HC Deb 16 April 1889 vol 335 cc622-56

(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed— That a sum, not exceeding £38,244, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1890, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the House of Lords.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

Mr. Courtney, the first item here relates to the Department of the Lord Chancellor. Personally, I think the Lord Chancellor receives a great deal too much money. He receives £6,000 per annum as a Judge—I believe he has nothing to do—and he receives £4,000 a year for presiding over the House of Lords, in which capacity he does very little, and where what he really does do is pernicious. We keep a vast number of officials attached to the House of Lords, whose duty it appears to be to maintain a species of state in connection with the Lord Chancellor. There are the Black Rod, the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod, the Serjeant at Arms, all of whom have higher salaries than officers of the same rank in the House of Commons. The Serjeant at Arms attends on the Lord Chancellor. He is a kind of private Serjeant at Arms, for his duties are entirely connected with the Lord Chancellor. I think we ought to move the reduction of the Vote by the whole of his salary—["Hear, hear!"]—but I have put down a notice to move to reduce it by £500 only. As, however, my Friends consider I am too moderate, I will move to reduce the Vote by £1,500. It really is preposterous that £1,500—a very large salary in comparison with the salaries paid to some eminent men in the public service—should be paid to this gentleman, who appears to me to do very inferior work—I might almost call it menial work—about the person of the Lord Chancellor.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries of £5,545, be reduced by £1,500, the Salary of the Sergeant-at-Arms in attendance on the Lord Chancellor."—(Mr. Labouchere.)

MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I anticipated we should be told, and we may yet be told, that in connection with a high office like that of Lord Chancellor, it is necessary to maintain a certain amount of becoming state. I admit there must be some sort of outward sign of dignity about the Lord Chancellor, but I have seen ceremonials, with gorgeous flunkies arrayed in vestments which astonished all beholders and impressed the multitude with the dignity of the officials they surrounded, and I do not think they cost anything like £1,500 a year. It is all very well to argue in favour of becoming state, but there ought not to be any wastefulness. There have come down to us from by-gone times many offices which were thought necessary then, but which are quite unsuited to the present age. We protest against their continuance. If we could receive a promise that there is an intention to do away with this piece of extravagance there would be something for us to go upon. Do not let hon. Gentlemen reproach us with being indifferent to becoming dignity and state, and all that kind of kind. We quite admit the necessity of it, but we do protest that this Sergeant-at-Arms at a salary of £1,500 a year is simply a relic of a by-gone age that has, so far as I can understand, no application whatever to the present day. If his presence is only to maintain the dignity and state of the Lord Chancellor, we maintain that his salary is, at least, seven times too high. I heartily support the Motion of my hon. Friend.

MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)

This is not the first time this subject has been referred to. I am sorry not to see the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) here, because last year he took part in the debate upon this Vote. The noble Lord pointed out that the expenses of the services of the two Houses of Parliament were far too high —they amounted to £120,000 a year—and the First Lord of the Treasury promised to take into consideration the desirability of appointing a Joint Committee of the two Houses to consider the subject. I want to know from the First Lord what has become of that promise. Was it merely made for the purpose of stopping debate and hurrying through the Estimates, or was the measure seriously contemplated?


The hon. Gentleman asks me whether there was any serious intention in the promise to look into the matter. There was a serious intention to deal with the question, and at the end of last Session I entered into communication with right hon. Gentlemen opposite, with the view of arriving at an understanding, whereby a Joint Committee might be satisfactorily appointed. The Recess intervened, and it is in no way due to any action on the part of the Government that the Joint Committee has not been appointed. A Committee of the House of Lords has, however, gone carefully into the salaries and expenditure of that House,. and has drawn up a scheme by which considerable prospective reduction will be effected in the charges of that House. I confidently expect that as vacancies occur from time to time in the offices, they will be filled up with a due regard to economy. But if there is still a desire on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite for a Joint Committee, there will be no indisposition on the part of the House of Lords to arrive at a settlement of the question,. so far as they are concerned.

MR. BIGGAR (Cavan)

In theory a general promise that reform will take place at some future date, is more or less satisfactory, but what occurs in practice is that whenever a vacancy occurs, there is some official who claims by prescription or otherwise, to have a right to the office, and by what some people outside would call a job, or by what, perhaps, the First Lord of the Treasury would call the necessity of the case, the office is filled up at the full salary. Under the circumstances the Committee ought to mark its sense of the retention of these sinecure offices. I suppose that what the Lord Chancellor requires is simply a crier with a livery upon him, but surely it is not necessary to pay such an official a salary of £1,500 a year.


I hope I may be allowed to supplement what my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) has said in answer to the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Biggar). If the hon. Member can point to a single instance in which a sinecure has been filled up, he will have made good his case. But he has not referred to a single case where, during the last two years, any office that can be properly described as a sinecure has been filled up by the present Government. It has been attempted by the present Government to abolish all sinecures, and they have been successful in abolishing a great many. The hon. Member also says these are the usual answers made by the Government, but that as soon as a place becomes vacant pressure is brought to bear, and the old system is reverted to. But what are the facts? My right hon. Friend told the House last year that a Committee was considering the whole question of the expenditure in connection with these offices. That Committee went into the question most carefully. We had to consider, on the one hand, what arrangements to make to prevent injustice being done to individuals, even though it might promote what might appear to be economy to the State. On the other hand, we had to consider the very distinct declaration made by the House last year. I think the Committee ought to be satisfied if the Government are able to show that as vacancies occur, no new appointments are made without the most careful and full consideration of the requirements of the case, and without Members of the Government being able to stand up in this House and defend the appointments made by them. Since last year no vacancy has occurred, and, therefore, there has been no opportunity for the carrying out of the promise of the Government. In justice to the Clerk of Parliaments, I may say that since his appointment he has not filled up one of the vacant clerkships, there being two at present unfilled. I can assure the Committee that the whole of this matter has been most carefully considered, and I believe the Committee may rely upon it that as vacancies do occur very considerable economies will be effected.

*MR. G. O. MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)

I am perfectly ready to give to the First Lord of the Treasury and the Secretary to the Treasury credit for sincerity, and it is simply because I believe the adoption of the Amendment of my hon. Friend would strengthen the hands of the Government in this matter, and encourage them to persevere in the creditable course in which they are pursuing, that I recommend him to go to a Division.


