HC Deb 14 March 1871 vol 204 cc1985-2003

, in rising to move that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Salaries and Emoluments of Offices held during the pleasure of the Crown by Members of either House of Parliament voted in the annual Estimates, said, the House would recollect that last Session he brought forward a Motion touching the salary of the First Minister of the Crown, which he withdrew after consideration, thinking it would be better to move for an Inquiry into Official Salaries generally, and also for other reasons, which he need not enter into. At the time he withdrew it, he gave Notice that he would, at the earliest opportunity this Session, move for a Committee to inquire into Official Salaries. The Motion was now before the House. His reasons for bringing it forward were short and simple, and he would not take up the time of the House with lengthy statistics. The first reason he should give was, that there had been no inquiry into the subject for 20 years, when there was a Select Committee in 1850. There was an inquiry previous to that by a Committee in 1830, 20 years anterior, when, by their recommendations, salaries were materially reduced, and had, with little alteration, remained at that reduction until the present time—exactly 40 years. To show this, he must give the House a few figures, with some of the leading salaries during that period. In 1830 the salaries were—for the office of First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, then united, £10,400; for the Home Office, £6,000; for the Foreign Office, £6,000; for the Colonial Office, £6,000. In 1850, the offices of First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer were separated, each having £5,000 a-year. The salary for the Home Office was reduced to £5,000, as were also the salaries for the Foreign and Colonial Offices. In 1870 the salaries of those officers remained the same. Whilst the salaries had remained stationary during the 40 years, the country had not been standing still; it had been increasing in wealth and prosperity in a manner truly astonishing. The Revenue had increased from £50,933,000 in 1831 net to £75,674,000 net in 1870, and the population from 24,392,000 in 1831 to 30,964,000 in 1871, estimating the decade 1861 to 1871 at the same rate of increase as the three previous decades—that is, about 7,000,000 in the 40 years, and this notwithstanding the large emigration which had taken place. As the wealth and prosperity of the country had increased, there could be no doubt that the duties and responsibilities of the holders of these salaries had also considerably increased; while, at the same time, the expenses of living had largely increased during the 40 years. Hence, the necessity for some inquiry into the subject. He proposed that the inquiry of the Committee be limited to the Salaries and Emoluments of Offices held during the pleasure of the Crown by Members of either House of Parliament, voted in the annual Estimates. He withdrew the latter part of his Motion—namely, and also the Salaries and Emoluments of Judicial Offices in the Superior Courts of Law and Equity in the United Kingdom, and into the Retiring Pensions allotted to Judges—as a Judicature Commission was now sitting, and it was unnecessary to have two inquiries on the same subject. With the permission of the House, he would read a Minute from the Report of the Committee of 1830 on this subject, which very clearly defined the principle which should be acted upon in fixing the amount of salary of public officers. The Select Committee of 1830 stated, at page 447— It is impossible not to recognize in its fullest extent the principle that the people have a right to have their service done at the smallest possible expense consistent with its efficient performance. In short, all the Departments of Government should be watched with the same view to economy in general which any individual would apply to the management of his own affairs. No consideration of mere money can be set in competition with the paramount evident necessity of securing for offices of great trust and confidence the highest class of intelligence and integrity. It has been frequently observed—and the observation being founded on truth and reason should never be lost sight of, that offices in a free country should not be put beyond the means of men of moderate fortunes. If salaries should be fixed too low a monopoly would be created in the hands of the wealthy, the power of selection by the Crown would be most injuriously restricted, and the public