HC Deb 11 June 1886 vol 306 cc1513-28

(2.) "That a further sum, not exceeding £6,879,764, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charge for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, viz:—

Great Britain:— £
New Admiralty and War Office
Dover Harbour
Royal University Buildings 4,000
Science and Art Buildings, Dublin 4,000
MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.)

I desire to take this opportunity of drawing the attention of the Committee to a matter which has stood in my name upon the Notice Paper of the House for some time—I mean the appointment of Mr. Graham to the office of Clerk of the Parliaments. I thought, Sir, and I still think, it is desirable that there should be some discussion, at all events, in this House, with regard to an appointment which has been roundly characterized out-of-doors by Members of both political Parties as a "job." At the opening of the Session I placed upon the Paper a Notice asking for some explanation with reference to this appointment; but owing to the Ministerial crisis which ensued, and which was followed by the resignation of the late Conservative Government, I was not able, according to the Rules of the House, to press my Question. Although it was not competent for me to press the Question, still I apprehend that it would have been perfectly within the competence of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to give me an explanation, if any satisfactory explanation was forthcoming; and I can only say that if any communication had been made to me it would cot have been met by me in a carping spirit, but would have received the fullest and most candid consideration. In the first place, I desire to say a word with regard to the nature of the office of Clerk of the Parliaments. I do not apprehend that the duties of that office require any supernatural degree of abilities; but it does seem to me that it is distinctly an office in which great experience in the procedure of Parliament is imperatively required. But I need not rely upon any opinion which I myself might entertain with regard to the nature of the duties of the Clerk of Parliaments, because I may quote to the Committee what was stated by a very high authority upon the occasion of the demise of Sir William Rose, who preceded Mr. Graham in the office. It was then said that Sir William Rose possessed a profound knowledge of the precedents of the House of Lords, and that, consequently, he was able to render services to the Members of that House and to the country in the capacity he filled, which were specially required owing to the fact that the Speaker of the House of Lords does not possess authority over its Members, and that the disposal of all order in the House is vested in the House itself. An authority, therefore, like that of Sir William Rose, able and willing to furnish the Members of the House with guidance, was all the more essential. My first objection in regard to the appointment of Mr. Graham to this office is that, although it is one which requires almost more than any other office an experience of the duties to be performed, a gentleman was appointed who had had no experience of any kind whatever. My second point is, that it was a distinct departure from the usual practice of appointing to that office. Sir William Rose, who preceded Mr. Graham in the office of Clerk of Parliaments, entered the service of the House of Lords in 1835, and from 1848 until 1875 he was Deputy Clerk of the Parliaments; so that, in his case, there was appointed to the office a gentleman who, for 40 years prior to his appointment, had filled subordinate offices in the House of Lords, and in that way had acquired the requisite experience for the discharge of the duties of the office. Now, Sir, I think it is essential to a proper understanding of this case that I should briefly sketch the salient features in the official career of Mr. Graham. In 1869 Mr. Graham became the son-in-law of Viscount Cranbrook. It will be remembered that from 1869 to 1874 a Liberal Government was in Office, and during that time the ability of Mr. Graham does not appear to have been recognized; but in 1874 he was made Secretary to Lord Chancellor Cairns, and he continued in that office until 1880, when the Conservative Government went out of Office. Mr. Graham was then made one of the Masters in Lunacy, and he continued to be a Master in Lunacy until 1885. In the summer of last year a Conservative Government again came into power, and within a very few weeks Mr. Graham was appointed to the extremely lucrative office of Clerk of the Parliaments. Now, what are the qualifications which it can be contended Mr. Graham possessed for that office? He had been for more than four years previously a Master in Lunacy. I do not know whether it will be contended that there is any common ground of connection between a Master in Lunacy and the Clerk of the Parliaments in "another place;" but I have some reason to believe that the qualification which will be relied upon is that Mr. Graham was for some years Secretary to the Lord Chancellor. Now, Sir, I submit that the fact that Mr. Graham was Secretary to the Lord Chancellor does not, in any way, qualify him for the office he was afterwards appointed to fill. The duties of Secretary to the Lord Chancellor are distinctly different from, and altogether unconnected with, the procedure of the House of Lords; and if that qualification is relied upon, then I would press for an answer to this further question. If it be true that the Lord Chancellor's Secretary is engaged in the procedure of the House of Lords, for what purpose, and for the discharge of what duties, do we pay several thousand pounds a-year to the Clerk of the Parliaments and his two assistants in the other House? With regard to the general question of promotion, I think I am able to speak with some special knowledge as an old Civil servant. I do not stipulate that in all cases promotion should be by seniority; but I do strongly protest, knowing the mischief which arises from such a course, against the introduction into a lucrative office of a gentleman who is altogether a stranger to the office, when, in order to promote such stranger, it is necessary to pass over men who have spent a lifetime in the discharge of similar duties. In the present case, if there were good reasons why the assistants of the House of Lords should not be promoted to the higher office, I think, by universal consent, there was one distinguished man who was perfectly marked out for promotion. I refer to that eminent and much-regretted gentleman who, at that time, was Chief Clerk of this House. It does seem to me that it would have given some satisfaction, not only to this country, but far beyond the bounds of this country, if well-merited promotion had been bestowed upon a man whose reputation, as a high Parliamentary authority, was far more than European. Wherever free institutions exist, I think I may say, without exaggeration, the name of Sir Erskine May is known and appreciated. I have thought it my duty to ventilate this opinion before the Committee. Of Mr. Graham I know nothing, and I should be very sorry if I were to inflict any pain upon him; but in the performance of a public duty it is necessary sometimes to inflict pain upon individuals. I can only say that my object is simply to guard the interests of the Service to which I once belonged, and intimately connected with the interests of that Service are the interests of the public. From my own experience and observation, I know that when appointments of this kind are made there is left behind a feeling of rankling resentment which produces the worst possible effect in the Department in which the appointment is made, which tends to bring about great discontent, and ultimately to impair the efficiency of that great Service to which the welfare of the country at large is so much indebted.

