HC Deb 05 May 1851 vol 116 cc537-61

Sir, I mentioned a few evenings ago that previous to the House going into Committee of Supply, I would state the view which the Government have taken of the report of the Committee on Official Salaries. I may name one advantage which was gained by the appointment of the Committee, and that was, that an opportunity was afforded for placing on record the opinions of many persons of official experience of various kinds—political, judicial, legal, and diplomatic—with regard to the salaries and emoluments belonging to the officials under consideration. Above all, we had an opportunity of learning the opinion of the late Sir Robert Peel—with his long experience and comprehensive mind—upon the subject of salaries to official persons. There is this, on the other hand, to be stated, that this Committee did, I think—I will not say fall into the error—but they pursued a practice which unluckily is too often pursued by the Select Committees of this House, namely, the practice of employing a great part of the Session in taking evidence; and then they come to pass Resolutions at a time when a considerable proportion of the Members have left town, and, worn out by the public business they have been engaged in, are not able to attend; so that it often happens, out of the fifteen Members who have been appointed on the Committee, and who ought to be present, the final Resolutions are in several cases voted by eight or nine Members—sometimes five or six forming a majority of those present, though evidently a minority of the whole Committee. This is the course which Select Committees generally follow. I wish it could be otherwise—either by the Committee taking care that the evidence shall not run into too great a length, or, provided that the evidence is continued to the end of the Session, that then they should postpone the consideration of their Report till their reappointment in another Session. Having noticed these two circumstances with regard to the Committee on Official Salaries, I shall now state the opinion which the Government entertain with regard to their recommendations. It was the desire of the Government to defer as much as possible to the expressed wishes of the Committee; and, therefore, they had agreed to some proposed reductions, which, nevertheless, did not seem to them to be conducive to public advantage, though, on the other hand, they would not be attended with any great public detriment. The first recommendation of the Committee, after stating that they did not propose any alteration in the salaries of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the three Secretaries of State, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, go on to recommend that the Junior Lords of the Treasury should have 1,000l. instead of 1,200l. a year, that the two Secretaries of the Treasury should have 2,000l. instead of 2,500l. a year. With these recommendations the Government agree, and they have made the reductions accordingly. With regard to the office of the President of the Council, the Com- mittee remark, that that office has recently had annexed to it duties of very great importance belonging to the President of the Committee of Council on the subject of Education, and therefore they do not think that the salary of 2,000l. to a person holding that high office should be reduced. The Committee recommend that the railway system of the country being now so near completion, the duties may again be annexed to the Board of Trade; and they recommend that, in order to save the salary of the Railway Commissioner, stops should be taken to consolidate the railway department of the Board of Trade. My right hon. Friend the President of that Board, looking to the business now before the Railway Commission, has come to the conclusion that the business may be done in the manner the Committee has recommended; and therefore the Railway Commission will no longer he a separate paid office belonging to that department. The Committee then proceeded to recommend that the office of Vice-President of the Board of Trade should be united with that of Paymaster of the Forces, and that instead of the present salary of 2,000l. for each office, the salary for the joint-office should be 1,500l. The Committee likewise recommended that the office of Lord Privy Seal should be joined with some other office, and that no salary should be attached to the office of Lord Privy Seal. Another recommendation of the Committee was that the Mastership of the Mint should no longer be a political office. Now, in considering these questions, we have endeavoured to go as far as we think the requisitions of the public service would permit in compliance with the recommendation of the Committee. But I think there was an important consideration which was laid before the Committee and Sir Robert Peel, and other persons who had great experience in public affairs, and to which the Committee do not seem to have paid any attention in their recommendation. It appears to me to be of advantage, as a general proposition, that there should be some Members of the Government whose offices are not of so laborious a nature as to unfit them for the discharge of duties which do not come immediately within their department. It must be obvious to every man of experience in public affairs, that from day to clay questions arise which do not strictly belong to any department in the Government, and which, if they are not attended to by some per sons who are not overloaded with duties in their own department, have little chance of being properly attended to at all. If this be true as a general proposition, and with regard to former periods of our history, it is peculiarly true at the present time, when we find that the offices of Secretary of State, of Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of First Lord of the Admiralty, as well as the office which I have the honour to hold, are so much more loaded with business than they have been in former times. The quantity of writing and of correspondence, as well as the increase of business of various kinds, is such that it is difficult for persons holding these offices to discharge their duties, if there were not officers of other departments ready to attend to business which did not come immediately before them. Ministers have frequently to consider and decide upon important questions, which do not belong particularly to any department, such as the preparation of the Reform Bill; and with regard to the regulation of marriages and baptisms among Dissenters, which came under my consideration while I was Paymaster of the Forces—I say, if there were not some officer of the Government to attend to these things, it would hardly be possible for them to receive sufficient attention. But the preparation of these affairs being referred to an officer who has leisure to bestow attention upon them, they are then brought under the consideration of the Cabinet; and the Members of the Cabinet, the Secretaries of State, and others, when they are so prepared, are qualified to give a mature and decided opinion upon them. Such are some of the reasons for not entirely abolishing these offices, which are important in themselves, though they may have little labour attached to them. Another reason for continuing these offices is, that very frequently when a Government is formed, and perhaps while it has continued in office, there may be persons who