would be deprived of the services of men of limited means, educated with a view to the pursuit of liberal professions, a class furnishing more than any other the talents and industry suited to official life. It should further be considered that the higher offices of Government require an entire devotion of the whole time and attention of those who fill them; that their own private affairs must necessarily be neglected, and that, if care should be taken, on the one hand, to avoid the scandal of private fortunes amassed at the public expense, it is neither for the interest nor the honour of the country, on the other hand, that they should be ruined in its service. He thought that some of the present salaries were too low—some might be too high. He would not trouble the House by going into the details of salaries, for that would be the duty of the Committee, should the House please to appoint it. To bear out his views he must take one single case, and he thought he could not do better than take that which was first on the list—that of the First Minister of the Crown, which was £5,000 per annum. He had been long enough in that House to see and appreciate the calls on the mental and physical powers of the First Minister of the Crown. Holding the highest official appointment under the Crown, he was the leading man in the country, and must have the greatest ability and judgment to manage the affairs of this great nation. The grave responsibility of the office was only equalled by the work it entailed. In the House of Commons, whether it was during the day, at midnight, or the small hours in the morning, there he must be either answering Questions or watching or taking part in the debates. His duties did not cease when he left the House, or when Parliament was not sitting, and his labours and responsibilities were, perhaps, the greatest that could fall to the lot of any man, whether it were the right hon. Gentleman he sat near, or the right hon. Gentleman, his Colleague, the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) who sat opposite to him. It was pretty well admitted that the sum of £5,000 was quite an inadequate remuneration for the heavy work and expenses attached to the office of Prime Minister. He, moreover, suffered indirectly by having no time to devote to his private affairs. He believed that the position of Prime Minister of this country was almost open to any individual in it who had great ability, industry, judgment, and perseverance. If, however, he should arrive at this distinguished position, he might find that the expense attached to it, if he should not have a good private fortune, so far exceed the allowance that he might be ruined by it. With the permission of the House he would now read some Minutes of Evi- dence of the Commitee of 1850, and there had been no inquiry into the subject since. Sir Robert Peel, in his evidence before that Committee, said— In 1830 it was proposed by the Committee of that year that, when the two offices of First Lord and Chancellor of the Exchequer were united, there should be a saving in the double salary of £2,500—that is to say, that the person holding the two offices together should receive £7,500 a-year; and, in consequence of that suggestion of the Committee, I received at the rate of £7,500 a-year during the period I held office. When reappointed to office, in 1841, I determined not to undertake the double duties after my experience of them in 1834–5. The salaries of the Secretaries of State were formerly £6,000; they were reduced in 1830 to £5,000 a-year. In reply to the Chairman, he added— Lord North, Mr. Pitt, and Lord Liverpool, when Prime Ministers, held also the office of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. I believe that in 1780 the emoluments of Lord North as Prime Minister were not less than £10,400 a-year. Those emoluments and advantages have ceased. The patronage of the Prime Minister did not in the slightest diminish the personal expenditure. He did not deny the extent of the power or value of patronage; but he did not think they ought to be considered as equivalents for salary. A salary sufficient to enable the holder of it to maintain his office with a certain degree of dignity ought to be attached to it. Again, Lord John Russell said— The general principle to be kept in view certainly is that you should not narrow too much your choice of public servants. If you say you will not give a salary which shall be sufficient without the possession of a very considerable private fortune, of course you limit the choice of the most important public servants to men who have good private fortunes. I know, for my own part, I never had a debt in my life until I was First Lord of the Treasury. I have now paid it off. But it is necessary to make some outlay in taking one of these great offices unless you have large private fortune. Question.