After a pause,

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

said: I wish to know whether anybody is going to answer my hon. Friend? Is anybody going to defend this scandalous appointment? I see on the opposite Bench a right hon. Gentleman who was a Member of the last Cabinet (Mr. W. H. Smith), and I think he ought to give us some explanation of this appointment. The point which my hon. Friend has dwelt upon is the appointment itself. He has entered a protest against the particular appointment of Mr. Graham; but what I wish to know is, why the Clerk of the Parliaments is paid £500 more than is paid to the Chief Clerk of the House of Commons?


A Notice of Motion has been given upon that point.


I am quite aware of that; but it is not likely to come on, and as I may not be here in the next Parliament, I wish, in the present Parliament, to ask for some explanation on the subject. I want to know from my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury why the Clerk of the Parliaments in the House of Lords receives something like £500 a-year more than the Chief Clerk of the House of Commons? No doubt, the Clerk of the Parliaments may be a superior officer; but his work is precisely the same in character as that of the Clerk of the House of Commons. In this House the Clerks have to sit for 12 hours at a stretch, whereas the Clerk of the Parliaments in the House of Lords sits sometimes for half-an-hour, and very seldom for more than three hours. I hope also to hear from the right hon. Gentleman opposite some explanation of this appointment. In my opinion, the appointment of Mr. Graham was one of the most scandalous jobs ever perpetrated, either by a Liberal or a Conservative Government. I am told that this gentleman is related to a number of Conservative Lords, and he appears to have been taken away from a Lunacy appointment and pitch-forked into the House of Lords at a time when we had here Sir Erskine May, whose reputation, as my hon. Friend has said, was European. Sir Erskine May was a very old public servant, and it is very possible that he might still be alive among us if he had not been obliged to remain here and perform the arduous labours of Chief Clerk of this House, instead of going to what may be considered almost the retirement of the House of Lords. I trust that the late Conservative Government will not maintain silence on this matter, but that they will explain to us what, if not explained, will be regarded by the country as one of the grossest jobs that was ever perpetrated.

