§ Mr. Hudson
rose to bring forward his Motion, to obtain from the House an expression of the general conviction that there was a necessity for reducing the amount of the salaries, superannuation, and other retired allowances at present paid to public servants. In examining the accounts of the income and expenditure of the United Kingdom, for the year ending January, 1832, he had found charges to the amount of 10,000,000l., for salaries, pay, and wages, all of which must have been fixed upon one or other of these principles—either by comparing the sums given to persons in the public service with the income of certain classes of the community; or the sums were considered a fair remuneration for time, skill and labour; or they were fixed, because below them persons could not be procured to perform the duties of the situation; and upon whichever of these principles they might have been fixed, it was manifest that great deductions might now be justly and fairly made, inasmuch as the incomes of all other classes of the community, the rewards of time, skill, and labour, and the cost of all the necessaries and conveniences of life, had been greatly reduced. It was notorious, that the rent of land; the profits of capital lent out at interest; the gains of farmers and tradesmen; the salaries of clerks, and the wages of mechanics, operatives, and labourers of all descriptions, had been pro- 354 gressively declining for many years, and particularly since the year 1825; and under such circumstances, there could be nothing unjust or unreasonable in reducing the salaries of persons in the public service, in proportion to the income of the other classes. The incomes of the receivers ought to be reduced equally with the incomes of the payers of the public taxes. There were charges to the amount of about 6,000,000l. for retired allowances, half-pay, and pensions, which were fixed at certain proportions of the full pay or salary, or at sums which were considered necessary to enable the persons receiving them to live in a certain style, or manner, or class of society; and if salaries were reduced, and if the incomes of all other classes of the community and the cost of all the necessaries and conveniences of life were reduced, surely it would be just to reduce retired allowances and pensions. He was aware, that the reductions he proposed would inconvenience the parties upon whom they would operate, but he was not aware of any reason why they should be exempted from such inconveniences, whilst the rest of the community were subjected to it. To sympathize with placemen and pensioners only—to give to them a monopoly of pity and protection—would be most unbecoming and most prejudicial to the character of that House. He was aware, that in the year 1822, reductions were made in the salaries of the civil servants of the State, but since that time, the issue and circulation of paper notes under 5l. had been prohibited, and salaries and retired allowances which might have then been suitable, would not be so now. Besides those reductions were not made to anything like the extent they ought to have been; they did not, in any case, exceed 12½ per cent. The Secretaries of the Treasury were reduced from 4,000l. to 3,500l. a-year, whereas the reduction ought to have been to 2,000l., and their salaries ought not now to exceed 1,.500l. a-year. High salaries and superannuation allowances were bad in principle. They induced habits of expense incompatible with habits of business and application to the duties of office. Great expectations were entertained, that the Reformed House of Commons would greatly reduce the expenditure of the country, and relieve the people from some of the taxes with which they were so grievously burthened, and not to do so would betray great insensibility to the opinions, wants, and wishes of the people. The most rigid 355 economy the most sweeping retrenchments, had become absolutely necessary. The charges for salaries, pay, wages, fees, re tired allowances, hall-pay, and pensions, amounted to about 16,000,000l. annually; from which deductions to the amount of 2,500,000l., might and ought to be made, without taking into consideration any reduction in the number of persons employed. With this view, he should beg leave to move the following resolution:—"That it is just and necessary, that all salaries, pay, poundage, and wages, as also all superannuation and retired allowances, half-pay and pensions, paid out of the public money, should be reduced ten per cent if they do not exceed the sum of 1,000l. a-year; fifteen per cent, if they exceed 1,000l., and do not exceed 2,000l a-year; twenty per cent if they exceed 2,000l., and do not exceed 4,000l. a-year, and twenty-five per cent, if they exceed 4,000l. a-year;—exceptions being made in favour of such as may have been reduced to the before-mentioned extent since the year 1828, and in favour of all superannuation and retired allowances, half-pay, and pensions, which may not exceed the sum of 1,000l. a-year."