We really have had no explanation as to what this Sergeant-at-Arms does. So far as I can gather, the Secretary to the Treasury admits that the office is an absolute sinecure. [Mr. JACKSON signified dissent.] He does not. Then will he tell us what this gentleman does? There is some mysterious function connected with the Lord Chancellor which the Secretary to the Treasury does not understand. I have not that confidence, either in the House of Lords or in the Lord Chancellor, which appears to be entertained by the Secretary to the Treasury and the First Lord; and, therefore, I should like to know something about this mysterious Committee. Are there Minutes of the Committee? Has its Report been embodied in any Blue Book? We, who are the persons who have to the vote these sums of money, are told that there are to be alterations at some future time; but we are not told what the alterations are. I differ entirely from the view taken by the Secretary to the Treasury with regard to this sinecure. The hon. Gentleman holds the opinion that when a gentleman is given a sinecure he becomes, as it were, owner of a freehold. I hold that as the Vote is submitted to the House of Commons every year, the holder has only a yearly tenure of the office, and that so soon as we consider that the office is a sinecure, we ought to proceed at once to refuse the money for it. It is admitted on both sides of the House that this Sergeant-at-Arms does absolutely nothing [Sir. R. FOWLER: No.] The right hon. Baronet will, no doubt, explain what this gentleman does. The Secretary to the Treasury seems to think this gentleman does uncommonly little, but the right hon. Baronet thinks he performs services which are only adequately rewarded by the sum of £1,500 per annum. None of us receive £1,500 a year for doing nothing, and it appears that because this Sergeant-at-Arms has been so fortunate as to receive this money for years, we are not to do away with his office until he is good enough to die.

*SIR R. FOWLER (London)

The hon. Gentleman seems to think that some of the officers of the other House are overpaid. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: This one.] This gentleman is one of Her Majesty's Sergeant-at-Arms and attends upon the House of Lords. If that House does not sit much, I apprehend it is because we do not send them work to do. The Sergeant-at-Arms is a most estimable gentleman, and I do not think he is at all overpaid. ["What does he do?"] With very few exceptions, I do not believe there is anyone in the service of Her Majesty who is not underpaid. I have said before, I only know two men who serve Her Majesty who are at all adequately paid—of course I refer to the Law Officers of the Crown.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

We thought the right hon. Baronet would give us the information we have been seeking for the last half hour; but the right hon. Gentleman evidently confuses this Sergeant-at-Arms with the Usher of the Black Rod, who in the House of Lords performs the functions which our Sergeant - at - Arms performs in this House. The Gentleman in respect of whom the reduction is moved is merely a flunkey in attendance on the Lord Chancellor, and, therefore, we wish to know why he should be paid the enormous salary of £1,500 a year. Surely the day has arrived on which to get rid of these sinecure offices, the retention of which is simply a genteel way of picking the nation's pocket.

MR. M. KENNY (Tyrone Mid)

It is only fair we should be told what it is exactly that this gentleman does. Who is he, and when was he appointed? It is perfectly ridiculous that the Lord Chancellor, in addition to receiving £10,000 a year, should also have the right to appoint a Sergeant-at-Arms with £1,500 a year. We are entitled to ask what the functions of these officials are, how they are appointed, by whom, whether each Lord Chancellor has the right to appoint his own Sergeant-at-Arms, and whether this office is really a sinecure.

MR. A. J. WILLIAMS (Glamorgan, S.)

It certainly would have been more likely to satisfy the Committee had the Secretary to the Treasury told us a little more specifically what are the duties of this official. But even the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Fowler) seemed to admit that this estimable gentleman has really no duties. I have been endeavouring to realize what he can possibly have to do. He sits, as I understand, as an appendage to the Lord Chancellor when the noble and learned Lord sits judicially in the House of Lords. We know how seldom he does sit in the House of Lords; and, assuming that there is something to do when that august Court sits, it only occupies him a few days in the course of the year. Comparatively speaking, we may say he has nothing to do. It might settle the matter once for all if the Secretary to the Treasury could have told us that as a result of the deliberations of the Committee of the Lords a determination had been arrived at to abolish this as a sinecure office as soon as it becomes vacant.


I do not think it is possible for me to say anything that will satisfy hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Gentleman, by the tone of his remarks, seems to question whether the Committee ever sat at all.


I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I never for a moment suggested anything of the kind. I only asked a simple question, whether the office had been represented as a sinecure, and whether, when it became vacant, it would not be filled up? I do not think I put my question in an unfair way.


I apologize to the hon. Member if I misunderstood him, and I will not pursue that any further. I have already supplemented what my right hon. Friend said as to the question of this expenditure having been considered by the House of Lords. Probably, it may be in the recollection of hon. Members that there is a Standing Committee of the House of Lords charged with the responsibility of looking after all questions of this kind. Hon. Members have asked me—I do not find fault with them for it—to say more as to the recommendations of the Committee; and what I wish to say is this—the Committee had before them a scheme which had been prepared as what I may term a model scheme, if I may use that term, upon which, as vacancies occurred, the staff should be remodelled. I am not in a position to say—I do not think it is reasonable I should he asked to say—the particular form which the recommendations of the Committee should take, or that the particular action that should be taken on the recommendations of the Committee should be the abolition of the office of Sergeant-at-Arms; for it must be observed that there are two alternatives in re-organizing a staff, the amalgamation of duties, or the abolition of an office altogether. I am not prepared to say that if the office of Sergeant-at-Arms should become vacant to-morrow it would be abolished; for I am not sure if that is the particular form of the recommendation. I hope the Committee will believe me when I say that the scheme which has been considered by the Committee is a scheme which holds out prospective economies, and that effect will be given to these economical recommendations as vacancies arise; and if effect has not been given to any of them during the past year it is simply because no vacancies have arisen. I must not be taken as accepting the statement that the Sergeant-at-Arms has no duties to perform. He has the duty of attending the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords, and also when his Lordship goes to the Court of Chancery or elsewhere, and in many other ways he has duties to perform. Not very laborious duties, I dare say—possibly there are many that would suggest that the duties of the office I have the honour to hold are not laborious. It is well to bear in mind that the whole of these salaries used to be paid out of fees paid to the House of Lords, but in the wisdom of Parliament it was decided that it would be well if those fees were paid into the Exchequer, and when this was decided the House of Commons took over the responsibility of paying the salaries of these offices. I venture to say it does appear to me a little unreasonable, if I may use the expression without offence, that Parliament should in the first place decide that all House of Lords' fees should be handed over to the Exchequer on a distinct understanding that the salaries previously charged to these fees should be voted in the Estimates, and then that this question should be raised. However I feel that I am at a disadvantage because of the promise made last year. Although there has been no departure from that promise, I am not in a position to say it has been given effect to; but the only reason why it has not resulted in distinct and specific action is because no vacancy has occurred. But the Committee may rely that as vacancies do arise every single one of these appointments will be considered, and as far as possible effect will be given to the desire to reduce expenditure.

MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

Do I understand that the model scheme referred to as having been laid before the Committee of the House of Lords was prepared by the Treasury, or was it prepared by the House of Lords? I presume that this model scheme provided for a re-organization of Departments, and for considerable changes to be made hereafter. If so, does it contemplate any changes in the three considerable offices of the House of Lords—the Black Rod, the Deputy Black Rod, and the Sergeant-at-Arms? As compared with the House of Commons, the House of Lords is over-burdened with highly salaried officials. For my part, I certainly should not vote for the Amendment, if I had an assurance that these are to be reduced as soon as the present occupants cease to hold office. I think we ought to have an assurance that one of these offices will be abolished. It is to be remembered, too, that one of these officers occupies one of the best houses in this building. I have always felt that, looking at the duties of this officer and at the demands made upon the space in these buildings, this officer should not have a large house at his disposal. I venture to hope that whenever a vacancy occurs this model scheme provides for the reduction of one of these very highly paid offices. If that assurance is given I shall not vote for the Amendment, which otherwise I shall support.


It is, of course, impossible to give an assurance when we are dealing with the officers of the other House, but the spirit in which the matter is treated by the Government is one of anxious desire—in which we believe we are supported by the House of Lords—to make considerable economies in the direction suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. We have every confidence that effect will be given to our desire, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept that assurance. I think the matter may he now considered as thoroughly thrashed out. ("No, no.") If we devote more time to this item, I am afraid the Committee will, at some time or other, find that there is not sufficient leisure to discuss other matters in the future of a larger importance and in which greater interest is taken. I would suggest it is not advisable to discuss this at greater length, and that sufficient time has been devoted to it.

SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

I hope the Committee will not be influenced by the veiled threat we have just heard—


I can assure the hon. Member and the Committee that I intended no veiled threat. It is time only that I referred to. It must be seen that the actual time at our disposal, apart from the interest of other business, will not suffice for the discussion of the Estimates if it is distributed over the items in this proportion. I do not wish to add anything to heat the discussion. I simply point out the question of time, and make what I think is a reasonable proposition.


I accept at once the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, and am sorry if I said anything to hurt his feelings. As to the use of time, I do not think it could be better expended than in discussing the expenditure of the nation. I think we have spent the time very well so far, and we have gained our point, because nobody on the other side has been able to say what the gentleman who holds this office does. When anybody on this side says this is a sinecure office, the Secretary to the Treasury shakes his head, but when he got up he could say nothing against the statement. Another reason why we should not take a vote yet is that we have not yet heard the opinion of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings). It is very interesting to come down to the House when the hon. Gentleman makes an able and vigorous speech in favour of retrenchment. I consider him a master, a teacher on these matters. How is he going to vote? It would be a guide to some of us to know.

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

One thing might have abbreviated this debate, and that is, if the Secretary to the Treasury had stated clearly to the Committee, as he has not done, what kind of reductions, in what direction, of what specific character, have been sketched out in this model scheme. The Committee would then have known something definite on which we might rely, but the hon. Gentleman simply tells us of some scheme, to make some unnamed reduction in the event of some unspecified vacancy occuring in some office; but surely that is not very conclusive as to the item under discussion. Nothing has been said to show that it is intended to make any reduction in these offices. It would have been easy for the hon. Gentleman to have said that nothing had been determined, that it was in too vague and indefinite a state to put before the Committee. If the scheme is too vague and indefinite to put before the Committee, then it is too vague and indefinite to influence the Committee. I would respectfully suggest to the Secretary to the Treasury that if he really wishes a debate on an item of this kind to be confined within a limited compass, instead of giving us nice words, prettily spoken, but meaning nothing in the end, he should tell us exactly what is the kind of reduction contemplated.

MR. JAMES ROWLANDS (Finsbury, East)

One reason why we ought not just yet to divide on this Vote is to be found in the concluding words of the Secretary to the Treasury. He indicated as a reason why we should not reduce or abolish these offices that when the fees were handed over to the Exchequer payment of these salaries was thrown upon the Estimates. This would imply that we are bound to find the money for any office the charge for which was so transferred—that we must continue the office simply because it was then in existence. Now that is an argument we must protest against. When the arrangement was made, of course it was necessary to take over the payment of the then existing offices, but having taken over this control, surely it is not maintained that we are bound to continue the offices for all time, that we may not review these offices and dispense with those shown to be unnecessary. Neither can I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Bench on this side (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) that we are bound to continue an appointment until a vacancy occurs. It is contrary to the ideas of our modern times that an appointment should be continued after it is found to be unnecessary. If the office is a sinecure, if there is nothing for this gentleman to do, deal with the office at once, find this official something to do elsewhere if you can, but do not say that for another 20 years —I have no idea how old the gentleman is—we are to go on paying £1,500 a year, simply because the appointment was made in years gone by. This is the curse of all reorganizations of Services under the State—that you cannot move a man having once given him an appointment. We have to make a new departure from this principle, and I hope this is the commencement of it.

MR. HERBERT GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)

There is one point to clear up in reference to this inquiry by the Committee. We now learn from the Secretary to the Treasury for the first time that this is not a special Committee, as we were led to believe, but the ordinary Standing Committee of the House of Lords. I should like to know definitely if that is the fact, because I think the Committee will agree that the First Lord led us to believe just now that, as the result of what passed on a previous occasion, the House of Lords appointed a Special Committee to consider this subject. The Secretary to the Treasury has, it would seem, "let the cat out of the bag, "and it is only the ordinary Standing Committee to which this has been referred.


Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will also answer the question whether each Lord Chancellor ap- points his own Sergeant, or whether he is a permanent official.


He is a permanent officer of the House of Lords, and does not change with successive Lord Chancellors. The present Sergeant at Arms was, I think, appointed 20 years ago.


So he has drawn £30,000 !


