warranted in assuring hon. Members that those individuals would not as a class feel hurt in any respect at any gratuities which the door keepers of that House might be permitted to receive for their extra endeavours to accommodate Members of Parliament in the despatch of their business. For himself, he would say, that he did not object to any regulations which the hon. Member might introduce for the better regulation of the offices of the House of Commons, but he did object to the specific proposition which would prevent him giving a gratuity to any officer if he pleased, when he thought he deserved it by attentions independent of his duty.

Mr. Robinson

was surprised at the tone in which the proposition of the hon. Member for Middlesex had been received. It was most unfair in the right hon. Baronet to put so illiberal an interpretation on that hon. Gentleman's motives. He (Mr. Ro- binson) was a member of the committee on whose recommendation the present motion was founded. He agreed to that recommendation, because he thought the present mode of paying their officers was objectionable and ought to be substituted by some other and better system. He agreed with the hon. Member for Middlesex in thinking that the Members of that House should be discharged of any expense whatever consequent upon their attention to their public duties. He hoped that the hon. Member's proposition would receive the sanction of the House; that a system disagreeable alike to its Members and its officers would be abolished, and that a more eligible and. satisfactory one to all parties would be adopted.

Mr. O'Connell

thought the House should be very cautious in carrying the principle sought to be laid down by the hon. Member for Middlesex to the extreme either of taxing the public for their own convenience, or of diminishing the income which these persons had received for a number of years, and in consideration and expectation of which they had devoted their lives to the discharge of the duties intrusted to them. What was meant by a fair and adequate compensation? Was' it a compensation to the full amount of what they received at present? If so, it was fair and reasonable, and to those terms he assented; but so far as the present officers were concerned, it was not fair or reasonable that any individual feeling of delicacy relative to the payment of this money should be suffered to affect them. That such a delicacy did exist he could not doubt, after what he had heard from the hon.- Member for Shaftesbury; but he must maintain that it ought not to be allowed to operate against those persons who had families to support, who could not resort to any other profession so late in life, and who could only continue to be door-keepers, and nothing else. Well then, admitting that these persons should receive some compensation, the only remaining question was out of what fund that compensation should come. He confessed he did not like the idea of making it a charge upon the public. If the proposed arrangement would make a sufficient saving in one department to compensate the officers in another, that was a good argument in favour of the alteration, but if this were not the case, he certainly did not feel disposed to increase the public burdens for the sole purpose of relieving the Members of that House from a payment which they had been in the habit of making. If such a system as the existing one were now proposed for the first time, he should certainly vote against it; but he must take the case as he found it, and treat it accordingly. Every hon. Gentleman who had spoken had borne testimony to the able and efficient manner in which these officers had discharged their duties. Let not the House then, in pursuance of any abstract theory, diminish the amount of the emoluments they received at present. H protested against any such diminution; in the propriety of effecting any prospective diminution he perfectly acquiesced; and he trusted that some fund from which the compensation could be derived would be discovered, without entailing any fresh charge upon the public.

Colonel Conolly

was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Middlesex—the great advocate of economy—attempting to fasten upon the public a charge which, on a fair estimate, would amount to 6,000l. a year, more especially when every hon. Gentleman in the House was disposed to give some reasonable compensation in return for the attention he received and the civility he uniformly met with. If such a resolution as the present were proposed to him as a saving at the expense of the door-keepers, he would spurn it as an offensive proposition. If it were proposed as a saving at the expense of the public, it was even more dishonourable and more offensive.

Mr. Warburton

was inclined to believe that a great majority of the Members of that House paid fees to the door-keepers, not because they received attention and civility, for which they considered themselves bound to make such a return, but because it was the custom. Some hon. Gentlemen paid the door-keepers nothing at all; others paid them one guinea, others paid them two; and out of the whole number he believed that few, in making the present, were actuated so much by a feeling on behalf of the individual, as by the fear that they would be considered shabby if they departed from the ordinary course. The ground on which he supported the Resolution was this: would not the public out of doors very naturally consider it a scandalous job, that the door-keeper of that House should receive a salary of 1,100l a year? It was represented that the door-keepers performed their duties properly—granted. What was there in the duties themselves which entitled them to 1,100l. a year? Compare the salaries of these officers with the remuneration of other functionaries, and the absurdity was manifest. Lords of the Admiralty and Commissioners were only in the receipt of l,000l. a year, and independently of the great distinction between the appearance to be supported by the one class of officers and the other, there was this further difference, that the Commissioners' duties lasted the whole year through, while those of the door-keepers only extended to one half of it.

Mr. Richards

thought the effect of the gratuities in question was to make the door-keepers, to a certain extent, the servants of individual Members, and to entitle them to a proportionate degree of respect and attention. Why did Gentlemen give fees to post-boys and waiters at taverns? In order that they might receive a greater degree of personal attention. If waiters were wholly paid by the keepers of taverns the visitors could not expect to see that degree of personal attention, and solicitude for their comfort which was so pleasant and gratifying.

Mr. Ewart Gladstone

said, that the House should first decide out of what fund the compensation should be paid, and then apportion it to the full amount of the salary which each officer at present received. As the charge was confessedly to remain in existence during the tenure of these offices by the persons at present holding them, he did not see why the Members of the House should not continue to pay their fees without seeking to throw them on the public.