MR. W. H. SMITH (Strand, Westminster)

I think that when it is proposed to bring under the notice of either House of Parliament the conduct of any person connected with the Public Service it has been usual to give to the persons who are attacked some intimation of the intention to bring the matter forward. Now, it does not appear, from the Notices on the Paper to-day, that any reference would be made to this subject; and, therefore, no one who is in the slightest degree responsible for the appointment could have had any idea that the question was to be raised this evening. I have no hesitation, however, in saying that those who were charged with the duty of exercising Ministerial patronage in this case discharged that duty with a full sense of their personal responsibility, and in the full discharge of the right which belonged to them. Mr. Graham is a gentleman of known and proved capacity. It has been remarked that he was a Master in Lunacy, and that as a Master in Lunacy he had no special qualification for performing the duty of Clerk of the Parliaments. That observation may be correct enough; but the real fact of the case is that Mr. Graham was Secretary to successive Lord Chancellors during a long period, and in that capacity, in the judgment of those with whom he was brought in contact, he displayed abilities which it was thought might be usefully applied in higher positions in connection with the Public Service, when this appointment became vacant. I really do not know in whose hands the patronage was vested; but it was exercised with a full sense of responsibility and of duty, and with a desire to appoint a man who was in every way qualified to fill the important office of Clerk of the Parliaments, and it was rightly and fairly exercised. I will pass by altogether the observations of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) as to the question of Mr. Graham's relationship with Members of the other House of Parliament; but it must not be supposed by any person that, in this appointment, either relationship or personal interest was the real motive for the exercise of the patronage. For my own part, I believe that no such interests or motives had the slightest weight whatever in the selection of Mr. Graham for the office he fills. I believe that in making the selection a good appointment has been made; and I think it is somewhat questionable whether it is open to this House to review appointments which may be made by the other House of Parliament. I will, however, pass by that consideration altogether. Reference has been made by the hon. Member for Northampton to the late Sir Erskine May. The hon. Member said, I think, that if Sir Erskine May had been promoted to this office his life might have been spared, and that it was the hard work imposed upon him in this House which shortened his valuable life. No one can entertain a higher sense of the valuable services rendered by Sir Erskine May than I do; but I do not think that there is any ground for the assertion that his life was shortened by the services he rendered to this House during the last few weeks of his life, after the appointment of the Clerk of the Parliaments had been filled up. The assumption of the hon. Member has no foundation whatever. The illness of Sir Erskine May had unfortunately declared itself before this appointment was made, and it is notorious that Sir Erskine May received every consideration from the Speaker, and from his Colleagues in this House, which it was possible to afford to a gentleman occupying his position, and entitled by his past services to so much consideration. I think in this case the patronage has been exercised wisely and well, with due regard to those higher considerations of ability and capacity which the gentleman appointed will bring to bear upon the discharge of his duties.


I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) will not think me guilty of discourtesy in not having risen as soon as the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill) concluded his remarks. I may say that there has been a Notice down upon the Notice Paper for some time of the intention of the hon. Member to raise this question; and I believe that the Leader of the Opposition would have been desirous of defending the appointment, if due Notice had been given that the question would be raised to-night. There certainly was no anticipation that it would be raised to-night. I am aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton has pointed out the peculiar circumstances under which we are now placed. We may not be Members of the next Parliament, and therefore it has been considered desirable to bring on this important question before the Dissolution takes place; but in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition I think it is desirable that I should reserve any remarks which I may have to make. I know nothing whatever myself about the appointment of Mr. Graham, and all questions in reference to the salaries of the officials of the House of Lords had bettor stand over until the whole Vote can be brought on for discussion. Certainly, if we are to discuss the manner in which the late Government exercised their patronage, Notice should be given, so that those who are familiar with the matter should have an opportunity of being present. I therefore hope that the question will now be allowed to stand over, with the full knowledge that the hon. Member for Northampton proposes on some future day to raise the question stripped of all personality, upon the broad principle why the Clerk of the House of Lords should have a larger salary than the Clerk of the House of Commons, who certainly has a much larger amount of work to perform.


