Mr. Biddulph rose, pursuant to, notice, to make his promised motion, relative to the Salary of the Chairman of the Ways and Means. This salary, in his opinion, might be saved to the public. As he considered it as of extreme moment that the motion which he was now to make in furtherance of that economy which had been so warmly recommended in his majesty's speech, should not suffer from any thing connected with the person by whom it was brought forward, he disclaimed all intention of hostility to his majesty's ministers; he was fully sensible of their great talents, the purity of their motives, and their resolution to redeem the pledges of economy which they had given. If this had not been their intention, he was persuaded that the passage to which he alluded would not have been inserted in his majesty's speech. He admired the ability of ministers, and particularly of the noble lord (Howick) who had lately made a speech so distinguished for its eloquence, and so well calculated to make the deepest impression. The measure which he had to recommend, if carried into execution, would be attended with the happiest effects. As to the individual who was said to be named to the situation of chair- 229 man of the committee of Ways and Means, (Mr. Hobhouse) he certainly meant nothing personal against him. He had known him from his earliest years, had the greatest respect for him, and he knew too well the liberality of his mind, to doubt that he would give him credit for having the public good only in view. He would now come more immediately to the subject. He was sensible that this would appear rather too early a period for such a motion, but then it was proper to bring it forward before the chairman had entered on his duties. His attention had been particularly called to the subject by the paternal expressions in his majesty's speech, which had made the deepest impression on every one who heard them, and which, if not acted upon, might subject them to the charge of criminality. He would read the passage to which he alluded. The hon. gent. then read that part of the speech which lamented the necessity of the public burthens, and recommended economy. He thought this was an instance in which the economy recommended in his majesty's speech might be well put in practice. No man should, in his opinion, be paid for his duty in the house of commons, with the exception only of the person who filled the chair, whose salary was meant to support the dignity of the house, as well as to reward his labours. But the situation of chairman of the Ways and Means was one of a different nature. There was no reason, he apprehended, why some of the other officers paid by government should not take the duty on themselves. He asked the candour of the house, whether some of the junior lords of the treasury might not discharge it? It might be said, that their minds would be too much harassed, and their bodies too much fatigued with other duties, to undertake this one. But he understood that this could not be the case, as their duties consisted only in signing a few papers: but at all events, there were some whose duties were not heavy. An objection might be made, that this was an unusual mode of proceeding. His answer was, that these were unusual times; that the necessities of the public were unusual, and that this would justify them in receding from common forms. Another objection might be taken from the trifling saving that would thus be made to the public. His answer was, that the principle was not trifling, as it would convince the country, that the house was seriously resolved to set about plans of economy. It was necessary 230 that there should be public burthens at the present moment, but it was proper that those burthens should be rendered as light as possible. He was convinced from reflection, and the conversation of sensible people, that a radical change of measures was absolutely necessary to the salvation of the country. A rigid economy would be that radical change. It had not yet been tried, and he recommended it as the first and easiest expedient. The hon. gent. concluded by moving this resolution: "That the "assignment of a salary to any member of "the house as, chairman of the committee "of Ways and Means, is unnecessary, and, "in the present circumstances of the "country, inexpedient."—It was some time before the motion was seconded. A member having however given it that formal claim to consideration,
rose. He thanked his hon. friend for the favourable sentiments he entertained of his majesty's ministers, who, he assured him, were determined to practise the economy recommended in his majesty's speech. He exceedingly regretted, however, that the motion of his hon. friend was of such a sort as placed him under the necessity of appearing to resist that disposition, which had been manifested by his majesty, with regard to public economy. He felt as strongly as his hon. friend, or as any one, the necessity of economy, and of confining within the narrowest possible limits the supplies for those efforts which were now more than ever requisite. But feeling the obligation imposed by the pledges which had been given, he was sure that it was not his majesty's intention to limit an expence which was necessary for the due execution of a laborious and indispensable duty. This was not one of the points to which that economy could be properly applied. His hon. friend had fallen into two mistakes. He had alluded to a person, as appointed to this duty, for which, indeed, none could be better qualified. But the fact was, that no such appointment had been made. It was only when the house was in a particular committee, and when a call was made for such a person, that the appointment of a chairman took place. There had as yet been no such committee, nor had there been any such call. His hon. friend had fallen into another mistake. No salary was at present fixed for the place. Since the revolution, till of late years, there had been a salary attached to it, which had been paid out of the civil list. But the 231 house thinking it inconsistent with their privileges, that the person who discharged a duty in which they were particularly concerned, should be paid in this manner, abolished the practice, and at the end of every session voted such a remuneration as to them seemed proper. If then his hon. friend had any objection to this, it would come better at the end of the session, when the vote of remuneration should be proposed. But what were the duties of this office? It was necessary that the person who held it, should be prepared with a full knowledge of the business of the house, and all its public duties, and that he should be acquainted with, and explain its orders when in a committee. He was bound to attend from the sitting of the house to its rising; all which would require time, attention, ability, and a great deal of personal labour. In every respect his hon. friend (Mr. Hobhouse) was well qualified; and certainly, whoever performed the duty well, was entitled to some remuneration. But his hon. friend supposed that the duty might be performed by other officers of the crown, who had abundance of leisure for it. All he would say to that was, that if there were any offices, the duties of which were so trifling as he supposed, the proper mode would be to move for the abolition of those offices. If his hon. friend's resolution should be agreed to, the result would be, according to the proverb, that, "What was every body's business, would be nobody's business," and consequently, confusion and disorder would take place of that regular and orderly way in which the business of the house had hitherto been carried on. Though desirous of economy where it was practicable, he did not think this one of the cases where it would be well applied. At all events, the resolution ought not to be moved till the end of the session. He really did not see any necessity for saying any thing further on this subject. It was one on which the house might properly judge, without any long and tedious discussion. The noble lord concluded by moving, that the other orders of the day be now read.
§ Mr. Biddulph
in reply, said he had not been aware that no salary was attached to this office. But even upon the ground that the remuneration was not voted till the end of the session, he did not think his resolution so ill-timed. If agreed to at the present moment, it would at least have the effect of removing every expectation of 232 salary or remuneration. The noble lord said, that if there were any unnecessary offices, a motion might be made for abolishing them. But in that case, he should be told that duties were attached to those offices which must be performed. He considered this country as in the situation of a private person, whose circumstances rendered it necessary for him to reduce his establishment. This was a case that might happen to the public as well as to a private person. It was sufficient for him that he had called the attention of the house to this business. He had no hostility to ministers. He had been too much accustomed to see in them proofs of the most noble disinterestedness to conceive it possible that they could be changed. If honours and offices alone had been their ambition, many of them might have had them fifteen years ago. But as he had been returned by a set of enlightened constituents, who had public economy much at heart, he felt it his duty to submit this resolution to the house.—The motion was then put, and negatived without a division.