have paid great attention to public affairs—who have served important offices in other circumstances—who are willing to come into office, but who have arrived at a time of life, or are in a state of health which must preclude them, if they are prudent, from accepting an office which is of much labour. At the same time, their opinions may be of the greatest weight—their services of the utmost value to the country. It may be said that we can secure the assistance of persons of this class, by giving them a nominal office, such as that of the Lord Privy Seal, without any salary. Now this might very well he the case with regard to persons of considerable fortune, who have an establishment in London, and pass several months of every year in London—such a person might accept an office of rank without receiving any salary. But I think it would be a bad principle, to establish in the public service of the country. It has, I know, the authority of the late Earl of Durham, who stated that, though the duties of his office as Lord Privy Seal engaged him for seven or eight hours a day, still he was of opinion that the duties of the office might be performed by the holder without a salary. The tendency of such a change, if agreed to, and the tendency of any change which would reduce the salaries of the offices of the country without abolishing them, would be to make the holding of office only attainable by, and compatible with, the possession of a considerable fortune. I hold that that would be a great evil. If you say that persons of a moderate fortune are not able to hold offices in the State, but that they are to be given only to men who have a considerable private fortune, you thereby throw impediments in the way of talent—you throw impediments in the way of men of the highest ability—men, perhaps, of the greatest power either in this or in the other House of Parliament, but who cannot afford to hold office without a salary. I think, therefore, it would be extremely mischievous to the public service to give such advantages to fortune as would be given by throwing these impediments in the way of men of talent and ability. There is another consideration which I think is of considerable weight, though I do not know that it has been before adverted to. Let a man look at the course of official life in this country —-he will perceive that offices in the Cabinet have been held by men of other pursuits, who have entered into political life from a natural wish to take part in the service of their country, but who generally live in the country, and enjoy their property there, in the pursuit of other sources of amusement and enjoyment than politics. Among men of this kind, I may mention one who first held the office of Lord Privy Seal, and afterwards that of President of the Council, in the Administration of the late Sir Robert Peel—I mean the Duke of Buccleuch, a man of great fortune, and of ability that would enable him to hold any public office, but who could hardly be expected to leave entirely his duties and enjoyments in the country, to devote his time unremittingly to some laborious office in the State. I think it is of great advantage to invite to official life men not strictly of official habits, and that if we were to have, as they have on the Continent, a class of men who are devoted to office, and to office alone, who are termed bureaucrats —who do not follow those pursuits which induce them to mingle with other classes of their fellow-citizens—it would be an alteration for the worse in the management of the business of this country. I remember the observation of a French writer, a gentleman of considerable eminence in the legal department of France—he was struck on going to the Gloucester Assizes, when he saw the Marquess of Worcester (the present Duke of Beaufort) acting as foreman of the grand jury—when he saw gentlemen of property, and rank, and influence, forming the members of the grand jury—when he found the farmers and yeomen of the country sitting on the petty jury—and a person of great professional eminence in the law as Judge presiding in the court—he was struck with the manner in which the administration of the affairs of this country bring together men of different stations and employments, all serving in one public end. The public end in this case was the administration of justice; and so in the administration of political affairs there ought to be, as far as possible, a representation of different ranks, a mixture of men who do not devote themselves solely to the writing and folding of despatches, but who engage in other occupations. Therefore, on these various considerations, we so far agree with the Committee, that I propose to separate, what has not been done for a long time, the Mastership of the Mint altogether from public life; and I have received Her Majesty's permission to offer-that office to Sir John Hersehell, as I thought it would be agreeable to him to fill an office that was in some way connected with science, and which had once been filled by the honoured name of Newton. Therefore this office will no longer be, as it has been of late days, either a separate office, as it was held by Mr. Tierncy and others, or in combination with that of the President or the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, as it has lately been held by Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Labouchere, and others. The office of Paymaster of the Forces, though it has been united to the office of Vice-President of the Board of Trade for the last two years, yet when it was a separate office it was an office of great emolument, as well as of considerable importance, and was held by Lord Chatham and the first Lord Holland. I propose to continue the office of Paymaster of the Forces in conjunction with the office of Vice-President of the Board of Trade; but I do not think, if the two are to be combined, that it would be expedient to adopt the suggestion of the Committee, and to make a diminution of 500l. in the salary. The office is one of political importance, especially as the convenient course is, if the President of the Board of Trade sits in this House, that the Vice-President should sit in the other House of Parliament, and thus not only be able to perform his official duties, but that in the House of Lords he should take charge of all questions connected with the important subject of trade. Therefore we propose to continue the present salary of 2,000l. to this office. After what I have said, the House will doubtless be prepared to hear that we do not propose to abolish the office of Lord Privy Seal. The office is one of considerable importance, and the Government are of opinion that it ought to continue. I come next to the office of Secretary at War, with regard to which no proposition has been made by the Committee, and therefore I need not allude to it further. The Committee recommend that the salary of the Judge Advocate should be 1,500l. instead of 2,000l., which they propose to take effect the next time the office is vacant, and therefore we do not think it necessary to decide upon the question till the next appointment to that office. The Committee next recommend that the salaries of the Junior Lords of the Admiralty should be 1,000l. instead of 1,200l., and that those Lords who have 1,000l. with a residence should be deprived of their residence. We are of opinion that it is a great convenience to the Admiralty