The hon. Member opposite (Mr. H. Gardner) has asked me a question from which it appears he has rather confused the answer given by the First Lord of the Treasury. My right hon. Friend has explained to-day what action he took on the suggestion made for a Joint Committee. It is not a statement made to-day for the first time, because it was made when the Vote was under discussion last year. The hon. Member speaks now of a Special Committee, but what was said last year was that this had been specially referred to the Committee—not that it had been referred to a Special Committee, but specially referred to a Committee charged with looking after these matters. My right hon. Friend explained why the proposals for a Joint Committee were not entertained, and the Government are not responsible for that scheme not having been carried out. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) asked me whether I could not have shortened the discussion by stating specifically if this particular office was referred to in the scheme sketched out. I have already stated, the scheme which was submitted to the Committee was a scheme which contemplated a reduction of expenditure—a considerable reduction of expenditure —and that effect will be given to it as vacancies occur. The hon. Member complains that that is very vague, and I have no reason to complain of his criticism. But let me point out—and I think it is an additional reason why I may ask the Committee to excuse me if I do not state specifically what reforms are contemplated—that there has been, as hon. Members know, a recent change in the occupancy of the Chairmanship of Committees in the other House, and it is the noble Lord who fills the office of Chairman of Committees who presides over this Committee referred to as dealing with this question. I had an interview with the new Chairman of Committees the other day, and I went into this question with him and sought to obtain from him some distinct information as to whether this particular scheme I have mentioned was likely to be adopted by the Committee.


Was the scheme submitted by the Treasury, or by whom?


The scheme was submitted to the Committee—


By whom?


It was prepared by those who are responsible. ["Who?"] I do not think I should be called upon to say whence the scheme emanated. It will, I think, be sufficient for the House of Commons if the proposals are satisfactory. But I was giving the reason why I would rather not just now give specific information as to this scheme. The Chairman of Committees said, "I am most anxious to carry out this, but I have been only three or four days in office, and I was not a member of the Committee previously, when this scheme was before them, and before I pledge myself I must make myself acquainted with the proposals, I should prefer to have time to look into the question. It may be that I cannot agree to every detail, and may suggest alterations on some points." This I could not but admit was only reasonable. But I have not the slightest doubt of the intention of the House of Lords to give effect to alterations in the direction of economy; and I can say with confidence, that but for the change that has taken place in the office of Chairman of Committees, I should have been in a position to give details now.


I understood the Secretary to the Treasury to say a few minutes ago that some scheme, with which he was satisfied, would have taken effect but for the fact that no vacancies had occurred. But now I understand that the scheme has not been accepted, and possibly it may never be accepted, and that he thinks he ought not to communicate the authorship of the scheme. I do not blame him for that. But even now he does not say if the scheme has any application to this particular item. Really this is not the way to expedite debate.

MR. A. J. WILLIAMS (Glamorgan, S.)

I think we may see the value of persistent inquiry. We were led to understand that a Committee had been appointed ad hoc to look into this matter, including the whole official staff, and that a careful and elaborate scheme had been drawn up with a view to the reduction of the staff as vacancies occur, and that we might rely on this being carried out. What do we find after all? That somebody unknown has drawn up a scheme which has been submitted to the Standing Committee, who have not made up their minds whether they can accept it or not. Now I think it is only reasonable that, if it is to have any influence with us at all, we should have this scheme submitted to us for our judgment.


The hon. Gentleman says I misunderstood the answer I received. What I asked was,. whether the Committee to which reference has been made was the ordinary Standing Committee or a Special Committee, and the hon. Gentleman referred to the debate of last year. Now, in that debate the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) suggested a Joint Committee of both Houses, and the First Lord said he would favourably consider that. When asked, the right hon. Gentleman referred to this as an undertaking to have a Special Committee inquiry, and he did so again this afternoon. Will the Secretary to the Treasury say yes or no? Is it a Special Committee or the ordinary Standing Committee of the House of Lords?


Surely this is a very simple matter. The Duke of Buckingham last year was chairman of a committee which had under consideration a plan for the future reduction of the superabundance of officers of the House of Lords. The noble Duke died, and Lord Morley was appointed in his place, and the noble Lord, before pledging himself to carry out the scheme, wishes to have time to examine it. Any reasonable man would do the same, and the House of Commons would do right to accept this from a man who has done good-service in the past under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and I am sure will do good service in the position he now occupies.

MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

This discussion has been somewhat protracted, and I desire to take a decision and bring it to an end. I do not think the Government have put the case fairly. This Committee, it appears, has been sitting, but has done nothing about this question; and, after all, it appears the promise given depends upon the approval of Lord Morley. I may take this opportunity of saying that I think we spend a great deal too much time in hammering away at points that cannot be remedied, but I think, for the sake of the time of the Committee, the Government might come to some conclusion whereby we may rest assured that we shall have no further trouble. If they authoritatively state that when these appointments come to an end the House will have no more of them, but that future appointments will be made under the pleasure of the House, so that people appointed may be properly paid, and that the House will be at liberty to discontinue appointments when they are thought unnecessary, such a declaration from the Government would save further waste of time.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

The Secretary to the Treasury seemed to be somewhat indignant when I cheered the reference to the Committee promised last year. That investigation was promised last year, but we are now just as far from a conclusion as we were then. Hon. Members will remember what took place last year. I think it was I who raised the question of these salaries, and I had the good fortune to have the influential support of the noble Lord the member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). Up to that time we had got no satisfaction from the Government, but when such a strong and formidable ally declared in our favour the Government changed front, and the First Lord said the matter should be referred to a Committee.


The hon. Member has misunderstood what the First Lord said. What my right hon. Friend said was that he would consider it, and he has explained what action he took on the promise then made.


The right hon. Gentleman promised to consider it, and as the result we are told it was referred to the Standing Committee of the House of Lords. Any way, the matter was referred by somebody to the Standing Committee of the House of Lords. Well, but what has been done? When and how often has the Standing Committee considered the subject? What are its recommendations? Are any salaries to be reduced or discontinued? We are absolutely as much in the dark as we were months ago. Why attempt to shuffle the Estimates through the House of Commons on a vague and misleading promise? I think I have a perfect right to cheer or jeer at such a promise. What is the other line of argument? I was astonished to hear the hon. Baronet the Member for South St. Pancras (Sir Julian Goldsmid) who, except on one class of subjects, is usually a lucid-minded man, say that because we are promised an inquiry by Lord Morley, who has been a useful public servant, and who, he anticipates, will be so in the future, we ought to be satisfied. But surely the question of Lord Morley is utterly irrelevant to the issue. Our contention is that the investigation promised twelve months ago has not taken place.


The hon. Member will allow me to say that is not so. That statement is absolutely contrary to the real facts of the case. What was stated by the First Lord in this Committee last year was that this question was at that time under consideration. My noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill) made a suggestion that a Joint Committee should be appointed, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House undertook to consider that suggestion. He has explained what action he did take upon that undertaking, but the hon. Member will see that the question was then under consideration by the Committee of the House of Lords. I have stated to the Committee what has happened since.


