HC Deb 09 February 1854 vol 130 cc371-89

rose to move for "A Select Committee to consider the duties of the Member leading the Government in this House, and the expediency of attaching office and salary thereto." He hoped the figures just read at the table would be a warning to his noble Friend the Member for the City of London not to interpose in the Motion which he was about to bring forward. He had had no communication with the noble Lord on the subject of this Motion, for it was a matter on which the House of Commons alone ought to decide, and with regard to which the noble Lord, and even the Government, ought to be shut out of court. He believed it was imagined by some hon. Members that he, was about to ask that the leader of the House of Commons should receive a salary. Such, however, was not his intention. True it was, at the commencement of last year he was very forcibly struck by the circumstance that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London held a situation the most influential and the most laborious in that House or in the country, without the public compensating the noble Lord in the way in which public services were usually compensated. He (Mr. Cayley) could be actuated, in bringing forward this Motion, by no other motive than a sense of public duty, and a sense of the duty which he thought the public owed to those who served it. When Lord Aberdeen's Government was formed, there was—whether in consequence of the combination of parties or not he could not say—some difficulty in the division of office. But, in the first instance, public rumour told them the noble Lord the Member for London was indisposed to take office, partly, it was understood, because his health was not strong, and partly, probably, because having had so long a course of public service, he was not indisposed for that domestic repose which, at a certain time of life, and after a length of public service, a Minister might be supposed to be desirous of enjoying. At any rate, it was understood publicly that the noble Lord was not disposed to take office. He was, however, persuaded to take the office of Secretary of State for the Foreign Department, but he shortly resigned that office, and remained a member of the Cabinet, advising Her Majesty, he (Mr. Cayley) presumed, in his capacity of Privy Councillor. It was under these circumstances that he (Mr. Cayley) had given notice last Session of his intention to bring the subject under the consideration of the House. He was not at all cognisant of what the sense of the House would be; he only knew that, after giving the notice last Session, he was addressed privately by many Members of the House, who thought that in principle he was right, and that the course he suggested was one which might be constitutionally adopted. As he did not know the way in which the House would deal with the question; he wished to address himself to its reason, its sense of justice, and that common fairness which had always distinguished it. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) having resigned the office of Foreign Secretary, fell back upon his situation as Privy Councillor, and took his seat in this House as leader of the Government of the country. It must be patent to every Member of the House what the labours of that office must be; for office, whatever it might be directly, indirectly it must he considered to be. The salary the noble Lord would have received, had he been First Lord of the Treasury, would have been 5,000l. a year; but that office being now held by a Member of the Upper House of Parliament, the noble Lord sat in this House, performing the office of its leader without any salary whatever. He (Mr. Cayley) desired that position to be distinctly understood. And what, then, were the labours of the office held by the noble Lord? The leader of the House of Commons had to be here early and late; he had to make himself master of every question introduced, whether by Government or by an individual Member of the House; the whole of his mornings must be occupied in making himself master of those questions, and the whole of his evenings had to be passed in debating them when they were introduced. One great, significant, and substantial reason for the noble Lord declining the office of Secretary of State for the Foreign Department was, that, if the duties of that department were to be assiduously fulfilled, it was next to impossible for physical endurance to perform the duties of leader of the House of Commons. He had heard it stated by a late hon. Member of the House (Sir R. H. Inglis), that at Mr. Canning's death it was prophesied by an experienced Member of the House that the office of leader of the House of Commons would never again be held with a public department. A very laborious office was tried by Sir Robert Peel in 1835, when the whole labours of the Government fell almost exclusively upon his shoulders; but when at a subsequent period Sir Robert Peel took office as First Lord of the Treasury, he held that office alone, and absolved himself from the second office. He (Mr. Cayley) took that to be illustrative evidence in favour of his proposal. What, then, were the labours of the office held by the noble Lord? It was notorious that the business of the House had greatly increased, and it must be equally notorious that a great part of that increase must be reflected back upon the shoulders of the leader of the House. And as the business of the House increased, so had the number of Motions, and the general interest felt in public affairs, all necessarily increasing the labours of the leader of the House. The sittings of the House in former times averaged three hours a-day, but they now averaged eight hours, and towards the close of the Session they averaged ten hours a day. At the same time, the length of the Session had extended