department that certain of the Lords should have a residence in the Admiralty; and therefore, while we propose to reduce the salaries of those who have no residence to 1,000l., we would continue the residences to those who have them. With regard to the Secretary for Ireland, his present salary is 5,500l., which the Committee recommend should be reduced to 3,000l. on the next vacancy, or at the close of the present Session of Parliament. That question is closely connected with the abolition of the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. If it be abolished, there will of course be a totally different distribution of offices, and therefore it is not necessary to go into the question now, though I may say that, if the office of Lord Lieutenant is to be maintained, it is right that some reduction should be made in the present salary. With regard to the Secretary of the Poor Law Board, the Committee recommend that the duties should be performed for 1,000l., instead of for 1,500l. The one Secretary who is not Parliamentary would not come properly under the consideration of the Committee; and the Government are of opinion with regard to that office, that as it is desirable to have in a permanent office a person who will devote all his time and all his labour to the duties of the Poor Law Board, it is not desirable to reduce his salary. But with regard to the Parliamentary Secretary, who holds his office during pleasure, we have reduced his salary to 1,000l. With regard to judicial salaries, there are other considerations of very great weight, to which I think the House will pay attention. We consider that persons who are placed in the highest judicial offices should be, as they have hitherto been, persons of great legal reputation, and who stand foremost at the bar. I speak now of the offices of Lord Chancellor, of the Chief Justices, of the Master of the Rolls, and of offices of that description. It was argued in the Committee—and you will find, from the evidence, that many questions were put having that object in view—that there might be persons of sound judgment and of competent learning who are as fit to be placed in the highest offices as those who stand foremost at the Bar. No doubt there may certainly be scores of men of that description. But I do not think it desirable that, as a rule, the ancient practice of promoting to high offices men of eminent standing should be departed from. If you say that the Government of the day are to choose such men, that would be giving them a wide discretion, and there would be much more room for unfit appointments than when they are taken from amongst men whom everybody allows to be fit—men who have run the race, the arduous race, of legal competition, and who have been successful in the struggle. It is evident that those must be men of considerable talent who, in a profession where competition abounds in every department, have been universally acknow- ledged to be foremost. Besides, in looking to the men who have been promoted, who have been successful Attorneys General, and who have gained eminence at the Bar —men like Lord Hardwicke, or Lord Campbell, or Lord Eldon, or Lord Mansfield, and many others that might be named —it will not be found that the country has been a loser by the practice of choosing men who were eminent in their times. But if the most eminent men of the time are chosen for these situations, we cannot expect to obtain their services unless their salaries be made somewhat commensurate with their gains at the Bar, and such as will induce them them to leave the Bar for a judicial appointment. Likewise, it is necessary we must consider with regard to such men that they are often placed in the House of Lords; and I think it would be a public misfortune if the salaries of these men and their retiring allowances only enabled them to found families whose position would rather be a reproach to this country than otherwise. Looking at the evidence which was given by the Master of the Rolls, you will find that he has made a full investigation into this subject, and the result of his inquiry was that there' are eight gentlemen who make 8,000l. a year, and that there are about twenty-three who make 5,000l. Taking all these considerations together, I propose that the salary of the Lord Chancellor, which is now 10,000l. from one source, and 4,000 from another, should in future be 10,000l. His retiring allowance I do not propose to alter. The salary of the Master of the Bolls has hitherto been 7,000l.; the Committee propose that it should be 6,000l. We propose to agree to that, and we accordingly intend reducing the salary of the Master of the Rolls to 6,000l. We come now to the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, and to the other two Chiefs; and it must be remembered that they,besides theirother expenses, have to go circuits—the expense of which cannot be less than 700l. a year. I propose, therefore, that the salaries shall be the same as were contained in the Bill I introduced last year—that is to say, that the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench should receive 8,000l. the same as Lord Denman received; that the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and the Chief Baron of the Exchequer should each have 7,000l. The proposal of the Committee is that the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench should have only 7,000l., that the other Chiefs should have 6,000l., and that the Puisne Judges should have 5,000l. The Committee recommend that the Vice-Chancellor should have 5,000l., the same as he has at present; that the Masters in Chancery should each have 2,000l., and that the Accountant General should have 2,000l. It strikes me that the Accountant General should be paid by a fixed salary, and not, as now, by fees. But, considering the importance of the duties of Masters in Chancery, I think there ought not to be any change at present in the amount of the salaries, which will, therefore, remain at 2,500l. a year. At the same time, with regard to Masters in Chancery, the whole question of Chancery reform being under consideration, there may or may not be some changes, and for that reason I think there ought not to be any change in the salaries at the present time. Of course any changes that are made will not affect persons appointed before the commencement of last year, except those who accepted appointments subject to such an arrangement. The Committee recommend some changes in the salaries for Scotland and for Ireland, from which a small saving would accrue to the public; but we think it would not be at all expedient to make them. The observation which I am about to make applies to Scotland and to Ireland, but more especially to Ireland. Both in Edinburgh and Dublin, since the Union, among the chief persons at the head of society have been those of the profession of the law, and especially the Judges, and those who hold superior offices in the courts of justice. I think for that, among other reasons, it would not be desirable to detract from their means of keeping up that social rank which is expected more from them in those capitals than is expected in London, the capital of the whole country, to which persons of greater fortune resort, and where they do not fill so conspicuous a position. I state this with regard to Ireland particularly, because I know there has been a rumour, without any sort of authority, that it was the intention