Really, I fail to see how that explanation improves the hon. Gentleman's position; it betters our position, but it does not improve his. He says the investigation was not because of, but was antecedent to, our demand of last year; and is it therefore not more shameful that we should have no conclusion arrived at? The hon. Baronet above the Gangway (Sir J. Goldsmid) says Lord Morley has done good public service—a point I neither deny nor affirm, for I know nothing about it—and therefore we may rely on him in the future; but what has that to do with the case? We had a right to expect a decision on the subject before being asked to vote this salary again. Now, I have a proposal to make. I do not suppose we shall get any satisfaction from the House of Lords Committee, and it is we, the House of Commons, who have to satisfy the taxpayers. It is the House of Commons, which passes these Estimates, which ought to investigate the matter. Will the Secretary to the Treasury agree to nominate after Easter a Committee of the House of Commons to investigate the question of salaries paid to officials of the House of Lords, and that this Committee shall take evidence as to expenditure and duties? The Secretary to the Treasury smiles, but I see nothing in the proposition to occasion amusement, though it might be afforded in the result. Is the House of Commons to be denied investigation of this part of the expenditure of the country? I do not say whether the result may or may not show that the Serjeant-at-Arms is badly paid at £1,500 a-year—he may be an extremely overworked official—nor am I prepared to anticipate the evidence whether or not Black Rod, who alternates between a somewhat comic appearance on the floor of this House, and a courteous acceptance of our prayer to admit ladies or gentlemen to the Gallery of the House f Lords, is grossly overworked and scandalously underpaid. I will not anticipate the results that may be attained; but, at least, we shall have the satisfaction of a thorough examination. What is the alternative course? We do not know whether the hon. Gentleman may be on that Bench next year. So far as he is personally concerned, I hope he may be, for I do not know anyone who could fulfil the duties of his office with greater skill, ability, and courtesy. But the fact is, it requires more than all his tact, and more than all his large amount of courtesy to get through the House of Commons such a scandalous Vote as this. But if he should be in his place next year—and I should be glad if it should be so, if his Party are in power—what will happen? I will venture to utter a prophecy. We shall find this House of Lords Committee still profoundly absorbed in the study of the expenditure —that it is perplexed, divided, and overwhelmed with all the facts, figures, and the diverse heterogeneous and miscellaneous considerations that encircle the question, and that it will require years of examination to determine it. But meantime we are called upon to vote for this highly paid, and, as it now appears, sinecure office. This is why we cannot accept the statement of the Secretary to the Treasury as satisfactory.

MR. NOLAN (Louth, N.)

I cannot agree that time has been wasted over the discussion of this item. It is a case of a class which, being satisfactorily settled, may clear away discussion which else may be necessary on other items. Several things have been brought out in the discussion. I am sure we heard with great interest, if not with satisfaction, that this gentleman, as Serjeant-at-arms, has received £30,000 of the taxpayers' money. But we have failed to elicit from one side or the other what are the services rendered for this enormous sum of money. The brief explanation of the functions of the office we had from the Secretary to the Treasury was that the Serjeant-at-arms attended the Lord Chancellor. Putting the most liberal interpretation on this duty, I think it will be agreed that it could be efficiently discharged by a policeman, who would consider himself fairly well paid at £100 a-year. This cannot be considered a small matter. In the course of the debate last night, an hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bartley) with painstaking elaboration showed how a poor family with an income of £39 a year paid in: taxation £2 17s. 5d. per annum. Now, it is out of money thus received that the salary of £10,000 to the Lord Chancellor, and £1,500 for the gentleman who attends upon him, are paid. We have this state of facts in the teeth of the statement I heard not long since in this House, that it has ever been the practice for gentlemen of wealth, position, and education to devote their time, energy, and great talents to the service of their country. This was the statement that met a proposal from the Representative of a working class constituency on this side, that Members of this House should receive some allowance for the time they devote to public duties here. On that occasion, hon. Members pointed to the terrible state of affairs in the United States, where Members of Congress receive some such allowance, but here we have a gentleman who, without underrating his position, I may describe as a subordinate official, receiving a salary equal to that of the Vice President of the United States. I do not think more can be added to give force to the ridiculous position taken up in defence of an appointment like this. The Secretary to the Treasury has spoken in rather a wounded tone on this matter. Now, I would endorse the well-merited compliment the Chancellor of the Exchequer paid him last night, and I am sure there is not a Member of the House but will agree that the hon. Gentleman discharges his duty in the most conscientious and courteous manner, and I should he sorry to say anything that might be considered offensive to him; but we are here as Representatives of the taxpayers, and are anxious to reduce the burdens upon them. In that sense we are acting now, and we would strengthen the Treasury in any desire for economy in the direction of these salaries.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 75; Noes 117.—(Division List, No. 76.)

Original Question again proposed.


If the Standing Committee of the House of Lords desire to know to what point to direct their attention, and where we consider salaries are excessive, I would offer for their consideration the item under the head of salary and allowances to the Lord Chancellor of £4,000, in connection with his duties as Speaker of the House of Lords. I think this sum is somewhat excessive as compared with the duties discharged by the Speaker in this House, or by yourself, Mr. Courtney, as Chairman of Committees. I think it must be admitted that, if allowances in the latter cases were accepted as the basis for applying the principle of payment by results, the payment to the Speaker of the House of Lords would sink to a very low point indeed in comparison. It seems to be considered that a high salary is necessary to preserve the dignity of officials and ensure the efficient discharge of the duties of the office; and in the case of Members of the legal profession, it would appear that they require twice as much as anybody else. I might institute a comparison with the position of a Justice of the Supreme Court in the United States, an official who has to discharge duties as august and onerous as those of the Lord Chancellor, and for whom a salary of £2,000 is considered adequate. It will be seen, therefore, that experience does not show that inflated salaries are necessary to the dignity of position; and I move that the item of £4,000, the salary of the Lord Chancellor, be reduced by £2,000.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries of £5,545, be reduced by £2,000, part of the Salary of the Lord Chancellor as Speaker of the House of Lords."— (Mr. Munro Ferguson.)

DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)

I really think that some little explanation or answer is due from the Government.


It was out of no want of courtesy that I did not rise. I took this as only part of the scheme by which hon. Gentlemen opposite desired to draw attention to the items in the Vote. I am sure that I can say nothing that will alter the view of hon. Members on this matter or beyond what has been urged on former occasions, and I thought it better to come to a decision at once.


As I have notice of Amendment in respect to the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords, it might spare the Committee inconvenience if I dealt with that now—


Order, order! I think that will be best secured by coming to decision upon this first.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 62; Noes l32.—(Div. List, No. 77.)

Original Question again proposed.