to from 120 to 140 days, and the average sitting of the House was somewhere about 1,000 hours in the course of a Session. In 1752 the divisions during the Session were 15, in 1851 they were 127, and in 1852 they were 242. The journals of the House 40 years ago occupied a space of 427 pages, and now, with the pages and type the same, they would occupy 2,400 pages—an increase nearly sixfold. Then, again, as his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) said the other day, the number of petitions had greatly increased, considerably extending the labours of the House. In 1837 the petitions numbered about 7,000, in 1847 they were 15,000, and in 1848 18,000. All this showed an enormous increase in the business of the House, and all that increase of business attached more or less to the office of leader of the House. It might be said, the labours of the leader of this House were not so great as those of a public department; but if any one would take the pains to observe a Member holding a very laborious department of Government, and see him come down here at four o'clock, after spending four or five hours in transacting his official business, he would frequently observe a physical condition which would utterly disable that Member from doing duty as leader of the House during the evening. It might appear to some men a simple enough matter, seeing how smoothly it was done by the noble Lord, to perform the duties of leader; but how, it might be asked, had the noble Lord the Member for London found the experience to enable him to lead the House? There was scarcely a public office he had not held, beginning, if he (Mr. Cayley) remembered rightly, as Paymaster of the Forces. At all events, the experience of the noble Lord had been gained by a long course of public service, during which the noble Lord had filled almost every public office of the State, filling the offices of the Chief Secretaries of State in succession, and other offices besides. It was by filling those offices and by the long tenure of his seat in the House, that the noble Lord had made himself competent to fill the po- sition he now held. Was it reasonable that experience of this valuable nature, at the cost of such prolonged service obtained and supplied gratuitously to the country—that because the health of the noble Lord the Member for London, or the health of any other man, might disable him from holding a public department of oppressive duties, and at the same time fulfilling the onerous duties of leader of the House—was it reasonable, was it fair, or was it generous, because the labours of that office had grown so great, because the business of the House had increased so inordinately—was it reasonable, because no provision had been made to meet the difficulty, to say that no attempt should be made now to meet it? Was there any office in the State more responsible or more influential than that held by the noble Lord, or one which required a greater combination of powers to fill it properly? He would pause for a moment to inquire what were the salaries attached to many of the principal offices of the country. The Lord Chancellor received 10,000l. a year, and 4,000l. as Speaker of the House of Lords; the First Lord of the Treasury received 5,000l., the Chancellor of the Exchequer 5,000l., the Secretaries of State 5,000l. each, First Lord of the Admiralty 4,500l., Speaker of the House of Commons 5,000l., Lord President of the Council 2,000l., Privy Seal 2,000l., President of the Board of Trade 2,000l., First Commissioner of Works 2,000l., Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench 8,000l., Chief Justice of the Common Pleas 7,000l., Chief Baron of the Exchequer 7,000l., the Puisne Judges each 5,000l., Master of the Rolls 6,000l., Vice-Chancellors 5,000l., and so on. If the salary of a public servant was to be at all in proportion to the difficulty of finding a person to fill the office properly, he knew of no office in the country which ought to be remunerated like that of leader of the House of Commons, for the leader of the House not only acted as leader of the greatest assembly in the world, but to a great extent he exercised an influence over the civilisation and progress of the country. It might be said the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) was entitled to a pension. The noble Lord certainly was entitled to a pension, but the noble Lord refused not only to occupy a laborious office with a salary attached to it, but also to take the pension to which he was entitled. There had been considerable misapprehension regarding the Motion which he (Mr. Cayley) intended to make—[MR. W. WILLIAMS: Hear, hear!]—which was for a Select Committee. He understood the cheer of the hon. Gentleman opposite. Did it mean that the hon. Gentleman wanted the work done without proper remuneration; that he denied a fair day's wages for a fair day's work; that the work was not worth the hire? If the hon. Gentleman thought so, he (Mr. Cayley was happy to think a large majority of his countrymen were more just and generous. A general impression seemed to have gone abroad that it was his (Mr. Cayley's) intention to create a new office for the leader of the House of Commons. No such thing was intended by him, but the question appeared to him to be one of great importance. He knew of no precedent (during the present century, at least) for a leader of the House of Commons being similarly situated to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). It appeared to him a very anomalous position, even constitutionally, for the leader of the House to occupy; and it was his intention now to ask permission to go into an inquiry how that anomalous position could be best met. There were various ways of meeting it, and it was not for him to judge which was the best. It appeared to him, however, that there