of the Government to change the provisions for the administration of the law in Ireland, either by reducing or transferring the courts of justice there. Such was never the intention of the Government; and I own, I consider it of the utmost importance that the courts of justice should be maintained in Ireland, and, without any excessive establishment, fully maintained for the purpose of administering justice locally in that part of the United King- dom. The only other question is that of the diplomatic service, on which I would rather that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should address you. I am sure he will be ready to give any explanation that may be required. For myself, I shall only state shortly what took place in the Committee as to the most important of those offices, and what the Government propose to do in respect to them. There was a question in the Committee with regard to the maintenance of an ambassador at Paris; and, as I understood from the Chairman of the Committee (I was not present at the time), it was decided by a majority of the Committee that it was expedient to maintain an ambassador at Paris. Afterwards some Members of the Committee stated, that they thought the salary ought to be reduced. Other Members were of opinion, that if the salary were reduced, it would be impossible to maintain the dignity suitable to an embassy, and that it would be better to reduce the embassy to the rank of a mission with a salary of 5,000l. for the envoy. In considering that matter, we were of opinion that it would be a very serious detriment to the diplomatic service, if we had no longer an ambassador at Paris. Considering our relations with that country, the daily intercourse which is necessary, the certain privileges belonging to an ambassador which do not belong to an envoy, and thereby very considerable advantages, we were of opinion that the difference of expense would be far more than counterbalanced by the importance, to the maintenance of friendly relations, of maintaining an ambassador at Paris. At the same time, we took into consideration whether some reductions might not be made, and we propose to make a reduction of 2,000l. a year, reducing to 8,000l. a year the salary of the ambassador. I am not certain, but that we shall find hereafter that the proper dignity of ambassador, and that hospitality which is so much expected, cannot be maintained as it has hitherto been maintained; and, looking the other day over some old letters, I found one from our ambassador at Paris in 1783, who said he could not maintain a proper and efficient position with less than. 12,000l. a year. However, as the Committee have thought it desirable to practise economy, we shall propose that reduction, to commence from the beginning of the present financial year. Turkey is the only other Power to which we now; send an ambassa- dor; and our relations with Turkey are of such a nature, that the Government think it very desirable that the rank, joined with the influence, of an ambassador should be maintained. With respect to Vienna, we have made a change from an ambassador to an envoy extraordinary, and therefore we have now only two embassies, one at Paris and the other at Constantinople. The Committee recommended various other changes. They proposed that the missions to Hanover, Munich, Stutgard, and Dresden, should be united in some central point. The Government think, that at this present moment, when every Court in Germany is agitated with different interests and different views as to the organisation and future constitution of Germany, that it is not desirable by such a change to deprive them of the means of communication which they now possess through those missions. As to the mission to Florence, they admit that it may be united to some other mission. It was suggested in the Committee that it should be united with the mission to Turin; but that being-thought objectionable, it was then suggested that it should be united with the mission, if that mission should take place, to Rome. We think it desirable, therefore, that the mission to Florence might be made the means of establishing diplomatic relations with Rome. It should be understood, that although the alterations made in the Diplomatic Relations Bill, passed three years ago, were such, that the Pope conceived offence was offered to him by that Act, and that he was placed in a different position to other Sovereigns, he said he should be ready at any time to receive a special mission from this country. Certain circumstances, to which I need not allude, have made such a special mission very undesirable; at the same time we must look to having relations in future with the Court of Rome, and the mission to Florence seems the most convenient mode of establishing those relations. I have now stated the proposals made by the Committee, and the manner in which Her Majesty's Government propose to act. We thought ourselves at full liberty to consider those recommendations, wherever they were in conformity with the interests of the public service, and to decide according to our views. Whether the House takes the proposals of the Committee, or the propositions of the Government, there will not be any large amount of saying to the public which will make any great difference in the public expenditure of the country. What is really desirable is, that there shall be no further expenditure in the political, judicial, and diplomatic services than is justified by the duties performed. On the other hand, it is a very unwise economy, which, for the sake of a few thousands a year, would cramp the public service, and prevent those conducting public affairs—be they who they may—from performing that service in the most efficient manner possible. In the service of a great empire like this, it is most desirable that there shall be an efficient performance of those great duties which fall upon those who form the Administration. I can assure the House, that in the different offices of the Government there is united an amount of labour and an amount of responsibility which requires the use of all the faculties of which a person may be possessed. Whatever may be thought of the times of recreation and relaxation, there are a very few hours, and certainly not many days in the course of the year, when a person holding a high official position is not affected with anxieties with respect to that position. Many important questions come before him for consideration; not only Bills and political questions (these only form a part of his duties and anxieties); but questions affecting foreign and colonial policy, of the utmost importance, and on which much depends, claim, at the same time, his attentive consideration: for instance, decisions may have been taken in the House, perhaps without debate—as the subjects might not be ripe for public attention—but yet at the same time those questions have occupied days and weeks of anxious consideration with the Ministers. I do not know that any person holding public office has any great interest in asking for extravagant salary; but I am sure it is the interest of the House to see that public services are adequately remunerated, and that the path to the highest office is not subservient to the amount of fortune, but that the salary is adequate to the service performed for that salary, for it is not a question of salary, but a question of service, which ought to be considered.