I wish now to call attention to another matter. The salary of the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords amounts to no less a sum than £2,500, and, in moving a reduction of the Vote by £500, I may say I do so in no spirit of hostility to the noble Lord (Earl of Morley) who now fills the office, or to the noble Duke (the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos) who lately filled it. The present Chairman of Committee in the House of Lords will, no doubt, fulfil his functions with the same ability as he displayed in other Departments of the State, and, as to the efficiency of the late Duke of Buckingham, I have never heard any question. But I would ask the House to compare the duties performed by the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords for a salary of £2,500 a year with the very onerous duties of the Chairman of Ways and Means, whose salary is of the same amount. If the standard of pay adopted in this House is fair and reasonable, I think the Committee will agree that the country must get a very poor return for the money it votes for the Chairmanship of the House of Lords. The Committee cannot deny one of two propositions: Either the salary of the Chairman of Ways and Means is too small, or the salary of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords is far too large. As to the first proposition I will not express an opinion, except to say that I should not be in order if I tried to move an augmentation of the salary of the Chairman of Ways and Means. With regard to the second proposition, I have no doubt about it myself, and I am sure there is no Member of the House who does not agree with me on that subject. There is a vast difference between the demands on the time of the Chairman of this House and that of the Chairman of the House of Lords. The Estimates are never brought before the House of Lords, and that constitutes in itself a wide and significant distinction between the duties of the two officials. The House of Lords meets day by day, merely to adjourn to some livelier and busier scenes, while this House is content to spend hours and hours in debating propositions which some Members may think important, and others trivial. The Committee will find, on referring to Hansard, that you, Mr. Chairman, were last year compelled to open your mouth some 547 times whilst presiding over this Committee, whereas the late Duke of Buckingham was only required to address the House of Lords on six separate occasions. There is, as a matter of fact, no possible comparison between the two Houses. The Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords has, no doubt, to fulfil very responsible duties, but the office which you, Sir, fill with so much discretion, and with such general approval from all parts of the House, is without doubt the most exacting, the most onerous, and the most exhausting of all the offices of this House, not even excepting that of Mr. Speaker. That being so, to vote this amount to the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords would be irrational, absurd, and almost an insult to the position which you, Sir, occupy.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Item B, of £5,000, be reduced by £500, part of the Salary of the Chairman of Committee of the House of Lords."—(Mr.Herbert Gardner.)


Some years ago, as many here will remember, my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) proposed to reduce the salary of the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords to £1,500, as the salary of the Chairman of Committees here was £1,500. It was, however, urged that it would be an unwise and ungenerous thing to attempt to deal with the salary of the distinguished man who occupied that position, and an ungracious act towards the other House. It was, however, suggested from the Treasury Bench that the Chairman of Committees of the House of Commons might well receive the same salary as the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords. This was at once agreed to, and the Chairman of Committees, then my right hon. Friend the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) found his salary at once increased by £1,000 a year, and from that time the two salaries have been the same. I think it would be unjust and unfair to the present holder of that office to reduce his salary. I venture, therefore, to hope the Committee will by a large majority decline to endorse so ungracious an act towards the other House of Parliament.

*SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)

I would point out that the Chairman of the House of Lords has more responsible work to do than any other paid officer of the House of Lords, as he has charge of all the Private Business of the House of Lords. We all know with what ability, zeal, and energy Lord Redesdale discharged his duties, and I say that the responsibility which falls upon the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords is so considerable, and the amount of work he has to do is so large that a salary of £2,500 is not too high. I do not think a comparison can in every respect be fairly made between the position of the Chairman of Ways and Means and that of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords. I believe that the Private Business is not quite so responsible in the House of Commons as in the House of Lords, because more Private Bills, I think, originate in the House of Lords than in this House. Though there is more general work done in the House of Commons, our Chairman of Committees has hon. Gentlemen on whom he can call for assistance if he thinks proper. We all know, Mr. Courtney, how capable you are in the discharge of your duties, and what a glutton you are for work, and the consequence is that you very rarely call on those Gentlemen to assist you. You, however, have the opportunity of doing so whenever the work becomes too pressing. Under the circumstances of the case, I do not think it would be suitable for the present to reduce the salary of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords.


I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) whether the hon. Baronet (Sir J Goldsmid) is right in stating that the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords is precluded from getting any assistance in his work?


I did not understand him to say that.


What I said was, that the duties of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords were not as onerous as those of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Commons; but I said that in the House of Commons the Chairman of Committees had four gentlemen on whom he could call to assist him in discharging his duties.


If the hon. Baronet does not say that the Chairman of the House of Lords has no power of obtaining assistance, what becomes of his argument? The Chairman of the House of Lords can call upon forty or fifty Peers, if he likes, to take his place. The hon. Baronet shows a want of lucidity that I am surprised to find in him. I have seen you, Sir, and other Chairmen of Committees, seven, eight, or ten hours in your place without calling for any assisance, and I have no reason to doubt that your successors will be as energetic in carrying out their duties as you are, though we cannot perhaps hope that they will be as able as you. If the Chairman of the House of Lords is less hard-worked than you, Sir, he ought to be paid less, and if he is more hard-worked he ought to be paid more. We say he is less hard-worked, and therefore ought to be paid less. I admit that the Chairman of the House of Lords has a greal deal to do in connection with Private Business. Whether the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Goldsmid) is right in saying that he has more to do in that respect than you, Mr. Courtney, I do not know, but he certainly has nothing like the same amount of work to do in presiding over Committee of the House of Lords as you, Sir, have in presiding over this Committee. You have to to be in your place all the time the House is in Committee, which means that you have to be in your place the greater part of the Session. The House of Lords is not an over-worked assembly. It reminds one of an April shower. It is here now and the next moment it is gone. You hear a mysterious mumble and a few whispers, and the House of Lords has done for the evening. I venture to say that the Chairman of the House of Lords does not sit as Chairman for one hour a week, and yet the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Goldsmid) compares his labours with those of the Chairman of Committees in this House. The hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir W. Barttelot) argued this question from another point of view. The hon. and gallant Gentleman represents in their most orthodox form "good old Tory doctrines," and he does so in the matter of these salaries. But I think he was rather unfortunate as to the ground upon which he based his defence. He said it would be an act of discourtesy, an ungracious thing, to reduce the salary, but as guardians of the public purse we have nothing to do with courtesy or grace. I think that this case has been brought forward by the hon. Member for Essex (Mr. H Gardner) in a most unanswerable manner. The only fault I have to find with him is that the amount of reduction he proposes is disproportionate, when you consider the light duties of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords and the salary paid and the heavy duties of the Chairman in this House.

The Committee divided, Ayes, 62; Noes, 138; (Division List No. 78.)

Original Question again proposed.