Mr. Hume

replied, if there were any difference of opinion as to the amount of the gratuities, let an estimate be laid on the Table of the House, and the question would be set at rest; it must not be forgotten, however, that if two sessions occurred in the course of a year, the doorkeepers received two sets of fees. With regard to compensation, if the question were referred to a Committee, it would rest with them to fix a just and equitable amount, as had been already done in a variety of other cases. Why should they adopt as to that House, a principle which was not acted upon in. any other public establishment? Servants were not allowed to take money front individuals in clubs. [Oh!] Oh! Were they? Were they in the Conservative Club? There were several hon. Gentlemen opposite who could answer the question. He was astonished at the objections which had been urged to his Resolution, and at the spirit in which it had been met. He was never disposed to commit an act of injustice towards any individual. He was always for cutting down the salaries attached to sinecure offices, but in cases where there were real duties to perform, he felt he might be accused of being too liberal. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the first Resolution; and at the request of Mr. Sergeant Goulburn, read the second Resolution of which he had given notice relative to the compensation.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

begged leave to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give his word that the officers of the House should obtain justice from the Treasury in this reference, and he should be satisfied. He knew from experience the difference which existed in the result where justice was to be procured for small fry and for large fish. In 1796 the Chief Justices of the King's Bench and of the Common Pleas had their salaries raised from 3,000l. per annum in gold money— mind, gold money—to 8,000l. in paper money. ["No, no"] Well 7,000l. ["No, no."] Oh, 7,000l. at least. In the year 1796 he was sure the salary was 3,000l. a year. He would now say a few words about that hon. and excellent man the Member for Middlesex. He did not think it right in that hon. Member to cast his net so as to let the large fish escape, while he caught the little ones. The expenses to which Members of that House were now subject were enormous, and such as no man who had not a large fortune was able to bear. No man could be a Member of that House without incurring an expense of at least 1,000l. a-year over and above his ordinary expenses. This ought not to be borne. The industrious classes could never be properly represented in that House, until men who understood their interests should be enabled to sit there without ruining themselves by the expense. If the hon. Member for Middlesex brought forward a Motion to pay the Representatives of the people—say three guineas a day,—he would support it. He insisted that they ought to be paid, as the Representatives of the people of England, their proper wages by the people of England. The present matter which the hon. Member for Middlesex had brought forward was so very small that he could not endure to see the time of the House occupied with it. It was more suited to the discussions of a parish vestry than a great legislative body like the Commons of England. It was wrong thus to waste the valuable time of the House. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to say that he we undertake to protect the vested interest of the parties concerned in these Resolutions he would support them; but otherwise he should certainly vote against them. Those parties had embarked their lives—he would say they had obtained their situations for life, and they ought to receive ample compensation. Unless therefore he had the assurance he required from the Chancellor of the Exchequer he should vote against the Motion.

Colonel Sibthorp

Whether the hon. Member for Middlesex gave him leave or not, he would take leave to remunerate any one of these officers, even if the Resolution were passed.

The House divided—Ayes 171; Noes 93; Majority 78.

List of the NOES.
Agnew, Sir A. Fergusson, C.
Alsager Captain Ferguson, G.
Angerstein, J. Fielden, J.
Archdall, M. Fleming, J.
Attwood, T. French, F.
Bailey, J. Freshfield, J. W.
Baillie, Col. H. Geary, Sir W. R. P
Balfour, T. Goulburn, Sergeant
Bannerman, A. Goulburn, Rt. Hn. H
Baring, T. Grimston, Viscount
Blackstone, W. S. Gully, J.
Borthwick, P. Halford, H.
Bowes, J. Hanmer, H.
Brownrigg, J. S. Hardy, J.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Hawkes, T.
Burrell, Sir C. Hindley, C.
Buxton, T. F. Hobhouse, Sir J.
Campbell, W. F. Hogg, J. W.
Chisholm, A. W. Hope, J.
Cole, Lord Hotham, Lord
Compton, H. C. Hoy, J. B.
Conolly Colonel Humphery, J.
Darlington, Lord Hutt, W.
D'Eyncourt, Right Irton, S.
Hon. C. Johnstone, A.
Dillwyn, L. W. Johnstone, H.
Dottin, A. R. Kearsley, J. H.
Dowdeswell, W. Knatchbull, Sir E
Eaton, R. J. Knight, G.
Elley, Sir J, Knightly, Sir C.
Elwes, J. P. Lawson, A.
Fancourt, Major Lees, J. F.
Lefroy, J. Richards, J.
Lincoln, Earl Rickford, W.
Lucas, E. Russell, Lord J.
Maunsell, T. P. Rushbrooke., R.
M'Lean, D. Ryle, J.
Mordaunt, Sir J, Sheldon, E. R. C.
O'Connor, D. Sibthorp, Colonel
O'Ferrall, M. Sinclair, Sir G.
Parker, M. Teunent, E.
Pechell, Captain Thomas, Colonel H.
Peel, E. Tyrell, Sir J.
Perceval, Colonel Vere, Sir C. B.
Pollock, Sir F. Welby, G. E.
Praed, M. Whitmore, T. C.
Price, G. Yorke, E.