said, he recollected that upon an occasion which occurred shortly after he took his seat in that House, the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) stated that when first he was introduced into public life, the duty of the Government was entirely and exclusively confined to the conducting the business of the various departments, while legislation was left to that class denominated independent Members; and the noble Lord then alluded to the great increase of duties and the great additional burdens on the Members of the Government in consequence of that change. The change appeared to be very unfortunate, and he (Mr. Urquhart) thought the Government had better return to their former administrative duties, and remit the task, and trouble, and care of proposing legislative measures. On a very recent occasion the Government would not have been exposed to embarrassment, danger, and annoyance, nor the character of the noble Lord to the deterioration which it must have suffered, had that ancient rule been maintained. He was, therefore, glad that the office of Master of the Mint had been deprived of its political character. Upon the same ground, he thought it would have been better if the office of Privy Seal, in its political sense, had been dispensed with, since it was only to be retained to enable the Government to overcharge itself with duties. The whole value of the Committee on Official Salaries consisted in the latter part of their recommendations. Whilst the reductions suggested in the civil and judicial offices were not more than 6,000l, or 7,000l., those in the diplomatic service were somewhere between 60,000l. and 70,000l. The Report had dealt a great and heavy blow on the Foreign Department; and he therefore looked upon the labours of that Committee as of great importance. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had said that he could not consent to the union of the German missions. In reply to a question which he (Mr. Urquhart) had put, the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had recently said we did not wish to interfere with the affairs of Germany; that the 40,000,000 people there would take care of themselves, and could not fail to obtain free and independent institutions. Since we had no business to interfere with the German States, the only reason for retaining those missions must be the obtaining information; and he imagined the public newspapers were much more ready, and really much more correct, sources of information than any that could arise from dinners, however expensive the fare or excellent the cooks. If the notion that, the peace of nations was to be preserved* because of diplomatic good will and harmony, which depended on the expenditure of certain sums annually, had not been exploded by common sense, it was contradicted by the present condition of Europe, which he described as having fallen into a state of confusion and of chaos, if not of positive hostility and positive war. He deplored the conclusion to which the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had come in not accepting the recommendations of the Committee for the reduction of the diplomatic establishments; but as he had a Motion on the subject which he should bring forward on a future occasion, he should content himself with asking whether it was not his intention to appoint a Committee on the Consular establishments; and if he were answered in the affirmative, having before been answered in the negative, he should take occasion to move an Instruction to that Committee that they should examine into the facts of some particular country, ascertain for a series of years the action of England, and determine whether it had been productive of good-will and harmony, and thereby worth the expense of maintaining it. With respect to Turkey, which was quoted as the country where, above all, the presence of an ambassador was requisite, he was prepared to show that no country had suffered more from our interference; in proof of which he instanced the Hungarian refugees, who were, according to the last advices, to be further detained. That instance proved the utter inutility of our diplomatic service in supporting the rights of nations; but it was not a special instance: inutility was a normal and universal characteristic of that Office, except where objects the reverse of right were to be obtained. He considered, therefore, the recommendation of the Committee as an important step to deliver the country from an incubus of expenditure, and from the shame and infamy which were consequently brought upon the British name.


begged to ask a question relating to a notice he had given. He had had a Motion on the paper since the 28th of March respecting the distress of the county which he had the honour to represent; and he wished to know if he could not on this occasion, before the House went into Committee of Supply, obtain precedence of Motions, notice of which had been given by the hon. Members for Montrose and Chippenham, specially relating to the Navy Estimates?


said, that both the hon. Members named would have prece- dence of the hon. Member for Kent, on the ground that the Motions of which they had given notice specially referred to the Navy Estimates.


trusted the House would permit him to occupy their time for a few minutes, while he explained the reason why his name did not appear on the Minutes of the Committee on Official Salaries, when they came to consideration of their Resolutions. He was asked, in the first instance, to form part of the Committee, but stated that he was already occupied on the County Rates Committee, but that he would be very happy to give his assistance, provided it were not required on the days on which the County Rates Committee sat. He was fortunate enough to be able to attend for some time, but subsequently found it utterly impossible in any satisfactory manner to discharge the duties of both Committees, and requested that his name might be removed from the Committee in question. This, however, was not done. He was subsequently compelled to leave town, and, on his return, was asked to attend and vote; but having been absent for some days, he felt he should not properly discharge his duty if he had voted for Resolutions without having heard the evidence on which they were founded.