was a clear and simple method of meeting the question if it was the wish of the House that the leader of the House of Lords should be in no better position as regards salary than the leader of the House of Commons. If a Select Committee so thought fit, there could be no difficulty in attaching to any office under the Crown held by the leader of the House of Commons, of less official labour than such offices as the Secretaryship of State, the same salary as that enjoyed by the First Lord of the Treasury. Take, for instance, the office of President of the Council. He saw no reason why, when the First Lord of the Treasury sat in the House of Lords, the President of the Council should not sit in this House as leader of the House of Commons, the Queen having the power, when circumstances were such, of attaching the same salary to the President of the Council as to the First Lord of the Treasury. An office of that dignity would add influence to that already possessed by the leader of the Government in that House. He merely threw out these ideas as suggestions; but he could not but consider it a very anomalous state of things that a public servant occupying the most laborious and most responsible position in the country should be serving the country without any remuneration whatever. As respected the constitutional part of the question, he would not at present detain the House upon it. The noble Lord himself was too well versed in the constitution of this country to have suffered himself gravely to have infringed it. And yet serious constitutional objections had been started, both in his own mind and in that of others, and might by others perhaps be touched upon. It might be supposed, and perhaps it had been by some, that he wished to make this an exceptional case. On the contrary, he wished to deal with it entirely upon general principles. If he wished, indeed, to make an exceptional case of this, no unsubstantial ground might be taken for it. If he were to say, the noble Lord the Member for London possessed, as qualities fitting him for the office, that he had a greater constitutional knowledge, perhaps, than any other Member of the House; that he exhibited more tact and readiness and temper in debate than any other Member; that his courage under all circumstances was proverbially undaunted; that his services had been such as to add lustre to the name he bore; and, were he to add as a crown to those qualities, that he possessed that mild simplicity of demeanour without which real dignity can scarcely exist, he (Mr. Cayley) should but affirm that which every Member of the House would re-echo, only in terms more appropriate than he could pretend to do. But he did not intend to put the case upon any exceptional basis. He placed it on one of fair dealing and common justice, as well as policy, for policy it never could be to starve remuneration to the ablest servants of the country. He could fully appreciate the morbid sensibility, perhaps, of the noble Lord in not taking the pension to which from long service he was entitled. He did not know whether, upon the whole, the example of the noble Lord was a good one, because, were it to become prevalent, no one could hold office in this country but those of the first class of fortune; and he did not exactly know whether it would be for the public service that persons of that class alone should be employed in matters of State. There were instances where such an example had operated very much to the inconvenience of members of late Governments, who had declined taking pensions for their services, their minds having been operated upon, perhaps, by such examples as that of the noble Lord. It would be invidious to make references, but he could, if he were inclined, point to a case where a pension, declined by a gentleman from sentiments of high public virtue, would be of great importance to that gentleman now. And there was another reason inducing him to consider the example of the noble Lord a bad one. Public offices should be filled by the ablest men of the day; but those had often entered into professions. Instances had occurred of men at the zenith of their powers having been persuaded to leave a lucrative profession, say the law, for service under the Crown. A Privy Councillor, however, could not, according to etiquette, return to general practice in the law. A man thus situated, holding office under two years, had no claim to a pension, and still lost his place in the profession he had abandoned for the public service. This was a state of things requiring remedy. Even if he had served the whole period requisite to entitle him to a pension, the example of the noble Lord, who had held office so long, would operate on a sensitive mind probably to deter him from the acceptance of that to which he was justly entitled, and without which he might be exposed to grievous personal privation. He, however, fully appreciated the public virtue of the noble Lord in refusing the pension; but he thought that when great services were rendered to the public, those services should be rewarded as the public had usually been disposed to reward them. If only upon the bare and naked principle of supply and demand, the difficulty of finding a man like the noble Lord the Member for London to fill so responsible an office (he believed he was not wrong in saying it was not that difficulty alone which induced the noble Lord upon a late occasion to enter office)—if upon that bare and naked principle alone, he hoped the House would be induced to grant him the Committee he asked for, and to pay what he considered a great public debt to a servant who had served the country so efficiently and so long.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the duties of the Member leading the Government in this House, and the expediency of attaching office and salary thereto.


