HC Deb 12 February 1861 vol 161 cc358-61

moved for a Return of every Member of this House holding any Civil, Military, Naval, Diplomatic, or other Place, Office, or Pension to which he had been nominated or appointed by the Crown, Government, Ministers, or Chiefs of Departments; stating the date of his nomination or appointment, and the emoluments he received, and whether the same be temporary, permanent, or progressive, arranged under the heads in the schedule.

[Form omitted.]


thought it his duty to oppose the Motion. The hon. Member had not stated any ground why he desired that the Return, which was of an unusual character, should be made. There was this objection—that the information sought for by the hon. Member was already accessible, and that he proposed to incur unnecessary trouble and expense in preparing and printing it. With regard to all civil and political offices held by Members, the salaries were voted by the House, and could be seen by any one who would refer to the Estimates. With respect to the military officers their pay could be easily ascertained. Their salaries stood on a different footing from the salaries of civil servants as, in most cases, they had been the subject of purchase. He could not see any advantage that would arise from laying on the table a Return of the pay received by military officers in that House. The same remark applied to naval officers; and so, with respect to diplomatic servants, their pay could be known by reference to the Finance Accounts. Under these circumstances he could not see any advantage in having this Return presented to the House. It appeared only to be wanted in order to save trouble to the hon. Gentleman, who, instead of referring to the different sources of information, desired that the clerks in the public offices should make out the Return for him. The information required could he obtained from other sources, and, moreover, formed no subject for a Return by the House of Commons. He, therefore, did not feel justified in assenting to the Motion.


in moving for the Return, had thought it wholly unnecessary to enter into any argument in support of it. But after the ingenious objections which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Lewis), he must say that he thought nothing could be more unsatisfactory than the reasons which he gave for not granting the Return. The right hon. Gentleman alleged that he (Mr. White) had made this Motion to save himself trouble. He (Mr. White) begged to assure him that his (Mr. White's) constant attendance there should show him that he did not begrudge any amount of trouble when he believed it to be for the advantage of his constituents, or in discharge of his public duties. And, most assuredly, he should not shrink from taking any trouble if he thought he could get the information which he now desired to obtain for the House. When the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Lewis) told him that the information which he wished to obtain was already published, and could be extracted from papers which had been laid on the table of the House, he said that which, if correct—which it was not—would apply to almost every return that Members ever asked for. If a Member wanted to know how much silk had been imported, or what was the amount of duty levied on hops, he could find it, no doubt, in the usual returns as to the trade of the country. But, yet, the return was granted* immediately by Government; and when he (Mr. White) asked for information for his own gratification, if the right hon. Gentleman liked, as to the offices, places, and emoluments held and derived by Members of that House, he thought it was only courteous that it should be granted to him. He would not be guilty of uttering so heretical a thing as to say that the votes of Members of the House were influenced by their connections with Government, although there were people outside who contended that the effect of being in the Government was, that a Member must falsify his political antecedents, and that when once a man was enmeshed in the toils of office he became totally oblivious or forgetful of all former principles. With regard to the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Lewis) as to the salaries of naval and military Members of that House, he believed that if the amount of the stipend derived from their offices was known, the nation would be shocked at the injustice done to them by the small payment they received. And he would further add that, looking to the scale of expenditure in modern times, everybody would say that the Ministers of the Crown were not overpaid. In fact, the men who did the work of the country were much underpaid. But there was a class of people whose names appeared on the civil estimates, and perhaps, some of them were Members of that House—who neither did any work, nor were entitled to receive that which they were paid, It would, therefore, give satisfaction to himself and the country if he could obtain a Return of the nature of that for which he begged to move. If he had inadequately expressed himself in support of his Motion, it was because he had not anticipated any opposition to it. He should most certainly press it to a division, if he went out with his seconder alone.


said, that if the House divided on the Motion, he should vote with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. Still, he hardly thought it prudent for the Government to refuse this return. A short time ago, the hon. Member for Birmingham accused all on that (the Opposition) side of the House of receiving more from the taxes than they paid. The charge was ridiculous, but nevertheless, it was believed by some of the simple admirers before whom the hon. Member spoke, and therefore it was desirable that every opportunity should be afforded for the public mind to be rendered clear on this point. If the Return were granted, it would be seen that, besides officers in the army and navy, and persons holding political offices—all of whom the hon. Gentleman admitted to be underpaid —there was scarcely any Member in that House receiving anything from the public.


supported the Motion. He thought the noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) had expressed quite enough to induce them to order the Return. The only difference between himself and the noble Lord was, that while he (Mr. Hadfield) should consistently vote for the Return, the noble Lord would throw discredit on the speech he had just delivered by inconsistently voting against it.


hoped that the arguments of the noble Lord would have weight with the Government, and that the noble Lord would not himself discredit so capital a speech as that which he had made by going into the lobby against the Return. He (Mr. Bass) most cordially hoped that it would be obtained.


said, that the hon. Member for Birmingham, in alluding to the receipt of public money by certain persons, referred not to Members of that House alone, but to their friends, relations, and followers; and the intense violence of the contests for the possession of the Ministerial benches arose from the knowledge that they were contentions for the division, not only of political power, but of the enormous patronage at the disposal of the occupants of the Treasury benches. Seeing how the present Government was constituted, he was not surprised at the determined resistance offered to the production of this Return; for the Treasury benches were wholly occupied by the most exclusive clique that ever ruled the destinies of this country. He was surprised that the Home Secretary should refuse a plain statement of facts, from which the country might learn how the taxes, raised from the hard-working classes, were divided among the possessors of places and their followers. Both sides of the House resisted any attempt to reform the institutions of the country, because it was felt that as soon as the franchise should be largely extended an end would be put to abuses and to the wasteful manner in which the people's money was squandered.

The House divided:—Ayes 53; Noes 112: Majority 59.

Motion negatived.

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