§ Mr. Thomas Attwood
felt it to be his imperative duty to second the motion of the hon. Member. He was perfectly well aware, that the Gentlemen who would be affected by the reductions proposed by the hon. Member could ill afford to submit to those reductions in their incomes; but lie was also well aware that every one of the industrious working classes throughout the Kingdom had, for the last seven years, been obliged to submit to much larger and severer reductions in their incomes. He was well aware that the agricultural classes the farmers—had been under the necessity, for years, of submitting to the annihilation of their whole income, and that they were only enabled to get anything from their land in cases where they were contented to break up their land and force crops year after year, to the ultimate impoverishment and ruin of their farms. He was well aware, also, that the manufacturing classes had for years lost all hope of obtaining any income from their invested capital, and that they had been living on the principal, which was gradually diminishing to nothing. He was also aware that all the working classes had, for the last seven years, existed, it might almost he said, without any income; and it was now high time that the unproductive classes should be called upon to share in 356 the burthens which the general depression had thrown hitherto altogether upon the industrious and productive portion of the population. It was now also high time that the military, whom, he must be allowed to say, he honoured for the services they had rendered, should also he called upon to submit to the general reduction, and that the pay, which had been raised from 6d. to 13½d a day, in consequence of the rise in prices, should be again brought to its former level. He did not grudge the soldier his pay, but he must say, that it was not fair to continue the military at the full rate of the war pay, whilst the pay of the agricultural labourers throughout the kingdom had been reduced two-thirds of its former amount. He was sorry to call the attention of the House to these painful facts, but he only did so in order that they might not incur the risk of having them forced on their attention in another and more disagreeable manner.
§ The Speaker having put the question,
§ Mr. Hume
said, that nothing was more important than that the services of the public functionaries should be remunerated in a manner adequate to the duties required of them. The object aimed at by the present motion of the hon. Member was first brought before the notice of that House in the year 1822, by himself, and subsequently by the right hon. Baronet the first Lord of the Admiralty. He had confined his motion, in the first instance, to the expression, on the part of that House, of the necessity for reducing the salaries of public servants, so as more nearly to approximate to the increased value which they had derived from the change in the currency, and thus bring them nearer to their former standard. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported his proposition, and the House, agreed to the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the necessity for revising the whole range of the salaries of the civil officers of the country; and the result of their labours was to be found in three volumes of reports, containing the particulars of the reductions in salaries, which were recommended by them, hut which, however, were not carried into effect to the extent there proposed. Now he must in candour admit that, on looking over the returns of public salaries on the Table, he found that, although the smaller salaries of 200l., 300l., and 400l. had been too much looked after, to the neglect of the; larger salaries, yet that some of the salaries of 1,500l. and 2,000l. had been reduced 357 one half, and others of 3,000l, and 4,000l. had been abolished altogether. He must therefore say, that it would be impossible for the Government to adopt the rule for effecting these reductions which was now proposed by his hon. friend. He thought it would be more advisable to adopt the principle laid down by the former Committee on this subject—that, namely, of reducing to their former level all the salaries which had been raised to meet the extraordinary rise in prices and depreciation of the currency which occurred more than twenty years ago, and which formed the principal excuse for the conduct of Mr. Pitt in 1808, and of Mr. Addington in 1811, both of which Ministers had come down to the House with proposals to increase the salaries of public officers, on account of the increased demand upon them, occasioned by the rise in the prices of provisions. And as the salaries of public officers had been increased solely on that account, and of the depreciated state of the currency, he must say, that it was but fair, now the currency was again raised to its equal standard, to lower the salaries in the same proportion. The Treasury had done this to a certain extent, but it could only be effectually and satisfactorily carried into execution by means of a Committee of that House. He had chiefly risen to say, that he could not concur in the principle of the motion, and if the hon. Member would read the third Report of the Finance Committee on public Salaries, he would find it laid down as a primary principle—and the noble Lord opposite was a Member of that Committee—that no public officer should be paid more for his services than was an adequate remuneration, nor more than the services of any other person could be obtained for. There was also an important observation contained in the Report—namely, that the scale of remuneration in all the public departments, compared with the remuneration of private services, with equal responsibility and labour, so greatly preponderated in favour of the former, as to cause it to be extremely and unnecessarily bur then some to the public. The retiring pensions and allowances were a greater abuse than the high salaries; they ought to be abolished altogether: and one of the first duties of any Committee ought to be, to overhaul those allowances with that view. He need only state one fact to prove his assertion—namely, that the retired allowances from the War Office amounted to 25,000l. a-year, which was as much as 358 was paid for the execution of all the laborious duties of the officers in that establishment.
