§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have to inform your Lordships that I have received a letter from Mr. Ralph Disraeli tendering his resignation of the office of Clerk Assistant. In moving that his resignation be accepted, I desire to add that I am sure the good wishes of all your Lordships will follow Mr. Disraeli into his retirement after his long period of service in fulfilling his duties at the Table of this House.
That it be an instruction to the Select Committee on the House of Lords Office to report to the House the amount of retiring allowance which, in the opinion of the Committee, should be awarded to Ralph Disraeli, Esquire."—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Motion, "That the said resignation be accepted," agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Your Lordships are aware that the duty of appointing to the second and third places at the Table is provided for by Statute (5 Geo. IV., c. 82, s. 3), which vests it in the Lord Chancellor for the time being, subject to the approval of the House. A Committee of your Lordships' House went very fully, last Session, into the subject of the clerical establishment attached to the House, including the officers at the Table; and it is in accordance with their Report that the number of those officers should continue to be three. There is no question, therefore, at present as to the necessity of filling up the vacancy which has recently occurred. In consider- 546 ing what was the best appointment to make I need hardly assure your Lordships that I looked to the Report of that Committee with a desire to give effect on the first occasion to the principle of their suggestions, which pointed to obtaining efficiency and economy in the establishment by filling some of the places at the Table with officers selected from amongst the Clerks of the House. I felt myself at the same time bound by engagements handed down to me by my predecessors—my adherence to which was recently stated in both Houses of Parliament—to take an opportunity when it might arise of abolishing the office of Secretary of Presentations, whose duties might be otherwise provided for. I am fortunate in being able to make an appointment which will at the same time vacate that office to which I have referred and transfer to the Table one of the Clerks of the House who has served your Lordships for no less than 28 years, and has manifested a high character and ability, to which most of your Lordships on both sides of the House can testify. I feel I may confidently invite your Lordships approval of my appointment of Mr. Thesiger. I will not trouble your Lordships with the details of the economical and departmental results of this arrangement, but will merely state that I believe your Lordships will find them to be more effective than could be arrived at by any other arrangement at the present time. An Act of Parliament will be required for disposing of certain statutory duties of the Secretary of Presentations, and I will presently ask your Lordships' leave to introduce a Bill for that purpose.
Moved to resolve,
That this House do approve of the appointment of the Honourable Edward Peirson Thesiger, C.B., as their Lordships' Clerk Assistant, in the room of Ralph Disraeli, Esquire, resigned."—(The Lord Chancellor.)
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I am sorry my noble Friend Earl Granville is not present, because I know he desired to make one or two observations upon this matter. My reason for rising is to remind your Lordships that there was a Report last Session from the Black Rod Committee dealing with the Clerks on the Table, and I refer to it in order that your Lordships may clearly 547 understand what the point is. The Report states that the Clerk Assistant and Reading Clerk were formerly appointed by, the Clerk of Parliaments; but since 1824 the Lord Chancellor for the time being, by the Statute 5 Geo. IV., cap. 82, sec. 3, had the appointment of those officers, and the Committee strongly recommend that the appointment to at least one of those clerkships should revert to the Clerk of Parliaments—who formerly had those appointments—and that he should have the right to promote one of the senior clerks to be Clerk at the Table. That change would, in the opinion of the Committee, conduce to efficiency not less than economy. The appointment now rests by statute with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack; but I cannot help regretting that it has not been found possible or convenient to give effect to the recommendations of the Black Rod Committee. One mode in which that might have been done would have been by the promotion of the Reading Clerk to the place vacated by Mr. Disraeli, for whose resignation of his post I am sure we are all very sorry. If Mr. Bethell could have been appointed to succeed to that position, of course his place would have been open for the appointment of one of the clerks of the Department, and that, I apprehend, might have been done by the Lord Chancellor himself, without giving up the statutory rights which, of course, he possesses until an alteration is made by Act of Parliament. I merely express that regret, not the least in the world wishing to disparage Mr. Thesiger, who, I have no doubt, is a very efficient clerk indeed; but there has been a great desire expressed in the other House that we, in this House, should, as far as possible, bring our establishment within such limits as, while not impairing the efficiency of our establishment, will conduce to economy. The whole recommendations of the Black Rod Committee would conduce to those results; and I had hoped that upon the occurrence of a vacancy such as this it would have been possible to have complied with this Report. There is another point in this Report which I would mention. The Committee recommend that the appointment, which has been hitherto at £1,800 a year, with £300 allowance for a house, should be reduced to £1,500, without 548 such allowance. I hope that change will be made. The Committee, who carefully considered these matters, were of opinion that that would be an adequate salary for this post. With those remarks I will not refer further to a matter which really rests with the Lord Chancellor, for, of course, practically the appointment is that of the noble and learned Lord alone.