—Is it within your Lordship's knowledge that several persons have suffered materially in their private fortunes by holding office, even those who have held office for many years? Answer.—I believe that certainly is the case, and I believe that every man who has been in public office would say that it is impossible to pay the same attention to your private affairs when you are holding political office, and in consequence of that I believe it is that many persons have found their private affairs much injured. One can well understand if a man is extravagant and is high in office that he may get into great difficulties; but men who do not seem to have any taste for extravagant expenses have injured their private fortunes. Question.—With respect to the whole of those First Lords of the Treasury whom your Lordship has now enumerated, with the exception of those who had large private estates, is it not a matter of notoriety that they all died in debt? Answer.—I believe that to be the case. He would ask the House if there was any ground to show that the salary of the Prime Minister should be so much less now than it was in the time of Lord Liverpool, Lord North, and Mr. Pitt, when it was £10,400 per annum? On the contrary, the duties of the office had increased with the increase of the population of this great country, and the expense of living had very much increased, as he had already shown. The following was a list of the highest judicial salaries and the annuities attached to them. Judicial salaries paid out of the Consolidated Fund — Lord Chancellor, including £4,000 as Speaker of the House of Lords, £10,000; two Judges of Appeal in Chancery, each £6,000; Master of the Bolls, £6,000; Chief Justice, Queen's Bench, £8,000; Chief Justice, Common Pleas, £7,000; Lord Chief Baron, Court of Exchequer, £7,000; total of the seven salaries, £50,000. The following annuities were paid from the Consolidated Fund for life, on retiring from office, in 1870:—Lord Chancellor, four receiving £5,000; Lord Justice of Appeal in Chancery, £3,750; Lord Chief Baron, Court of Exchequer, £3,750; Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas, £3,750; Puisne Judge, Queen's Bench, two receiving £3,500; Puisne Judge, Common Pleas, £3,500; Vice Chancellor, £3,500; total annual payment of these annuities, £41,750. He now came to the list of official salaries, and he found them to be as follows:—First Lord of Treasury and Chancellor of Exchequer, united, 1830, £10,400; First Lord of Treasury, 1850, £5,000; 1871, £5,000; Chancellor of Exchequer, 1850, £5,000; 1871, £5,000; Secretary of Home Office, 1830, £6,000; 1850, £5,000; 1871, £5,000; Secretary of Foreign Office, 1830, £6,000; 1850, £5,000; 1871, £5,000; Secretary of Colonial Office, 1830, £6,000; 1850, £5,000; 1871, £5,000. Attached to these offices was a first-class pension not exceeding £2,000 per annum, in respect of a service of not less than four years. Nothing could be further from his intention than to imply that the eminent men who held judicial offices were over-paid; but what he contended was that the Prime Minister, with a less salary than any of those he had named, was under-paid. The sum of £5,000 per year was quite out of character with the duties of the leading man in this country, which far exceeded those of anyone in importance and responsibility. He maintained that the dignity and independence of the office very much depended on the amount of remuneration, and if that were insufficient the Prime Minister might be embarrassed with financial difficulties which would, to a certain extent, interfere with the efficient performance of the duties of the office. Many with whom he had spoken, both in and out of this House, had strongly expressed their opinion that the salary of the Prime Minister was too low, and that as his was the highest official position in the country, it ought to have a high official salary attached to it. He believed it was very far from the wish of this House and of the people of this great nation that our leading public men, on whom the very welfare of the country so much depended, and of whom we were so justly proud, should be inadequately remunerated for their services. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Motion.