said, he was certain that it was unnecessary for his hon. Friend (Mr. Cayley) to say any- thing in order to convince the House that he had any other motive than a desire for the benefit of the public service; but he doubted whether he had equally convinced them of the policy of the course he had suggested, and while giving him full credit for his motives, he must, at the same time, totally dissent from the proposed measure. His hon. Friend stated that he did not intend to attach a salary to the office of leader of the House of Commons, but the whole drift of his speech was to attach a salary to that undefined and undefinable office. No doubt a Motion for a Committee was a very convenient form in which to raise the question; but he trusted the House would not recognise the principle of attaching a salary to an office which did not exist, and the duties of which could not be defined. His hon. Friend said he did not bring this question forward with any special reference to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell); but nine-tenths of what he had said referred to his noble Friend, and he (Sir C. Wood) objected to the course which his hon. Friend proposed of founding a general measure upon an exceptional case—namely, that of his noble Friend the Member for the City of London holding that position whilst he did not fill any of the offices of State. It did not become him (Sir C. Wood) to say anything of the qualifications of his noble Friend for the prominent part he took in that House; but he entirely concurred in what his hon. Friend had said on this subject, and he believed his hon. Friend had expressed the general opinion of the House in speaking of the manner in which the noble Lord had discharged the duties of the leadership of that House. But when his hon. Friend proposed that a salary should be attached to that office, how would he define the position of the person who was required in practice as leader of the House, or the duties to be performed by him? He would not deny that the duties of the leader of the House of Commons had increased in a very great degree within the last few years. But the same assertion would be just as true with regard to every Member of the House as in respect to the person who took the most prominent part in it on the part of the Government. Any person who had much experience of the House knew that every private Member had had increased duties thrown upon him during the last few years, and Mem- bers of the Government had only taken their share of the increased business of the House. A salary was properly attached to a public office, but much inconvenience would result if a person holding no defined or responsible position, and charged with no official duties, should receive a salary tinder the denomination of leader of that House. He was not aware that any difficulty had been found in the leadership of the House being evinced by persons holding office. His noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) had led the House for some years as First Lord of the Treasury; the right bon. Gentleman, whom he did not now see in his place (Mr. Disraeli), had led the House as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he was ready to bear testimony to the ability and industry with which he had discharged, in addition to that office, the duties of the leader of the House. His noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) had also led the House as Home Secretary. The late Sir Robert Peel had led the House as Chancellor of the Exchequer; and Mr. Canning had done so, while Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Here were three or four of the highest offices, the duties of which had not been found incompatible with the leadership of the House. If the duties of these offices were to be found so heavy as to render it impossible for the person holding them, to take as active and prominent a part in the duties of the House as the person recognised as the principal organ of the Government must necessarily do, there were other offices of less labour to which he might be appointed, and there was no reason why a person should not accept an office of lower emolument and yet discharge with efficiency and with honour to himself the duties of the leader of that House. But it was clearly incompatible with the constitutional practice of that House that a salary should be given to any person except for the discharge of official duties as a Member of the Government. His hon. Friend had hinted that strong constitutional objections might exist to the course he proposed; but his hon. Friend had not in the slightest degree attempted to grapple with those objections. Those objections seemed to him (Sir C. Wood) to be insuperable, and assuredly his hon. Friend had laid no grounds for his Motion. The course proposed by his hon. Friend appeared to him to be most objectionable, and he trusted that the House would reject the Motion, not merely on the ground of its being inex- pedient to refer this subject to a Committee, but on the substantial, and in his opinion insuperable, objection to the proposal.


said, the hon. Member (Mr. Cayley) had asked whether there was any objection to a fair day's wages far a fair day's work. He did not object; but the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), he was sure, would be the last to countenance the proposition of the hon. Gentleman, and was too honourable and highminded to do so. Every one knew that the noble Lord was so important a Member of the present Government that he might have in it any office be pleased, whether an office with the highest or the smallest salary. But the noble Lord had chosen a place in the Government without any salary, and this was not a proper time to create new places and add to the burdens of the people. The hon. Member had referred to the number of hours exhausted in each sitting; but be should recollect that there were many private Members of that House who were quite as close in their attendance as the noble Lord. Under these circumstances, he (Mr. Williams) thought the Motion unwise and uncalled for, and should therefore give it his opposition.