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, it is not very easy, when personal considerations arise, to take part in the discussion on such a matter without seeming to make comparisons between person and person. But I disclaim altogether any intention of that kind. What I think it my duty to do is to explain the grounds on which, if I had myself been in the position of my noble and learned Friend, I should have thought it right upon this occasion to make the same appointment as he has made. That is not the least by way of disparagement of any other gentleman whose services may, quite consistently with that course being taken, deserve the greatest recognition from your Lordships. But the matter, as I understand it, is this. In the first place, the recommendation of the Committee which has been referred to cannot possibly, in all respects, receive effect without an Act of Parliament, vesting the appointment of the Clerk at the Table in the Clerk of Parliaments, as the Committee proposed, and the proposition is that the privilege so given to the Clerk of Parliaments should be exercised in a certain and, as I think, an exceedingly proper manner; but, in the meantime, until an Act of Parliament is passed, the particular vacancy is to be filled up by the Lord Chancellor. I take it for granted, as my noble Friend who has just sat down has said, that it will be an appointment with a reduction of salary; and I assume therefore that the public will get the benefit of the reduction of salary that is to be effected by the change, and the further reduction which the Lord Chancellor, or at least the holder of that office for the time being, must be considered as engaged to make at any time at which a suitable and proper opportunity may offer. When I was in office the subject of the rearrangement of the Lord Chancellor's offices was much discussed with the Treasury; and after most deliberate con- 549 sideration it was determined to place the offices upon a footing which would involve considerable reductions in favour of the public. That could not be done all at once, because the interests of those who had long served the particular offices should not be summarily set aside. One of those offices was the Lord Chancellor's Secretary of Presentations, which had been held for upwards of 20 years by Mr. Thesiger; and I must bear my testimony—as I think everyone who has filled the office of Lord Chancellor would bear testimony—to the discretion, the diligence, and the very great value of the services which he performed during the whole of that time; in addition to which he is a very experienced clerk in the general service of the House. The arrangement made at that time was that whenever Mr. Thesiger vacated the office, as of course he might, by—I will not speak of death, that being, I hope, unlikely to happen—but, by resignation, which was again unlikely, or, there was a third way, by promotion to an office which it might be worth his while to accept—he should be deemed to be eligible for any office for which he would be legally qualified. Not many such offices are in the gift of the Lord Chancellor; I am not quite sure whether there is one except this for which Mr. Thesiger would be legally qualified; but, at all events, I must say this: I feel that I should not myself have been acting in the faith and spirit of that arrangement if, supposing an opportunity had occurred to me of bestowing on the Secretary of Presentations an office fur which he was legally and otherwise well qualified, I had not taken advantage of it in the way now proposed by my noble and learned Friend—a re-arrangement which would immediately effect a saving to the public purse of £725 a year. If Mr. Thesiger had not been a person in every respect admirably qualified for the place to which it is proposed to appoint him, I believe the Lord Chancellor would not have made the appointment at the present time; but knowing that in all respects he is admirably qualified for it, though I do not say there might not be other gentlemen who would be as well qualified, I think this is an opportunity of effecting the re-arrangement contemplated. If this opportunity had been neglected, I think it is possible 550 that many years might have elapsed before such another would recur; because Mr. Thesiger is a man who I believe will be able to give service to the public for at least as many years to come as he has done hitherto. My Lords, those are my reasons for thinking that, quite consistently with the spirit and purpose of the Report of the Select Committee, and, at the same time, carrying out the engagement which the Lord Chancellor at the time came to with the Treasury, this is an appointment which will be advantageous to the public, as I have no doubt it will also be to the House.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
My Lords, as I was Chairman of the Committee to which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has referred, perhaps I may be expected to make a few remarks upon their Report and recommendations. I shall not in any way refer to the present appointment, or venture to criticise adversely or otherwise the manner in which the noble and learned Lord has exercised his undoubted right. But I do venture to say that in the event of any further vacancy occurring at the Table, which I hope may be far removed, I trust the recommendation will not be lost sight of; and that it may be found possible, upon the occurrence of such a contingency, that the office of Clerk at the Table should be combined with one of the headships of Departments of this House, and the recommendation of the Committee should be carried into effect. I make those remarks, not in any way with, the view of criticising the appointment made on the present occasion.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I merely wish to correct the misapprehension which I think the noble Earl is under, and I make the correction for the sake of Mr. Bethell, who is not present, but who, of course, will ascertain what has been done by your Lordships. The recommendation of your Lordships' Committee was one which would not have comprehended Mr. Bethell; and if he had been selected, I should have disregarded the recommendation of the Black Rod Committee, as he was not one of the class of persons to whom such recommendation applies.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
Without desiring to recur to the appointment of Mr. Thesiger, which I think will be 551 advantageous, I would make one remark as to the position he will occupy. I do not apprehend that in Mr. Thesiger's position as second clerk at the Table it will be possible for him to combine with it the position of clerk in the establishment. I think that is out of the question. He will, no doubt, have that office alone; but my point is that if the Reading Clerk's office should become vacant, there might be a combination of the office of Reading Clerk with that of Clerk of the Establishment. That might, I think, be done, though my noble Friend would be much better able to speak to that than myself.
§ On Question, resolved in the affirmative.