HC Deb 08 July 1828 vol 19 cc1640-3

The House having resolved itself into a Committee, to which the Superannuation Allowances acts were referred,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he should have felt more gratified if he had not been called upon to bring forward the present motion, until every member could have had a copy of the Report of the finance Committee on which it was founded. The House would learn from that Report the reasons which had led the Committee unanimously to recommend the measure with which he should conclude. The Bill would relate solely to civil superannuations, and to the retiring pensions of foreign ministers. In the course of the inquiries of the Finance Committee, they could not fail to be struck with the large proportion of the expense of the inefficient part of the public service to that of the effective part. The whole expense of the effective part of the public service was twenty-one millions; while the ineffective part, or, to speak more accurately, the remuneration for past services, imposed on the country an annual charge of five millions and a half. It was perfectly true, that this was an inefficient part of the public service, though the House should not treat it altogether as a useless burden. It was the necessary consequence of the long war in which we had been engaged, and might therefore be said to be a record of our glory. At the same time, considering the financial circumstances of the country, every body would concur, that the House could not do an act, however painful it might be, more necessary than to inquire what reductions could be effected in the public expenditure. The charge for superannuations in the Civil Service amounted to 500,000l. It was not merely the amount that was worthy of observation, but the rapid mode in which it had accumulated. It appeared by the Returns, that six years ago this charge was 340,000l year, while at the present period, it was little short of 500,000lx2014; Though this increase was, in some degree, owing to the reduction of offices, in pursuance of the economical plans of government; yet the amount of the superannuation charge called for the serious consideration of the House. The right hon. gentleman then referred to the measures taken by parliament and government in 1821, the result of which was, that an act was passed in 1822, compelling persons in the civil service to make a certain contribution out of their salaries, to lay the basis of a Superannuation Fund.—Two years afterwards, in consequence of the numerous complaints of the hardships sustained by this reduction of the salaries, and of the general improvement of the circumstances of the country, that House was pleased to press on government the repeal of this act, which accordingly took place. The Finance Committee, with these facts before them, had only the choice of recommending either a reduction of the salaries to such a degree as should be barely sufficient to remunerate the labour performed, or to adopt the principle of the act of 1822; and, allowing the salaries to be somewhat larger than was necessary for the mere execution of the duty, to compel the party to provide himself for his superannuation. In adopting the latter part of the alternative, he thought the Finance Committee had acted wisely. It would be more beneficial both to the public and the individuals. The other part of the bill related to the retiring pensions of Foreign Ministers. By an act passed in 1810, it was provided, that no individual should be entitled to a pension as a Foreign Minister until ten years after the date of his first appointment, and after having actually served two years.—The present amount of these pensions was 60,000l. It was therefore deemed fit to impose some further restrictions to prevent its increase. The Committee recommended, that the total amount of these pensions should be reduced to 40,000l., and that that sum should not be exceeded. This recommendation would be embodied in the bill; which would further provide, that no individual should be entitled to a pension, until fifteen years after the date of his first appointment, and that nobody should receive a pension of 2,000l. unless he had served two years as an Ambassador. The right hon. gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in a bill "to amend the several Acts relating to Public Salaries, Pensions, and Allowances."

Mr. Hume

said, that the right hon. gentleman had fairly stated the sentiments of the Finance Committee, which in this instance had been unanimous. He confessed he was sorry to find that government had departed from the prudent arrangement which it had come to, after a minute investigation of the subject, some years ago. He complained of the system by which he found clerks in different departments, whose duties were almost the same, rewarded by a different scale of remuneration. He thought that the heads of the departments ought to settle these irregularities of salary. All the departments had exceeded the scale at which individuals paid their clerks; but, in our large establishments, we could only perform a task of reduction in these matters by degrees; and therefore it was that he concurred in the resolution of the Finance Committee, though they had not made a reduction equal to that which he had anticipated.

Sir H. Hardinge

contended, that the Commander-in-Chief had done all in his power to keep down the dead-weight of the army; that was to say, the half-pay. As a proof of it he would state, that since 1820, one-fifth of that dead-weight had been absorbed. With respect to the clerks of the public offices, he thought that they could not be fairly compared with the clerks in banking-houses, or merchants' counting-houses. The latter had the power of making their fortune by successful efforts, while the former could never rise above his salary.

Mr. Monck

thought that public clerks were well enough paid. As to the advantages which had been described as belonging to private clerks, it was well known that these advantages rarely occurred.

Mr. W. Smith

said, it was well known, that the clerks in public offices regarded themselves in a superior situation; and that they would be very unwilling to change places with private clerks.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, that when hon. members looked at the situation which the clerks in these public offices held, he was sure they would agree with him that; the spirit of a gentleman ought to pervade those who held them. They should feel that they had a character to lose. He was sure that the clerks themselves were animated by that feeling, and that it was owing to the prevalence of that feeling, that the subordinate stations in the public offices in this country were filled by a class of individuals in whom could be placed higher confidence than in the employes of the same grade in other countries. It was; evident that a great degree of confidence must be placed in these clerks. A clerk in the foreign offices, for instance, must often be in possession of the most important secrets. He ought, then, to have a salary sufficient to maintain him in his rank as a gentleman; especially as he was cut off from all other profitable employment.—What he had said was not in consistent with the support which he intended to give this bill.

Leave was given to bring in the bill.