said, he considered that great inconvenience would result from attaching a salary to an office which was not known to the constitution. He must also add that the anomalous position occupied by the noble Lord had already established a very inconvenient, if not unconstitutional, precedent. Of the noble Lord, he was not going to say a word beyond the expression of his entire concurrence in the eulogy passed upon him that evening for his conduct and management of public business in that House. In addressing himself to this question, therefore, it was not his intention to say anything that might be supposed to cast a reflection on the noble Lord; but he wished to remind him of what be (Mr. Walpole) had previously communicated in private, that he considered the precedent, in a constitutional point of view, which the noble Lord had now set by occupying, without holding office, the leadership of the House, was full of anomalies. He mentioned this because hon. Members were in the habit of talking gravely and loudly of Ministerial responsibility, yet that responsibility, in the present instance, did not exist. There was no responsibility, which he knew of, except by virtue of the office which the Minister held, or, as a Member of the Privy Council. But there was no responsibility in his being a Member of what is called the Cabinet. For anything that was done in his department, the Minister was responsible. In some cases he might attach his seal; in other cases be might put his hand to it; but in all cases the act done was proof of the responsibility, and could be brought home to him. As Privy Councillor, also, a Minister was responsible for all the advice given by him in that capacity; and if that advice were contrary to the constitution, it was liable to be impugned at a future period, provided it could be proved. But, according to the present practice, it could not be proved if any fault were likely to be found with it. Until the reign of Charles II. there was no such thing as advice being given by a Privy Councillor, unless the signature of that Privy Councillor was attached to it. The distinction between the Privy Council and the Cabinet was unknown to the constitution. The Cabinet was a body not recognised by the law, and its Members were under no responsibility whatever. Since the speech of Mr. Fox upon the appointment of Lord Ellenborough to a seat in the Cabinet while he was Lord Chief Justice, this position had been settled beyond the possibility of contradiction. Then where was the responsibility? As a Cabinet Councillor, there was none, As a Privy Councillor, the responsibility with reference to the acts advised by him to be done, was nothing more than imaginary, on account of the difficulty of proof. So inconvenient was this, that when the Treaty of Utrecht was signed, it was found difficult to impeach the Ministers for the measures they had adopted in the accomplishment of that treaty. The inconvenience being then felt, a remedy for it was made part of the Act of Settlement; for a clause was introduced which had been subsequently repealed, declaring and requiring that every Privy Councillor should sign the advice he gave during the time he was Privy Councillor. Why that portion of the Act was repealed, had never been explained. The suggestion offered by Mr. Hallam was, that Ministers did not like the responsibility, in those days of impeachment, which was thereby incurred. So that from that day to this there was no means of fixing the responsibility of the Minister merely because he was a Privy Councillor, still less because he was a Member of that department of the Privy Council denominated the Cabinet. Now, he thought it would be extremely inconvenient to increase the anomalies of the constitution with reference to the question of the responsibility of Ministers; for at the present moment, there being no responsibility which enabled that House by means of impeachment to call in question the conduct of the Minister, except it could prove the act complained of by his seal being attached, or his signature being affixed to it, Ministerial responsibility had become little else than responsibility to public opinion, and to censure on the part of Parliament. Whether that was a proper position for the country to remain in with reference to the responsibility of Ministers, was a grave and an important question, which he did not think ought to be raised or discussed incidentally upon a question like that then before the House. He had often felt strongly upon that point, but he did not think it right to call the attention of the House more specifically to it, on a Motion like the present. The position now occupied by the noble Lord had, he believed, no precedent, excepting, perhaps, one in this House and a few in the other House of Parliament. They certainly had had instances of Members of the Government, called Members of the Cabinet, sitting in the House of Lords without holding at the time any particular office. In the House of Commons, however, there was one instance only of a Member of what was called the Cabinet not holding office until they came to the case of the noble Lord. He believed he was right in saying so, and that until the noble Lord resigned the duties of the Foreign Department—resigned the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—there was only one case in which a Member of the Government had sat in that House without holding office; and there was none in which he had acted like the noble Lord, as the organ of the Government. He (Mr. Walpole) had pointed out already the great inconvenience of that position in reference to the question of Ministerial responsibility. But in his mind there would be greater difficulty, and further inconvenience, if the precedent now set by the noble Lord was to be followed hereafter. The inconvenience was twofold—first, to the particular constituencies; secondly, to the country generally. For, in the first place, the Crown might select its Ministerial advisers from Members of that House, without