wished to ask whether the noble Lord at the head of the Government would have any objection to lay on the table a return of all the items recommended for reduction by the Official Salaries Committee, specifying those with which the Government concurred, and those to which they objected. It seemed to him that the noble Lord's statement would not be satisfactory to the House or the country; and the Committee, in having nearly one-half of their recommendations rejected, were ill requited for their labours.


presumed that it was not the intention of the Government to take a discussion that night; and as he believed no Members of the Committee, with the exception of the Member for West Surrey (Mr. H. Drummond) and himself, were then present, it would, perhaps, be better to reserve all comment on the statement made by the noble Lord until some other occasion. One or two words, however, he might offer at once. He must say that he was greatly disappointed that so large a proportion of the recommendations of the Committee had been rejected. In respect especially to the diplomatic branch of the service of the country, he had looked for great reductions. It was generally felt by the House, that unless reductions took place in this direction, it was useless to nope for them in regard to the civil service; and he thought that the statement of the noble Lord at the head of the Government was directly in the face of the evidence taken before the Committee. The noble Lord laid down that a great advantage arose from having an ambassador, with a high salary, at Paris. Now it was usually considered that an ambassador was a person representing one Sovereign at the court of another Sovereign. To the Government of a Republic was it proper to appoint an ambassador? Another reason which did not exist when the Committee made its recommendation, was, that the President of the French Republic, by a recent vote of the Chamber, would receive, in future, a much less salary. He (Mr. Cobden) presumed the sales of studs of horses and carriages, and the greater simplicity with which the President of the French Republic now appeared in the streets, bespoke a greater simplicity and economy in the Government of France; and we ought to conform in our diplomatic relations to that improved system of government. He (Mr. Cobden) could never gather from the witnesses examined by the Committee what were the real advantages derived from the rank and expense of an ambassador, either at Paris or at Constantinople. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) expected that we would have influence at Constantinople in consequence of having an ambassador, and not a Minister, there, as our representative. Now, Russia was generally supposed to be as influential in her diplomacy as England; and Russia had no ambassador, and nothing but a simple mission, at Constantinople. There was another Power whose diplomacy had been inquired into by the Committee, namely America. The United States never employed ambassadors, and never paid her Ministers abroad more than 2,000l. a year. He (Mr. Cobden) could not find out from the witnesses that the United States were anywhere less influential in matters where their own interests were concerned, than England, although the representative of England were paid four or five times as much as the representatives of the United States. He had asked the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) himself whether the American Minister with his 2,000l. a year had less weight than he would have with his 5,000l. a year; and the noble Lord admitted that the fact was not so. One diplomatic gentleman examined by the Committee had given it as his opinion that the great secret of diplomacy consisted in giving expensive dinners. Now he (Mr. Cobden) could not conceive that this was a correct representation, and he did not believe that a diplomatist could be indebted to the accomplishments of a cook, however great he might be. He equally regretted that the recommendations of the Committee in regard to Germany had not been adopted by the Government. The noble Lord said, this was not the time to unite the missions to Germany. He (Mr. Cobden) thought that this was peculiarly the proper time. German politics were centred, to a degree never before known in two capitals—Berlin and Vienna; and if, just now, an ambassadorship could be done without at Vienna, surely there could be no good objection to doing away with the missions to the third and fourth rate Courts of Germany. He hoped that these matters would come before the House in a formal way; and that the House would not forego the opportunity of giving its opinion upon them. What the noble Lord said with respect to the recommendation of the Committee as to the abolition of offices to which no duties attached, involved a principle. The noble Lord argued that it was desirable to have certain Members of the Government without specific duties, in order that they might be at liberty to aid those of their colleagues who might be overworked. If the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) could assure him that the parties who were appointed to those offices were generally selected on account of their possessing the talents necessary to enable them to come if requisite to the aid of the other Members of the Government, he (Mr. Cobden) would say, there was virtue in that policy. He admitted that there might be cases where such officers might render the Government essential service; for instance, if such a case as when the noble Lord himself had been Paymaster of the Forces, he had been able to come to the aid of his colleagues in a most important matter. It could not, however, be shown that these sinecure officers had been peculiarly valuable in any department —that they had done anything except in their own departments, and in their own there had been generally nothing to do. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had argued that they should have salaries connected with these offices, because they should have it in their power to call men of moderate means to fill them whose services might be of service to the Government of the country. He (Mr. Cobden) thought that those individuals who might he called in to the aid of Government, and who had not wealth to recommend them, would be such as had fought their way up to the position they occupied, and with talents which would command remuneration as well as respect. It was not such individuals who generally filled sinecure offices. The noble Lord had in this matter answered his own argument. He had instanced the case of the Duke of Buccleuch, and had said that the noble Duke being wealthy would not give his time to any of the offices with which great labour was connected, and therefore he (the noble Duke) had been put into a sinecure office. He (Mr. Cobden) admitted that the Members of the Cabinet were fully worked, and earned the money they received. Money, however, was not the only remuneration they received. If it were, he (Mr. Cobden) maintained that no money could remunerate the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) for the great labour, the incessant trouble, and the constant anxiety, and tear and wear, which a Prime Minister in this country must go through. He (Mr. Cobden) maintained that the money did not constitute the remuneration of the Members of Government. It embraced also the great patronage, and the great honour, and the fame which they enjoyed; and he hoped there was some patriotism, too, which fired the ambition of statesmen, and prompted them to serve their country. He wished the Minister to consider that his office was rather one of high dignity and honour than of mere emolument—that it was an enviable distinction to be placed in such a position of dignity and confidence, where he ought to be actuated by the motive of doing service to his country—of serving it well. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell), in referring to the judicial department, had said that he did not contemplate any reduction in the salaries of the Judges. The noble Lord had spoken of the necessity of having barristers of first-rate talents and attainments to fill the office of Judges, and had remarked that the services of such were not likely to be secured unless high salaries were maintained. Now, he (Mr. Cobden) thought there was considerable exaggeration in the statements which were generally made concerning the earnings of barristers in the present day. Let them ask any respectable intelligent Member of the Bar, and he would tell them that there was no profession in this country in which there was a greater tendency to a decline of earnings than the profession of the Bar. At such a time as during the prevalence of the railway mania, when large sums had been made before the Committees of that House, the earnings might have been large; but he referred to the present time. There might be a few in the receipt of largo incomes; but the general tendency was to diffuse, as it were, the income over a greater number of persons. Under these circumstances they might find barristers of first-rate talent to leave their profession and take the office of Judge for less than 6,000l. or 7,000l. a year, for they had to bear in mind that if, to use the expression of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), barristers had run the race, and taken the lead in their profession, they had had to go through a serious toil, trouble, and anxiety in order to attain that position. They had it in evidence that the wear and tear and the irksome labour attending the life of a barrister in a first-rate position and in successful practice could hardly be conceived. In appointing such men to judgeships, besides conferring on them a high honour, they relieved them of their irksome occupation, and gave them an independence for life and a retiring allowance. Taking into account the honour of the position, and the easy mode of attaining his income which a Judge enjoyed, he thought that much less than 6,000l. or 7,000l. a year would procure the very best talent in the country. Lord Abinger had been spoken of, and he (Mr. Cobden) admitted that the success of Mr. Scarlett at the Bar had been unrivalled. There had been many barristers appointed Puisne Judges who had never at their profession earned 3,000l. a year, whilst Lord Abinger made 20,000l. a year; and yet those men had made the best Judges. The recommendations of the Committee had been in many cases matters of compromise. Many of them he (Mr. Cobden) had thought might have been still further reduced. The subject, however, he presumed, would have to be gone into on some future evening, when he promised that he would express his sentiments on the statement of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown. In the meantime he might say that they had reason to be dissatisfied with the manner in which the recommendations of the Committee had been treated, and perhaps the House would have something to say on the matter. The saving which the adoption of the recommendations of the Committee would have effected was about 50,000l. a year; and the sum by which the noble Lord proposed to reduce these official salaries was in the aggregate only about 7,000l. a year. This was very discouraging to those who had sat on the Committee, and had bestowed their time and labour in arriving at the conclusions stated by the report. He would be constrained to follow the example of his Friend the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), and decline sitting on any Committee when he found their exertions had been so abortive as they had been on the present occasion.


Sir, I shall follow the example of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) rather than his precept, for he began by saying that the discussion should not be gone into this evening, and ended by discussing all the points which had been alluded to by my noble Friend at the head of the Government. I think it right to say one or two words with respect to the arrangements to which the hon. Gentleman alluded. In reference to the ambassador at Paris, I don't expect to make a convert of the hon. Member. I endeavoured to do so in Committee, and failed, and, consequently, I am not likely to do so in this House. But, at the same time, I must express my strong conviction that the public service is greatly benefited by maintaining an officer of the rank of Ambassador at Paris, as representing this country at the, I will not say Court, but Government of a great country like France. We have reduced the salary from 10,000l. to 8,000l.; and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, although he may think a republican form of government involves a diminution in the scale of expenditure, any one who knows the state of Paris at this moment will know that there is not that change in the habits of society which seems to be implied in the opinion of the hon. Member. I think it due to my noble Friend now occupying the post of Ambassador at Paris (the Marquess of Normanby) to say, that English travellers who go to Paris must not expect to receive from him, with his reduced salary, that very large extent of hospitality which hitherto has been exercised, as a right on their part, and as a duty on his. I think it fair to my noble Friend to give that public warning, especially since the new arrangement of passports may induce greater numbers to visit Paris, assuming that the passports they bear would entitle them to the future attention of the Ambassador there. A similar ground applies to the embassy at Constantinople. The post of Ambassador gives a peculiar weight to our diplomatic relations there, and that is of great importance to the interests of this country. But the hon. Member says there is one Power which has no Ambassador at Constantinople, but which nevertheless exercises an influence as great or greater than ours, namely, Russia. I am perfectly ready to admit the extent of the influence of Russia; but I venture to think that, considering the extent of the Russian empire, its great military power, its proximity to Turkey, and the fact that its policy is wielded by one single will-—I think that if the Emperor had only a single attaché at Constantinople to