seconded the Motion because he thought it desirable that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into the matter. He argued that some of the salaries paid to our Ministers were less than they should be; and if this were found to be the case, it would be unworthy of a great country like this to continue to underpay them. It might be shown that some of our Ministers—the Law Officers, for instance—were overpaid as well as underpaid; and he thought some information might be obtained which would be well worthy the attention of the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Salaries and Emoluments of Offices held during the pleasure of the Crown by Members of either House of Parliament voted in the annual Estimates,"—(Mr. Lambert,)


said, he hoped the Committee would be appointed. The economical question was, perhaps, that of the least importance in this inquiry; but the Committee might inquire whether salaries might not be reduced as well as increased, and whether some offices might not with advantage be abolished. Considering that this was an era of excessive expenditure, he hoped the result of the investigation of the Committee would be that if they did not recommend a reduction of the annual charge, they would not recommend an increase. He thought the opportunity might be afforded of carrying out an administrative reform of greater importance than saving a few thousands a-year. In his opinion the time had come when the salaries of all the higher officers of State should be reviewed, from this point of view, that the heads of all the Departments should be placed in a position of exact equality. Nothing was more improper or anomalous than that the President of the Poor Law Board should receive only £2,000 a-year, whilst the Secretary for the Colonies received £5,000 a-year. If the President of the Poor Law Board was sufficiently paid, the Secretary for the Colonies was enormously overpaid. If the Secretary for the Colonies was only sufficiently paid, then the President of the Poor Law Board was, to a corresponding extent, underpaid. At the present moment no Department of the State was more important, and none better tested the qualities of a statesman, than that of the President of the Poor Law Board. Not only ought he to be an accomplished financier, but to be master of the most abstruse principles of economic science. Yet the Presidency of the Poor Law Board was considered a comparatively inferior position to that of Colonial Secretary. The consequence was that if the President of the Poor Law Board, having a salary of only £2,000, did his work well, before he had been in office a couple of years he established a claim for promotion, and was removed to another office, however great the disadvantage to the administration of the Poor Law. A practical illustration of this system had just occurred. There was nothing he regretted more deeply than the removal of the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) from the Poor Law Board. He was doing his work with great distinction. Had he been allowed to remain there two years longer he would probably have grappled effectually with the great problem of pauperism, and in the diminution of pauperism the country would have seen the advantage of his remaining in that office. Having, however, distinguished himself greatly in office, it was felt that he had a claim for promotion, and that it would be ungenerous to place a man over his head in the Cabinet. Now, if all the heads of Departments were equally paid, whether by £3,000, £4,000, or £5,000 a-year, all taking the same rank, and being, perhaps, called Secretary of State, the public service would not suffer as it now did from these constant and repeated removals. He had been told that, considering the great variety of complicated problems in the Poor Law Office and the intricate questions of administrative details arising there, it was impossible for any Minister to learn his work well, and get a sufficient grasp of the cases with which he had to deal, in less than one and a-half or two years. But the right hon. Member (Mr. GK Hardy), who gained a great reputation at the head of the Poor Law Board, and was carrying through many most useful reforms, was taken from the Department and made Home Secretary; and the Department had been sacrificed in just the same way now; so that if the head of the Poor Law Board showed himself an efficient administrator, the Board lost the value of his services.


said, he was glad the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) had given the debate this turn. He (Mr. Rathbone) thought the system of treating some of the most important Departments of the State as stepping-stones to other Departments most fatal to the good management of the affairs of the country. If the right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) had remained at the Poor Law Board it could hardly be doubted that there would have been an entire reform in the Poor Law system years ago. When a similar result was expected from the experience of the late President (Mr. Goschen) the country was again disappointed, for he had been removed to a Department in which all his experience would be of no use, and his place had been supplied by a Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) who had displayed the highest abilities, but his experience had been gained in other Departments, and perhaps one of his greatest successes was in the Department of the Admiralty, to which the late President of the Poor Law Board had been transferred. There was a fear—he might almost say a terror — throughout the country lest the Vice President of the Committee of Council should be promoted during the recent changes, and the country lose the benefit of his services at the Education Office. Last year the right hon. Member for Bradford carried a Bill for national education, which was by no means satisfactory to many of his supporters; but perhaps the most distinguishing feature of that measure was that it gave the Minister for Education enormous and despotic powers for carrying it out. But those powers were given, in a great degree, from the reliance on the idea that the right hon. Gentleman would himself carry out the provisions of the Bill. Under these circumstances, he thought that the expectations of the country would have been accomplished if the Education Department had been made into a first-class Department, and if the right hon. Member for Bradford had been placed at the head of it. He did not look upon these matters as being the fault of the Government, or, indeed, of any Government—it was the system that was to blame. It was easy to tell a private Member who called attention to the subject that there were admirable reasons for certain official changes; but it was impossible to persuade the country, so long as these anomalies existed, that promotion most advantageous to the public service was not frequently interfered with by Ministerial etiquette.


said, he had listened with some surprise to the proposal and the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lambert) who brought forward the present Motion. He had always understood that the policy of the great Liberal party was a policy of economy and retrenchment; but what had happened? Simply this, that proposals were made every day from the Liberal side of the House involving additions to the expenditure of millions one day, and at another time, as for instance to-day, of only thousands. There seemed to be a constant wish on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to incur during this present spring a vast additional expenditure of public money; but he should have thought that these Gentlemen could hardly reconcile such proposals with the speeches which he had heard them make. The hon. Member who brought the Motion, forward quoted certain figures with certain dates, and stated that the salaries of the higher Officers of State had remained stationary, while the wealth of the country had greatly increased. But had he shown that there had been any increase in the value of the services rendered by those Officers of State? He (Mr. G. Bentinck) would like to have some assurance on that point, for he thought there had been a great decrease in the value of the services to the public. [Mr. GLADSTONE: In quantity?] No; the right hon. Gentleman was quite right. The quantity was enormous; but the services had deteriorated in quality. And he therefore could see no reason for augmenting the salaries of the Officers of State. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lambert) had spoken of the enormous calls which were made on the physical powers of those officers; but he had made no distinction between those cases in which the affairs of the country were well managed and those in which they were mismanaged. Were they to increase the salaries of those who mismanaged the affairs of the country, and who could only claim a higher remuneration for doing mischief? Was that Liberal economy, and was that the way in which the affairs of the country were to be conducted in future? He believed that if the Committee now asked for were to be appointed the result would be that they would have to report to the House that on various considerations, some of which he had indicated, there ought to be a considerable reduction in the salaries of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen.


thanked the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) for having raised the present discussion. He (Mr. Mundella) believed that many of the recent Ministerial changes had been of an undesirable character, not through the fault of the Government, but, as the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) had said, through the fault of the system. In several of the recent changes it was felt by many people that the round men had been put into the square holes, and the square men into the round holes, and he, for one, regretted that, as an absolute calamity. His right hon. Friend the late President (Mr. Goschen) had been removed, for instance, from an office which he filled with great ability to another of greater dignity and honour. He might discharge its duties with equal ability; but it was a matter of regret that he had been removed from an office in which he had experience, and the duties of which he performed with satisfaction. But there was another case in respect to which he was more qualified to speak, and that was as to the changes at the Board of Trade. His constituents in the Chamber of Commerce at Sheffield wished to understand the meaning of those changes, and they asked where, now, was their Trades Marks Bill? The late Secretary to the Board of Trade took two years to study that matter, and made himself thoroughly master of it; and now, in consequence of these changes, there was no prospect of a Trades Marks Bill in the present year, or in the next. He complained of the system and not of any men who might be put into places for which they were not qualified by any previous experience.


. Although this discussion has been a short one, yet it has covered a rather wide field, and has deviated from an argument upon the expediency of appointing a Committee on Official Salaries into a discussion upon the principle upon which appointments are commonly made in the Government of the country, and upon such appointment as have recently taken place. It will therefore be necessary for me to notice both those subjects. With regard to the question of the Committee, I am bound to say that although I ought to approach it with some natural interest in favour of the Motion, I cannot think that the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Lambert) has made out a case. It seems to me that he evidently contemplated the augmentation of salaries. I thank him for the liberal disposition which pervaded his remarks, and for the manner in which he was disposed to point those remarks to the office which I have the honour to hold; but it is my distinct opinion, quite apart from any question of precise regularity in the adjustment of salaries, there is no case for an augmentation of the salary of that office. I believe that during the whole of my political life all my activity in the matter of salaries has been directed to cutting them down, and not to raising them, in the case of other people, and if I did not hold the opinion which. I do hold as to the sufficiency of my own salary, it would come with a very bad grace from me to give the least countenance to any proposal whatever which contemplated the augmentation of that salary, for there would be a loss of credit and authority in attempting to apply principles of public thrift to other persons such as it would be difficult to estimate. But apart from the question of the augmentation of salaries, on which ground we should principally found our attempt to dissuade the House from pressing for this Committee, other topics have been introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), and other hon. Gentlemen. The hon. Member for Liverpool has said very kindly that he does not blame one Government more than another; but I want to know whether any Government is to blame in the matter at all? He says the system is to blame; but I deny it. What is the system upon which promotions within the sphere of Government are conducted? I can speak for myself and for others so far as I have watched them, and I say that on all occasions they may err by the infirmity of their own judgment, but not by the adoption of a bad system, for the system is to choose for every place that man who, upon the whole, is the fittest to go into it. My hon. Friend says some one acquires experience in a particular Department, and that he ought to be continued in that Department. Now, I have heard much lately about the regimental system; but we should have the regimental system with a vengeance if we are to be told that a man, having acquired experience in a particular Department, must always remain there whatever change of office may occur. No doubt there will be men with specialities who will have accurately got up the traditions of particular Departments; but I affirm that, although there is inconvenience for the moment in a transfer, still if you want to have statesmen, responsible as Members of the Cabinet for the whole of the affairs of this country, you must encounter that inconvenience and not hesitate in removing them from Department to Department, always being guided by the consideration which, upon the whole, is the best for the public service. I affirm, Sir, that the question of etiquette which has been supposed to intervene was never dreamt of in the matter, not even the just claims of promotion to which my hon. Friend alluded, and which the late President of the Poor Law Board never once thought of urging, but simply the consideration what, on the whole, would be best for the public interest has been the motive which has guided all these changes. But the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) made a particular charge. Now, I ask him whether it is worthy of the equitable spirit which on every other occasion I have seen him display in this House to bring the charge he has done with reference to the Presidency of the Board of Trade, and to sustain that charge by the fact that since the change he had heard nothing of the Trades Marks Bill?


I did not say so. I said my constituency had complained of the want of a Trades Marks Bill.


And that complaint has been made on the accession of my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. C. Fortescue) to the Presidency of the Board of Trade? Now, I ask my hon. Friend whether he marked the course of my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland during the last Session of Parliamen throughout the discussion of the Irish Land Bill, and, if he did, if he approved the discretion, the ability, the consideration, the firmness with which my right hon. Friend conducted himself throughout those difficult discussions—I ask him whether it is really rational to suppose that the capacity of my right hon. Friend is unequal to the task of dealing with a Trades Marks Bill? Why is this question to be brought up in the third or fourth week of the Session? Who has asked for the Trades Marks Bill? Where was it all last year? The Under Secretary for the Home Department said, my hon. Friend, took up the question, and prosecuted it with that indomitable energy which belongs to him. [Mr. MUNDELLA: I said, had mastered the question.] Well, mastered the question, and my hon. Friend spoke of the energy of the Under Secretary for the Home Department, which I admire as much as he does; but the Trades Marks Bill was never heard of before last year, and if the Trades Marks Bill was allowed to sleep during the whole of the last Session of Parliament, is it not a gross injustice to the present President of the Board of Trade to put this forward as a proof that he is unfit for the head of that Department? The truth is that in these appointments one important element is fitness for the pro- secution and care of the Department; but it is oftentimes necessary to take into view other considerations which dictate changes as upon the whole desirable that in that particular point of view would not be desirable. It is very easy to criticize frequent changes of Office in a Government which involve undoubtedly the frequent severance of men from the experience they have gained; but I ask those who make them to recollect the peculiar, painful, and, as far as my recollection goes, unexampled circumstances in which the present Government has been placed. During the course of nearly 40 years I can remember no case in which, separately, and one by one, over the short period of eight months, three of the most important Members of the Government have been struck down either by death or by illness. Each of those changes, in cases so important, in offices so high, necessarily entailed many other changes; and, I am not ashamed to say—justice requires it of me—considerably impoverished the resources with which the Government was originally formed. It was not therefore to be supposed that we could, in every case, fill up the gaps and join together the openings made in the Government by losses so severe, occurring at short intervals one after another under circumstances of that nature. These were not like the changes made in a Cabinet when a political schism has occurred. When such a schism occurs, the whole has to be dealt with at once, and large allowances are necessarily made for the manner in which it may be dealt with. But these changes have been successive, one after another, after a very short interval, one not connected with another, and they have unitedly created very considerable difficulty in meeting the case thus presented to view. But with respect to the appointments made—and I do not pretend to claim for the present Government any freedom from error in the judgments arrived at—they have been dictated by the same considerations which have governed the general appointments—namely, the desire to make those appointments which, on the whole, would most conduce to the benefit of the public service. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) gave an opinion which in a certain degree I am disposed to contest and to qualify. He appeared to think that there is much that is anomalous and unjust in the present distribution of official salaries. I am not prepared to make that admission. I own it is very difficult to make the distribution of official salaries perfectly just as between the different offices, even at one given moment of time; but it is still more difficult to make it perfectly just if it is not subject to change. It is impossible as among different offices at different periods of time, and for this reason, that the relative importance of different offices varies very considerably with circumstances. For example, reference has been made to the office of my right hon. Friend the Vice President of Council for Education. That is an office which has been constantly growing till it has reached to such a height of importance that if its importance, measured by responsibility and duty, is found to continue, it may be very natural and proper that Parliament should pay attention to the re-arrangement of that office. But in many cases there is an opposite process. Take, as one particular instance, the Presidency of the Poor Law Board. That must at all times be an important office; but it would be a great mistake to suppose that, under ordinary circumstances, it is of primary rank and responsibility. The energy and capacity of the late President (Mr. Goschen) happened to concur with a temporary exigency for dealing with that great and complicated knot of questions generally indicated by the adjustment of local taxation; and it would be difficult to overrate either the labours or responsibility attaching to that office during the time my right hon. Friend was President. But these things vary from period to period. Even the Secretaryships of State have varied very greatly in our recollections. I remember when the Colonial ranked above the Home and even the Foreign Department in difficulty and responsibility; but, on the whole, the distribution of the salaries in high political offices may justly be affirmed to correspond with what good sense would dictate. The highest paid offices are likewise almost invariably the most laborious and the most difficult and responsible, and those which are less highly paid are in ordinary times and circumstances offices of a smaller degree of responsibility, and if a change occurs in the character and scale of an office you ought to take care that that has become a permanent, normal, and established fact before you make any great change in the Department. These are general considerations applicable to this question, and I would ask my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield not to be so rapid in his conclusions founded on the Trades Marks Bill, but to give time and opportunity to the President of the Board of Trade, and that others may do the same in other cases. In that case I feel satisfied there will be no reason to complain of either want of disposition or want of capacity on the part of the holder of that office to discharge every duty attached to it. With regard to the immediate Motion, if the discussion had taken the turn of jealous inquisition into the emoluments of the Government, and a menacing attempt to effect sweeping reductions, we should have felt great difficulty in damping the energy and courage of the House of Commons in that direction; but as a different tone has prevailed, and as, upon the whole, the proposed Committee would rather tend to disturb the nerves of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is the guardian of the public purse, than to serve any other purpose, I hope my hon. Friend will not think it necessary to ask for the expression of the opinion of the House upon his Motion.


observed that some hon. Members had complained that the Trades Marks Bill had been lost sight of by the Board of Trade. For his own part, he hoped they would never see that measure again. It was clear the late President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Bright) did not approve it, for, had he done so, he had plenty of time to push it forward; and if, as had been remarked, it had been received with coldness, that was nothing more than it deserved, for a measure demanded more thought and adaptation to the circumstances of the case than were shown by that Bill. It would have plunged the commercial interests of the country into more litigation than any Bill ever introduced into the House. He hoped that any Bill which might in future be introduced on the subject would be of a different character.


said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had not exhibited so much moral courage as he might have been credited with, for no proposal would come with a bad grace from him which was consistent with abstract right and justice, and he would set a good example by advocating what ought to be rather than by defending that which is. He was of opinion that the Prime Minister deserved a much higher salary than he now received, and it was hardly fair to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that a proposal to increase that salary would disturb his equanimity, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be quite prepared to pay for efficiency. The democratic party in the House stood in their own light in this matter, as it was their policy to pay for services their proper value. The higher offices were practically closed against men without private means, who had not the chance of training themselves for these offices, for the sons of the aristocracy, sometimes very common-place men, took the lower grades of office, and being supposed to be fit to hold them because they could fold and docket papers and tie them up with red tape, were advanced without due regard to the higher qualities of statesmanship. If we wanted these higher qualities we must pay for them; if we wanted to get skill and aptitude and to have work well done we must pay people well. Earl Russell never found himself burdened until he became Prime Minister, and then he was oppressed with the demands that were made upon him on all sides. As no one without a fortune could take the office the salary ought to be increased.


said, he was of opinion that the high officers of the State were indifferently paid, and he would like to see a Committee appointed to overhaul salaries and make such augmentations as were demanded by increase of labour. In addition to the performance of their heavy public labours, these gentlemen were required to discharge social duties, in consideration of which he thought separate salaries should be allowed. The right hon. Gentleman had raised the question of appointments, and in alluding to that subject it was impossible to keep out of view some of the recent appointments which had been made. As an independent Member of the House he had seen those appointments with regret; and he was convinced that more attention ought to be paid to the previous training of public servants placed in the great Departments of the State. The interests of the Army and Navy of England were too important to be trifled with; and the country would not be satisfied with the removal of a Minister from a sphere in which he had rendered eminent services, and transferred to an office for which he had received no training whatever. When such a change was made, a right hon. Gentleman had to go through a process of cramming in order to become acquainted with his new Department, which must, at all events, be prejudiced during the time thus spent in the education of the Minister. In the administration of naval and military affairs all the experience that could be obtained ought to be placed at the service of the country.


said, he hoped the hon. Member for Bucks (Mr. Lambert) would withdraw his Motion. A man would be out of his senses if he entered upon public life with a view of making his livelihood out of it; and, indeed, it would be a calamity if there were a class of men who devoted themselves to public life with that object in view. Hitherto high public offices had been in this country generally held by men who, in seeking them, were not animated by such considerations. What had been said about the social duties of a Minister reminded him of what was stated by Sir Hamilton Seymour before the Select Committee on Official Salaries of 1850. In reply to the Chairman, he said— I consider the giving of dinners an essential part of diplomacy; I have no hesitation in saying so. I have no idea of a man being a good diplomatist who does not give good dinners. From what had been said by the last speaker it would seem that a man could not be a good Minister unless he gave good dinners. He believed, however, that the country would be better satisfied with a Minister who gave good measures. There had been undue reserve in debating this question, for they all knew that the Prime Minister got only £5,000 a-year; but the late Sir Robert Peel stated something more which had not been mentioned—namely, that if a Prime Minister had relatives who were qualified, he could give them appointments in Church and State, and that patronage he (Mr. White) thought was a main ingredient in this question of Official Salaries. If a Prime Minister had relations whom he deemed qualified to perform clerical or civil duties, on what grounds, it was asked, ought they to be shut out from holding such offices. The late Sir Robert Peel, in his examination before the Select Committee on Official Salaries in 1850, said— It generally has happened that a Minister has appointed some of his relations to some offices or other for which he conceived they were qualified; and he admitted, in reply to Mr. Cobden, that "immense power," was in the hands of the Prime Minister, and the patronage to which he was directly or indirectly entitled amounted to several hundred thousands a-year. This patronage was an essential element which, must not be overlooked in the consideration of this question. He hoped the hon. Member would not persevere with his Motion, against which the Prime Minister had protested, for it was singularly ill-timed, especially as the Government had been lately reducing its employés of the humbler class.


said, he had not heard anything to change his views, and he could not, therefore, withdraw the Motion which he had brought before the House.

Question put, and negatived.