requiring that the persons, so selected, should go back to their constituents for re-election. That was an inconvenience that might and probably would arise if the precedent then brought before them was followed. In the second place, there was an inconvenience to the country generally, for by following this precedent the country would be deprived of the means of knowing who, in fact, were the responsible advisers of the Crown. Except from the circumstance that they saw a Privy Councillor sitting on the Treasury bench, and speaking generally as the exponent of the Government, Parliament and the country would have no means of judging under whose advice the Crown was acting. He could conceive the greatest possible inconvenience arising, from that. It was stated during the debates in 1806 that Lord Mansfield, although he held no political office under the Government, sat in the Cabinet, and gave his advice as a Cabinet Minister, without any one knowing of it for a period of five years. It was a thing quite unknown to the public and to Parliament, and what the effects of it might have been, or what degree of confidence might have been reposed in the Government if that fact had been known, was a question which need not now be discussed. But he could conceive a case—if the precedent now set before them was followed up hereafter—he could conceive a case in which advice might be given, and of the most important and influential character; and while the other Ministers followed the advice which was so given, the real adviser would be kept entirely in the background, and the country and the Parliament would know nothing about him. Such a possibility even ought not to be suffered. He did not by any means apprehend that the case was likely to arise in the present instance; but the inconveniences pointed out were of such a nature that the House would do well to attend to them. He thought, therefore, they should be on their guard to prevent any mischief from happening in future by allowing a precedent thus dangerous to be established. With reference to the question immediately before the House, his own opinion certainly was, that there was great hardship in the leader of that House being encumbered with duties of an onerous nature which would take away his attention from the general supervision of all the measures of the Government. But he thought the diffi- culty might be easily obviated if it should be generally understood that the organ of the Government in each House of Parliament should fill two places which were not inconsistent with very onerous duties—he meant the offices of the First Lord of the Treasury and the President of the Councill. He conceived that in a constitutional point of view there was no reason why the organ of the Government in that House should not fill either. It was usual, indeed, that the leader in that House should fill the office of First Lord of the Treasury, because finance was the peculiar province of the House of Commons. But in the history of their country there was an instance of the leader in that House holding the office of President of the Council; and rather than the anomaly should be introduced of the leader and representative of the Government holding no office, he should much prefer that precedent being followed, although it would be better that the organ of the Government in that House should, as a general rule, be First Lord of the Treasury. In offering these observations he would conclude as he had begun, by stating that be intended no censure or reflection on the arrangement which had been made in reference to the leadership of the House of Commons in the present instance. His remarks were submitted with an eye to the future, and in order that this precedent should not be followed on any future occasion. He was not reflecting upon the noble Lord or the Government; but he wished in time to warn the House that arrangements of this kind would lead hereafter to serious inconveniences, which they might have to deplore, unless they were provided against, although he hoped that the occasion on which they should have to deplore them through the conduct or misconduct of any Member of the Government would not be likely to arise.


Sir, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that I do not rise on the present occasion to refer to anything that personally concerns myself. I am quite satisfied with the reasons given by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite. I feel deeply grateful to that hon. Gentleman for the manner in which he has spoken of me; but I cannot conceive that it would be desirable to create an office solely for the purpose of giving a position to the organ of the Government in this House. I think that any office held by a Minister of the Crown should be created for the Purpose of official duties to be performed, and that any position held either in this or the other House should be consequent on connected with official duties. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has laid down certain constitutional doctrines, to which I desire to allude for a moment. I hope the House will pause before it gives its entire assent to them. The right hon. Gentleman wishes to maintain the responsibility of Ministers of the Crown; but I confess I think in doing so he unduly restricts that responsibility. He argues that Ministers of the Crown and Privy Councillors are not responsible; but the House will doubtless recollect that at the time of the Treaty of Partition Lord Somers held the office of Lord Chancellor, and an impeachment was laid against him because of the correspondence which he held with King William in regard to the advice which King William asked of him with respect to that treaty. King William asked his opinion with respect to the policy of making that Treaty of Partition. Now, that advice had nothing whatever to do with his office as Lord Chancellor. The right hon. Gentleman may say that Lord Somers had to fix the great seal to the treaty; but that would not be an answer to what I