represent him, his influence would be much the same. The influence of the Government of Russia depends not upon rank, but upon the power of the two countries, and upon the proximity of Russia to Turkey. The hon. Gentleman says we have an example in the United States. As they give only 2,000l. a year to their Minister, I presume he implies that something like that same scale would be sufficient for us. It is true that I stated to the hon. Gentleman that when an American Envoy came into my room at the Foreign Office to transact business, I never measure the deference due to him, or the weight to be attached to what he has to say, by the amount of salary he receives. But you cannot ask any impartial American citizen whether the public service does not suffer from the small allowance of salary assigned to the Minister, who will not tell you that they are unnecessarily and inconveniently low, and that they ought to be increased. We happen now to have a most distinguished citizen of the United States, who has an ample fortune of his own, and who lives in a manner honourable to himself and the country which he represents. But there have been at former times representatives of the United States in this country, whose position has been painful to their own feelings. It has been impossible for them to return those social courtesies which every person in this country was happy to manifest towards them; and I think it would not be satisfactory to the feelings of Englishmen that their representatives in foreign countries should he compelled to be different from gentlemen residing in this country. Now, Sir, we have reduced the embassy to Vienna to a mission; and when Gentlemen complain that in point of money there has been no saving, we have indeed accomplished not a great saving, because the nature of the circumstances did not admit of any large reduction, but at the same time a saving of some magnitude, as compared with the saving that would have resulted from the entire adoption of the Report of the Committee. At Paris there has been a saving of 2,000l., by the reduction of the salary from 10,000l. to 8,000l.; at Vienna a saving of 4,000l., by reducing the salary from 9,000l. to 5,000l.; and at Madrid a saving of 1,000l., by reducing the salary from 6,000l. to 5,000l., so that there was 7,000l. saved by the reduction of the salaries of the diplomatic officers. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden) says this is a peculiar time, when you might abolish the minor missions in Germany; and he differs from my noble Friend (Lord John Russell) who thinks the time peculiarly inappropriate. It is true that the Governments at Vienna and Berlin do exercise, as they must at all times exercise, a preponderating influence upon the affairs of Germany; but if there is anything peculiar in the present state of affairs in Germany bearing upon this question, I should remind the hon. Gentleman that to all appearance the old Diet is going to be established at Frankfort; and one peculiar circumstance connected with that is, that the decisions of the Diet required unanimity, and that, therefore, the will of every one of these smaller States is likely to resume the influence it possessed previous to the year 1848. He could assure the hon. Member (Mr. Cobden) that the information obtained from these minor Courts was frequently of the greatest importance; and, although the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Urquhart) seemed to rely, and to think the Government might rely, upon the information contained in the newspapers, he must say that, however well informed the newspapers might he upon matters that were publicly known, still, if the Government had no other sources of information than the public press, they would very soon fall into great disgrace both in this country and in Europe. With respect to the other offices, my noble Friend (Lord John Russell) stated, in a manner that ought to satisfy the mind of any reflecting man, that it is of great importance to Government that there should be offices to which no great degree of daily labour is attached, but which being connected with the Cabinet, may enable them to have, as members of the Administration, persons of great political knowledge, of great talents, of great public character; but who, either through age, infirmities, or any other circumstances, however able to be useful advisers to their colleagues, are yet unable to undergo the daily fatigue of a laborious office. With respect to the law, I do think that if there can be imagined an economy that would be injurious to the interests of the country, it would be an economy that led you to reduce too low the salaries of judicial officers. It may be true that you cannot predict beforehand that a man who is a distinguished advocate should, on that account, he an eminent Judge; but the presumption is in favour of his being so— that the man who has shown great ability and commanding talent in one department of the law, should also distinguish himself in the judicial capacity. But if there is one thing more than any other that would be unfortunate for this country, it would be if the Bar, instead of looking up to the Bench, should look down on it. If the Bench should not be filled by barristers of the first rank in consequence of the insufficiency of their remuneration, and if the decisions of the Judges should carry less weight and respect in consequence of the public supposing that they were men of inferior professional abilities and character to those who were pleading before them, that would be a matter of much greater importance than whether the salary should be 6,000l. or 7,000l. Now the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden) thinks 6,000l. or 7,000l. sufficient for a Judge. Well, the Puisne Judges have only 5,000l.; it is only chiefs to whom a higher salary is given. In reference to those chiefs, the salaries are reduced below what they were; but I think that, in savings of that sort, the actual pecuniary amount is quite undeserving of attention, and will not compare with the greatly more important object—that the law of the country should be administered in a manner to command the confidence and respect of the people of this country. For, depend upon it, if your courts of law were to cease to hold that position in the public esteem which I am happy to see they do now—if the people were to think the decisions were given erroneously from want of capacity or want of knowledge on the part of the Judges, you would shake the confidence of the people in the constitution of the country, inflicting a wound upon the public interest which the saving of a few thousands of pounds could not make up, the evil effects of which no amount of money could counterbalance.


begged to repeat his question to the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) as to whether the noble Lord would have any objection to lay on the table a statement showing the reductions recommended by the Committee, and how the Government proposed to deal with these reductions?


said, he had no objection to produce such a statement.

Subject at an end.