The next item, Sub-head "C," is one which always causes a considerable amount of discussion in this House, the reason being because the system of payment of the Clerks of the other House is so manifestly unfair. The last Motion made was to reduce the salary of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords below that of the Chairman of Committees in this House, but that was not the view of the majority. The argument against the reduction was that it would be unfair to give the Chairman in one House less than the Chairman in the other. Well, it is on that argument that I claim the vote of hon. Gentlemen in favour of the reduction which I now propose in regard to the salaries of the clerks of the House of Lords, who surely ought not to be paid more than the clerks of the House of Commons, seeing that the latter work a great many more hours. Yet the clerks of the House of Lords are higher paid than those of the House of Commons. The Clerk of Parliaments receives £2,500 per annum, with an allowance for a house, or £500 more than is paid to the Chief Clerk of the House of Commons. It was thought that the late Chief Clerk of this House, Sir Erskine May, one of the most distinguished men who has ever acted as Clerk to this House, would have been promoted after long service to the office of the Clerk of Parliaments, with its higher salary and position, but it was not so. A gentleman was fished out for the higher post, who was the relative of one Lord Chancellor at least, if not of two, and who had been some- thing connected with lunatic asylums. [Laughter.] I am not exaggerating. That gentleman was pitchforked into the office of the Clerk of Parliaments, for which he had had no sort of training, and the doctrine that the Chief Clerk of the House of Commons may expect to be promoted to that post, after long and faithful service, as a sort of otium cum dignitate quasi-pension, has been exploded. We have a Clerk in the House of Lords, therefore, who receives £500 a year more than our Head Clerk. Then the Clerk-Assistant of the House of Lords receives £1,800 per annum for filling a position equivalent to that for which the corresponding officer of the House of Commons receives £1,500. And all these gentlemen have houses besides. Then we find that the Senior Clerk in the House of Lords receives £1,000, whereas the maximum salary of the Senior Clerk in the House of Commons is £800 per annum. I want to know why these distinctions are made. The reduction of £1,000 which I intend to move is, roughly speaking, the amount of the excess in the payment to clerks in the Department of the Clerk of the Parliaments as against the payment to the clerks in this House. I heard the Secretary to the Treasury say a while ago that there was a species of bargain entered into as to these salaries. I have heard that before, and I have heard the same from the hon. Gentleman's predecessors. What he pointed to was that at one time all the salaries were paid out of fees which came from suitors in the House of Lords. This practice was done away with, however. The fees are now paid into the Treasury, and the Treasury pays the salaries. It was understood that if the fees were paid into the Treasury the salaries should be paid out of the Votes of the House, but there was no undertaking that the payment of the existing salaries should go on for ever and aye. [Mr. JACKSON: Hear, hear !] The Secretary to the Treasury accepts that statement. At the time of which I spoke the fees were paid into a fee fund, and the interest on that served as pensions to the clerks and other officials in the House of Lords. We have nothing to do with that, I admit, but we have to do with the salaries of officials which we are called upon to vote. I have never yet heard a satisfactory reason why the clerks of the House of Lords, who do very much less than our clerks here, should be paid higher salaries. I do not say that our clerks do not deserve more than they are getting, and I should be ready to put the salaries of the two sets of clerks together, and to give our clerks more and those of the House of Lords less; but I do protest against the clerks of the House of Lords being paid more than our clerks for doing less work than our clerks. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000.

Motion made, and Question put, "That Item C, of £22,367, Salaries, &c., Department of the Clerk of the Parliaments, be reduced by £1,000."—(Mr. Labouchere.)


The hon. Member has made a comparison between the clerks in the House of Lords and the clerks in this House, and I do not think we can very successfully discuss that at any great length. The hon. Member says the clerks of the House of Lords receive more than the clerks of the House of Commons.


The clerks as a whole.


I do not think I could entirely agree with the hon. Member there. I think he is rather mixing up the titles of these Gentlemen. It is not easy to compare the salaries of the clerks in the two Houses of Parliament; because it does not follow that those bearing the same titles occupy analogous positions. I quite agree that there is no reason why the salaries should necessarily be perpetual; but the proper time to consider a revision of salaries is when vacancies occur. I should not agree with the hon. Member if he contended that we are on our own Motion to go and reduce the salaries of officers who have been duly appointed and have given up other appointments in order to accept these posts, but I agree with him that when vacancies occur these appoint- ments should be reviewed, and the salaries proportioned to the work which has to be done. The Clerk of Parliaments has other duties to perform beyond those connected with the House of Lords as a legislative body. He is Registrar of the Supreme Court of Appeal, and a certain part of his work begins in November, when Members of this House are taking holiday. Since the gentleman who now holds the office has been appointed he has effected economies to the extent of £2,000 a year. Though the Head Clerk of the House of Lords receives £300 a year more than the Head Clerk of the House of Commons, yet this sum is hardly the equivalent in cash of the furnished house with which the latter is provided.


We have protested from the very first against the appointment of this Clerk of the Parliaments—we have opposed the salary every year since he was appointed. If Sir Erskine May after his long service in this House had been promoted to this superior position when a vacancy occurred, we should not have complained, but our complaint was that the present holder of the office was taken on, knowing nothing of the business of the Clerk of the House of Commons or the Clerk of the House of Lords. He may have learnt it since, but that is not our affair. The hon. Member says this gentleman has saved us £2,000 a year; that is to say he has cut down other people's salaries to the extent of £2,000 a year. But I should like to know if his economies take the view of cutting down his own salary. It is all very well to talk about saving £2,000 a year by cutting down other people's salaries —we have to interfere because he cannot take an independent view of his own salary. We want that to be reduced until the clerks in both Houses can be regarded as in an identical position. The hon. Gentleman opposite said we could not fairly compare one clerk with another clerk. Well, take the Clerk Assistant. In the House of Lords the clerk occupying that position receives £1,800 a year, whilst in this House he gets £1,500 a year and a house.


They are not exactly the same.


I do not see the distinction. There are three clerks in the House of Lords, and there are three clerks here. One is an assistant clerk in the House of Lords, and one is an assistant clerk in this House. The hon. Gentleman says they are not the same, but the only distinction I see is that their salaries are not the same; and that is precisely the distinction which I wish to do away with. I am sure the hon. Gentleman must see that this system is unfair. It exists because it has existed. But it ought to be altered. I do not see why our clerks should not be paid the same as those in the House of Lords. I am only raising the question on the point that the clerks in one House ought not to be paid more—I think they ought to be paid less—than the clerks who occupy identically the same position in the other House; and in paying them equally it should be distinctly understood that there is a sort of system by which the Head Clerk of this House will succeed to the appointment of Clerk of Parliaments, when it becomes vacant—by which he would have a call upon the office, if I may so term it. By such a system the Head Clerk of this House would know that, at a given time, if he did not get a rise in his salary, he would succeed to an office where he would have less heavy duties to perform in his advanced years. I am perfectly certain that if you take hour for hour, it will be found that the Clerk of Parliaments does not work the same number of hours as our Chief Clerk does. I am only asking for common and reasonable fairness in this matter.

DR. TANNER (Mid Cork)

We have been told that the Clerk of Parliaments is Registrar to the Supreme Court of Appeal, and I should much like to know whether he is paid anything extra for the duties of the office. We know, in the case of other officers of the House of Lords that they are paid extra for supplemental offices. Another point I would wish to drive home is that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Northamp- ton with respect to the position of the Clerk of Parliaments. If the post is of such very high honour it is certainly of paramount public importance that there should be a process of promotion of the Officers of this House to the corresponding posts in the House of Lords, where the clerks have not so much trouble and have not these very long hours. Now, I would point out that the post of the Clerk of Parliaments is judicial. For my own part, I speak of a gentleman who is not in the costume of a barrister, but who wears a peculiar sort of wig. I have seen him standing in the doorway of this House. I asked who he was. "Oh, that is the Clerk of Parliaments—the Senior Clerk of the House of Lords." I asked why he wore a wig which was different from the wigs of our clerks, and I was told that his office was such a very high one that he actually occupied the position of a Judge. That in itself is a very high reward, but in addition he gets this enormous salary, with a position which affords him the opportunity of associating with noblemen in the other House occasionally, and for very short periods. I think he ought to be satisfied, and that the country should be saved the expense. I would ask the hon. Gentleman for an answer to the first point which I endeavoured to bring under his notice, whether the Clerk of Parliaments receives additional pay as Registrar to the supreme Court of Appeal?


The Clerk of Parliaments receives no additional pay for that appointment.


Does his salary cover everything?



The Committee divided:—Ayes 68; Noes, 137.—(Div. List, No. 79.)

Original Question again proposed.

MR. LABOUCHERE: (Northampton)

I regret that the House should have to occupy so much of its time with these questions relating to the House of Lords, considering that all I ask for is equal justice between the two Houses, and that sinecures should cease to exist; but I am obliged to trouble the House with an Amendment on Sub- head E, with regard to the salaries of Black Rod and the Yoeman Usher of the Black Rod. Now, while Black Rod receives £2,000 a year and a house, the Serjeant-at-Arms in the House of Commons only receives £1,200; the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod receives £1,000, and the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms in the House of Commons £800. No one can deny that the Serjeant-at-Arms and Deputy Serjeant do more work than the Black Rod and the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod, for the simple reason that neither of these latter officers have anything to do except in the short sittings of the other House. I will venture to say that this House sits ten times as long as the House of Lords. The fact is that the offices in the other House are the appanages of the great. I do not complain of those to whom they are given, but they are generally given to gentlemen who are in the category of courtiers or the friends of courtiers, and they are almost sinecures, the gentlemen holding them going to the House of Lords for an hour or so in the evening for a few months in the year. I say they are excessive salaries, and that it is ridiculous to pay the Black Rod as much as you pay the President of the Local Government Board, who is one of the ablest of Her Majesty's Ministers, and performs really good work. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman ought to be paid more than he gets, because £2,000 a year is a very good salary; but there is undoubtedly a wide disparity between the services rendered in the two cases. We shall probably be told by the Secretary to the Treasury that the Committee he has spoken of is looking into the matter; but I should like to know, has there ever been any objection made in the Committee to these salaries in the House of Lords? Under all the circumstances, I beg to move that the sum be reduced by £500.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Item E, of £6,075, Salaries of Department of the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, be reduced by £1,000."—(Mr. Labouchere.)

MR. BIGGAR (Cavan)

Much time has been spent on this Vote, and I would suggest that time would be saved if the Secretary to the Treasury were to agree to the recommendation of the hon. Member for the Scotland division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and appoint a Committee to sit permanently for the purpose of revising the Estimates. A large portion of the Votes for the House of Lords is utterly indefensible, and I certainly think that this question of the salaries of the officials ought to be considered. Although I do not think the House of Commons should do anything to strangle the efficiency of the House of Lords or curtail its dignity, at the same time, I think these matters ought to be treated with a little more candour, and I should like some one to tell this House, having regard to the length of time occupied by the sittings of the other House, how much an hour the Black Rod gets for his services. We might also be informed as to the period of life at which these appointments are conferred, and whether, when they are made, the gentlemen receiving them are at an age when they could fill any other position. I may say I have no personal objection to these gentlemen. On the only occasions I have come in contact with them they have been polite; but I think the salaries they receive are large compared with those of gentlemen holding similar positions in this House.

MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, East)

The time of adjournment of this House may be fraught with important issues to the unfortunate people of Donegal. I have just had placed in my hands a telegram, which deals with a matter of so much importance that, in order that we may have an opportunity of considering the matter to which it relates, I will move that the Chairmain report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."— (Mr. Arthur O' Connor.)

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, West)

I hope the Government will assent to the Motion. I have seen the telegram my hon. Friend refers to, and I believe the condition of the people of Donegal to be very serious and to depend largely on the interposition of this House. The telegram reveals a state of things showing that many of the people of Donegal are in a state of starvation.


I cannot consent to the Motion at this moment. This Vote has been under discussion for four hours, and ought now to be allowed to pass. If we are allowed to take this and the next two Votes, we might then report Progress.


If we allow this Vote, which can be again discussed next year, to pass, I hope the Government will allow Progress to be reported. In that case, I think we could agree to the Votes named by the hon. Gentleman.


The matter referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Donegal is so serious that I hope the Government will allow it to be discussed.


The Votes we ask for after this are not contentious.


Then I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion, "That Item E, of £6,075, Salaries of Department of the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, be reduced by £1,000," by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(2.) £44,420, to complete the sum for House of Commons Offices.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday, 29th April.

Committee to sit again upon Monday, 29th April.

MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise to move that this House do now adjourn.


There are one or two more Orders.


I respectfully ask that I may move the Adjournment of the House, the questions having been disposed of and the Orders of the day entered upon.


Before the Orders of the day are disposed of it is very unusual to move the Adjournment of the House.


I do not wish to provoke a decision from the Chair on the spur of the moment. I will not persist in my Motion, and I will not say that I submit to your ruling, because I hope you will not give any ruling on the point.


There was a precedent a year or two ago.


There are many precedents the other way.


Order, order!