say, because, in fact, the fixing of the great seal to a treaty is a transaction subsequent to the arrangement of its terms. But then, again, that objection does not apply to the advice given by Lord Oxford, who held the office of Lord High Treasurer in the transaction with France regarding the surrender of Tournay; and other matters, which were made articles of impeachment against Lord Oxford, had nothing whatever to do with his conduct in the Treasury, or in any business which, as Lord High Treasurer, he had to transact. In his case, as in the case of Lord Somers, the articles of impeachment were founded upon the advice which he, being a Privy Councillor, trusted and consulted by the Sovereign, had given, and for which he therefore had to answer. I hold, therefore, that it is not merely the business which a Minister transacts in performing a particular duty of his office, but any advice he has given, and which he may be proved before a Committee of this House, or at the bar of the House of Lords, to have given, for which he is responsible, and consequently for which he may suffer the penalties which may ensue. But if this is the case, it is quite obvious that whether the person so advising the Sovereign holds an office totally unconnected with the business upon which he is consulted, or whether he holds no office whatever, the constitutional argument is exactly the same. Lord Oxford, not being Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at all, had given advice with respect to the negotiation of a treaty; that advice referred to a subject which had no connexion with his office of Lord High Treasurer, and he was impeached for it, as he would have been, of course, if he had held no office whatever. I remember Lord Lansdowne stating in the other House of Parliament, a good many years ago, when the Bishop of London had an audience with his late Majesty George IV., that he, the Bishop of London, being a Privy Councillor, was responsible for any advice he had given to the King on the occasion of that audience. I conceive Lord Lansdowne was perfectly right in that opinion, and the Bishop of London, if he had given any advice to the Sovereign would have been responsible for it. Take a case that happened only the other day, and which you will find mentioned in the Turkish blue books now upon the table of the House. Lord Clarendon states that on a particular occasion, when it was impossible to collect all the Members of the Cabinet together, there was a meeting held in the Foreign Office, consisting of himself, the First Lord of the Treasury, the Home Secretary, and Lord John Russell; and he adds that these four Ministers came to an opinion, which he communicated to Her Majesty. Now, supposing that the advice which we gave on that occasion had been of a nature dangerous to the independence of this country, or that it had been liable to the charge of being a high crime and misdemeanour, I contend that every one of us—the First Lord of the Treasury, the Home Secretary, and myself—would have been equally responsible with the Foreign Secretary for having given that advice. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, I think, would hardly make a distinction—he would hardly say that I was exempt from any responsibility on account of the advice so tendered. It is somewhat remarkable, speaking of this matter, that Mr. Fox, who made that speech in defence of Lord Ellenborough being a Member of the Cabinet to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, is stated by Lord Holland, who was in possession of his most secret thoughts, in a work lately published, to have said that after a time he should be glad to retire from the Foreign Office, which he then held—that he would not give up to any man the prospect he then thought there was of concluding peace with France, and abolishing the slave trade—but that after that he should either take some office of less labour, or very likely, he said, remain in the Cabinet without any office whatever. So that Mr. Fox seems then to have contemplated the course which has since been adopted. However, the present case is, as the right hon. Gentleman said, an exceptional case; but I do not require to enter into the particular reasons which induced me to occupy the position I now hold without office. The only question is, whether that position should be maintained? The right hon. Gentleman objects to it, in the first place, because it may be a precedent for some one to come into the Cabinet, and be the organ of the Government in this House, without going back to his constituency. With respect to that objection, I certainly have not set such a precedent, because I did vacate my seat when I accepted office. With regard to the other objection—the difficulty, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman, of fixing responsibility upon the Minister—


What I said was, that the country would like to know who were the responsible advisers of the Crown.


That is an objection which would have been perfectly applicable in the time of Lord Mansfield; but we have now come to that state of publicity with regard to everything that takes place, and correct information as to the advisers of the Sovereign and the attendance of Cabinet Councils is so easily arrived at, that I do not think the objection can be fairly applied to the present case. Sir, I have said already that I do not wish to enter into any question with regard to my own position. I trust that my hon. Friend opposite, having heard the opinion of the House, will not persist in his Motion, though I quite agree with him that the organ of the Government in this House should, generally speaking, hold office.


said, that satisfied with the discussion which had taken place, and seeing that the temper of the House was not in favour of appointing a Committee, he would beg leave to withdraw his Motion. At the same time, he hoped the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midhurst would not be forgotten.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock.