§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Attorney General.)789
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that he should like to know something about the Bill, inasmuch as it contained certain clauses in red ink, indicating an addition to the National Expenditure. He could not understand the meaning of the 5th clause of the Bill, in which it was stated—Whereas by the Great Seal (Offices) Act, 1874, all duties and powers required to be performed by or vested in the purse-bearer to the Lord Chancellor (including the duties of chaff wax, sealer, and deputy sealer) are required to he performed by and Tested in the Gentleman of the Chamber attending the Great Seal and it is expedient to amend the said enactment: Be it therefore enacted as follows:—The said duties and powers, so far as they relate to passing documents under the Great Seal, shall, as the Lord Chancellor from time to time by order directs, be performed by and vested in the Gentleman of the Chamber attending the Great Seal, or in the officer performing the duties of Messenger to the Great Seal.That, so far as he could see, made no particular difference in the state of things that now existed; only the next paragraph, which was in red ink, enabled this Gentleman of the Chamber to receive an additional salary for doing the duties he had already to perform. A few years ago, they had endeavoured to get rid of the expenditure upon some of these useless offices. Amongst the offices which had disappeared, he was happy to say was that of a lady, who was called "the embroideress," and who enjoyed a considerable salary. The Bill spoke of a gentleman called the "chaff wax, the sealer, and the deputy sealer." But he had already been appointed, and received a salary of £400 a-year, with an additional £100 for discharging the duties of purse-bearer. But, by the clause in red ink, the Lord Chancellor was to be allowed to give him such additional salary or remuneration as he pleased. Thus the public were to be called upon to pay an additional salary to the officer performing the duty of messenger to the Great Seal, who had already £400 a-year, and an additional £100 for discharging the duties of chaff wax and messenger to the Great Seal. Thus a provision was made for increasing such sums, and the Secretary to the Treasury was responsible for a Bill accumulating salaries upon the chaff wax, sealer, and deputy sealer, and officers, whom the public knew nothing at all about. It seemed to him that it 790 was nothing more than a job. Everyone, who knew anything about the matter, know the persons who received these salaries were those who had held confidential posts in the household of the Lord Chancellor at former periods; and the object of the Bill was to enable the Lord Chancellor to give them such sums as might appear right to him. He should certainly oppose this Bill, until he knew something more about it.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir JOHN HOLKER)
said, that his hon. and learned Friend seemed to think that this Bill was intended to increase the Expenditure of the country; that was not the case, for one great object of the Bill was to abolish an office that had hitherto been occupied at considerable expenditure. A short time ago, there was an officer who was called "Clerk to the Attorney and Solicitor Generals. All patents, upon passing under the Great Seal, were prepared by the Clerk to the Attorney and Solicitor Generals, and for doing this he was paid by fees. The duties which that officer was called upon to perform were not very onerous, and by no means complicated; but these warrants for the passing of letters patent being very much alike, their preparation did not involve any great amount of trouble—the trouble, if trouble there was, devolving upon the Attorney and Solicitor Generals. This officer was in existence at the time his hon. and learned Friend occupied the post of Law Officer, although he did not seem to be acquainted with him, possibly because he was so occupied in the Office he filled that he had not become thoroughly acquainted with all under him. The occupier of that office had recently died; and it had been thought right to abolish the office altogether, with the consent of the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, and to confer the duties of the office upon the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, who, according to this Bill, was not to get any additional remuneration for performing those duties. In other respects, the duties of the office would be performed as hitherto; and if any warrant for the passing of letters patent was required to be prepared, it would be sent to the Law Officers of the Crown to be settled by them. With reference to the other officer to which his hon. and learned Friend had directed attention—the office of purse-bearer, 791 including the duties of the chaff wax, sealer, and deputy sealer,—there was, in fact, no chaff wax, sealer, or deputy sealer. The duties of the office were to be transferred to officers to be nominated by the Lord Chancellor, in accordance with the Great Seal (Offices) Act, 1874; and, in order to carry out the provisions of that Act, this clause had been inserted in the Bill, by which all the duties and powers to be performed and vested in the purse-bearer to the Lord Chancellor, including the duties of the chaff wax, sealer, and deputy sealer, were to be performed by the Gentleman of the Chamber attending the Great Seal, or upon the officer performing the duties of messenger to the Great Seal. The object of that was to diminish the expense of these offices. The officers mentioned, as would be seen by referring to the Great Seal Act of 1874, had already certain duties to perform; and he would find that that Act provided that the additional duties in question were to be performed by gentlemen nominated by the Lord Chancellor. They were to be paid out of the money provided by Parliament, and the officers so performing the duties were to receive such additional salary as the Treasury, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, should see fit and proper to allow. It was only right, when extra offices were thrown upon an officer, who had at present a great many duties to perform, that some slight increase to his salary should be made. For that reason, it had been thought right to insert the present provision in the Bill, enabling the slight increase to be made, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor to the Treasury, and the Treasury would then grant it. The hon. and learned Gentleman might be quite sure that no additional salary would be allowed by the Treasury, unless it were absolutely necessary.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.