I take it that there is no opposition to the present Vote; but I hope that at some future period the question of the salaries paid to of the officers of this House will be raised. I have made more than one appeal to the Predecessors of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury upon this subject; and I hope, if I am a Member of the next Parliament, to make a further appeal with some better effect. Of course, none of us know whether we are to come back here or not; but if I have the honour of being returned, I shall certainly appeal to the Secretary to the Treasury, whoever may happen to fill that Office, whether something cannot be done to rearrange the salaries of the officers of this House. I do not believe that the salaries of the officers of the House of Lords are at all too high. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has pointed out that they do not sit as long as we do in this House. That is perfectly true; but I apprehend that the officers there have a good deal of work to do when the House is not actually sitting. They have frequently to go through the Bills presented to that House and amend the phraseology; and not very long ago the present Lord Chancellor told me, referring to a clause I had inserted in a Bill of which he, as Solicitor General, had charge, that it would be necessary to correct the phraseology in the House of Lords. At the same time, there can be no doubt that the officers of this House do a good deal harder work than the officers of the House of Lords; and it follows that as I do not believe the officers of the House of Lords are at all too highly paid, the officers of this House are very much under-paid. Let us only consider the long hours during which they are required to sit. We frequently find them sitting here from 4 o'clock in the afternoon until 3 o'clock in the morning, and not unfrequently for 12 hours consecutively. Any leisure time they can get is a matter of arrangement among themselves; but there must always be one of them in attendance at the Table. Therefore, I think that £2,000, £1,500, and £1,200 are very inadequate salaries for the three Clerks respectively. In regard to the Chief Clerk, he occupies a highly dignified post, and I certainly do not think that the salary he receives is at all sufficient for the duties performed. I would, therefore, make to the present Secretary to the Treasury the same appeal which I have made to some of his Predecessors—[Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER dissented.] The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. The matter, however, may not altogether rest with him, but even with greater men than himself, and therefore I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who sits near him. I cannot concur in the remarks which have been made that if the late Sir Erskine May had been promoted to the office of Clerk of the Parliaments his life might have been spared. Sir Erskine May was a man whom we all honoured, and whose memory we all respect; but he was long known to be in ill-health. No doubt, he was a man who well deserved the honour of promotion to a seat in the other House of Parliament, and if his life had been spared it is probable that he might have rendered useful services there.


My hon. Friend (Sir Robert Fowler) has appealed to me, and, therefore, I am bound to say a word upon this matter. My hon. Friend is always generous. The public, however, are not so flush of money as the Corporation of London, and they cannot afford to apply the hon. Member's standard of payment to salaries or anything else. It must be remembered that the Lord Mayor of London has double the salary of the Prime Minister. We are obliged to be a little more moderate in these matters. We fully allow that the officers of this House serve us well; but we do not think that, at the present time, it would be expedient for the House of Commons to increase the salaries of all its officials, and thus to set an example which might soon have to be followed in all the branches of the Civil Service.


The right hon. Gentleman has made a reference to the salary paid to the Lord Mayor of London. I wish to remind the right hon. Gentleman that that allowance is hardly considered to be a salary, but merely what is called in the Army "table money."


The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has described this appointment as a great job. It was one of the appointments made by the late Government when they were just going out of Office, and I am exceedingly sorry that they have not considered it necessary to justify the appointment which has been made in this particular instance. I would like them to answer this question—whether Mr. Graham's abilities would have entitled him to this appointment if he had not been related to Lord Salisbury? His appointment was far more due to his relationship to the Prime Minister of that day than to any qualifications he possessed for discharging the duties of the office. I notice that the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill) made no Motion on the subject; but I hope that it will not be allowed to drop. If I have the honour and the privilege of a seat in the next Parliament, I will certainly support my hon. Friend in bringing the subject forward again. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) said he doubted whether it was open to this House to question any appointment made in the House of Lords; but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that although this officer is appointed by the House of Lords, we have to pay him. Having control over the public purse, we are fully justified in taking notice of these appointments.


I feel bound to correct one remark which has fallen from the hon. Member. Mr. Graham is not in any way related to Lord Salisbury, either directly or indirectly.

MR. GREGORY (Sussex, East Grinstead)

I should like to point out that the Chancery Clerks are all selected from a most competent class of men, whose services could not be secured unless they are paid adequate salaries. The salary is now £1,500 a-year, and for that sum they are required to work from 10 o'clock in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. They have to perform most arduous duties; and all the arrangements connected with the administration of property in the Chancery Division, as well as a good deal of judicial business, passes through their hands.

MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)

I have myself had an experience of a quarter of a century of the administration of justice in the Court of Chancery, and I can testify to the admirable work done by the Chief Clerks in Chancery. I do not know for what reason, or for what motive, they have been dubbed Chief Clerks. I think they would be more properly described as Deputy Judges, seeing that the functions they fulfil are entirely judicial. Anyone who visits the Courts will be able to see the long list of cases they have to go through, second only to that of the cases which go before the Judges themselves. But when we compare the salaries they receive and the work they do with the salaries received and the work done by the County Court Judges I think it will be admitted that they are most inadequately paid. Their work, undoubtedly, will compare very favourably with that of the County Court Judges. In point of fact, I cannot help feeling that their energies are too heavily taxed, and it must be remembered that their jurisdiction is not limited in regard to the administration of estates, as is the case of County Court Judges. Now, from my own knowledge and experience, I can say that the salaries they receive are not half those which men who are successful in their profession are able to earn.


I was wrong in stating that Mr. Graham is a relative of Lord Salisbury. I ought to have said not of Lord Salisbury, but of Lord Cranbrook.

MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)

I understand that an attack has been made upon the conduct of the late Government in the appointment they made to the office of Clerk of the Parliaments, and that a complaint has also been made of the lowness of the salaries paid to the Clerks of this House. Reference has further been made to the salaries and duties of the Chief Clerks of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice. Those gentlemen discharge their duties, I believe, very much to their own credit and to the advantage of the public. The duties are of a very arduous and important character, and the salaries paid are certainly not in excess of the duties attached to the office and the ability with which those duties are discharged. Mr. Graham was never a Chief Clerk in Chancery.


I did not speak of Mr. Graham's appointment at all.


The hon. Gentleman intervened in the discussion of Mr. Graham's appointment. I cordially agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill) and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) in the feeling of annoyance which they have expressed on the part of the public at the appointment which has been made in the House of Lords.


I believe that in former times the officers of the House of Lords were paid by fees in connection with the political Business of that House. These fees were given up to the Treasury on condition that the salaries should be voted by this House. We are, therefore, bound by an honourable understanding not to reduce this Vote. My hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury will correct me if I am wrong. [Mr. H. H. FOWLER assented.]


I must ask permission of the Committee to add one word before the discussion closes. A complaint has been made that due Notice was not given of my intention to bring forward the subject of Mr. Graham's appointment, and there appears to have been some sort of arrangement between the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury with regard to when this Vote might be brought forward, and when, therefore, I should have an opportunity of raising this discussion. I can only say that if that was the case it might have been as well to communicate the arrangement to me, seeing that I had given Notice of my intention to avail myself of the first opportunity which came in my way for calling attention to the subject. I have to-night distinctly carried out the Notice I gave. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) seemed to raise the question whether it was competent for the Committee to discuss the appointment, because, forsooth, Mr. Graham had been appointed by another House. In reply to that view, I can only point out that it is we, as the custodians of the purse of the country, who have to provide the salary of the Clerk of the Parliaments; and, therefore, I think we are fully justified in discussing any appointment to that office. I have only one further observation to make. The right hon. Gentleman stated that Mr. Graham had been Secretary to successive Lord Chancellors. I think that statement is likely to convey a misleading impression. As far as I am aware, Mr. Graham was only Secretary to one Lord Chancellor—namely, Lord Cairns.

MR. TUITE (Westmeath, N.)

I have received several communications from my constituents complaining of the Email and inadequate remuneration paid to some of the employés of the Post Office. In some cases, I am told, it is as low as 7s. a-week. I would appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury to know whether something cannot be done in the matter.


I believe it is the desire of the Post Office Authorities to pay proper wages to every person they employ. This, however, is only a Vote on Account, and when the Vote for the Post Office expenditure comes regularly before the Committee it will be a proper time for the hon. Member to raise the question. I think it may be possible to give a full and satisfactory explanation to the hon. Member. I quite sympathize with him in the view he has expressed; but, at the same time, I feel that the Department ought not to be called upon to pay salaries which are higher than is absolutely necessary.


I am certainly acquainted with one instance in which a man employed by the Post Office only receives 7s. a-week.


Will the hon. Member send me the particulars of that case?


I will do so.

Vote agreed to.

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