§ Mr. Richards
confided entirely in the honesty and good intentions of the noble Lord on the Treasury Bench, for, in his opinion, the country had not possessed a better set of Ministers for the last century. If the Government, however, were determined to go on a low level of currency, it must not only agree to the reductions in the public salaries which had been pointed out, but it must effect a much larger, and more extensive saving. He had had considerable experience, and knew accurately what was the present state of the industrious classes, and he must declare it to be his opinion, that the whole of them were, not only head-sick, but heart-faint. Not a single branch of trade or manufacture could be mentioned which was in a flourishing condition; and, notwithstanding the official statements which were from time to time adduced to the House by the right hon. member for. Manchester, in order to prove the flourishing state of the manufacturing classes, he must observe, that the right hon. Member only showed one side of the matter, and that was a fallacious one. He produced a large multiplicand, but the multiplier or rate of profit was very low. The wages of all the labouring classes were so low, that, if it were not for the Poor-rates, they would long ago have seen the industrious classes of England in the lamentable condition to which those classes were reduced in Ireland, the result of which would be, that the whole civil society of the kingdom would be broken up. The Poor-rate, by which the labouring classes were now partly supported, were pulling down the middle orders to the level of the labourers, and, though these classes were loyal to the Throne, and preferred the government of St. James's to that of St. Giles's, yet, it must be obvious, that if they did not give the labouring classes larger means of existence than they now had, their loyalty could not last much longer. The alteration which the Bill of the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, had effected in the value of money, operated not less than to the extent of thirty-three and a half per cent upon the currency. It had been foretold by many, and amongst others by himself, that the result of that Bill would be the depression of the value of labour. The right hon. member for Tamworth, however, possessed so completely the confidence of the House at that period, that he 359 was able to carry all his plans into effect; but, not withstanding he admired the eloquence so often dipslayed by that right hon. Member, he could not help observing that no man had committed more blunders. He hoped, however, that the right hon. Member would condescend, in future, when discussing the currency question, to talk in a plain manner to plain people. He supported the Motion, and as long as the present low prices continued, he would support every measure which tended to level the income of the public servants of the country to those prices.
§ Lord Althorp
had decided objections to this Motion. The hon. Member had asked him whether the Government had been recently applying itself to the reduction of expenditure. To that he would answer, that the first step which the Ministers took after they came into office, was to place their own salaries under the consideration of a Committee. That Committee made several recommendations, which the Government adopted, and their salaries were in consequence reduced. The members of the Government had commenced the task of reduction with their own salaries, in order that they might have a right to call upon their subordinate officers to submit to similar reductions. He certainly thought that the Government ought to be served as cheaply as possible. The scale of salary should be framed on the principle of the sum calculated to secure a fit and efficient person for the office. He was aware that the salaries of persons employed by the Government were higher than the salaries of persons employed by private individuals, but they were not higher than those of persons employed by public companies. He believed that the salaries paid by the East-India Company, and by the Insurance Companies, were to the full as high as those paid by the Government. Their superannuations were, he believed, still higher. It was known, that in the Government offices, the plan adopted with regard to superannuations rested upon the deduction of a certain sum annually from the salary, to secure a fund for the future support of the holders of office. A report had been made to the Government of the amount of income enjoyed by members of the different Revenue Boards, with the intention of seeing what reduction, if any, could be made in their salaries. As to the Customs, a report had been made recommending that, in future, the salaries should be reduced in that department. He felt 360 that, having once recognized the principle of reducing the salaries of the holders of offices to the scale of duty performed in those offices, it was necessary to consider whether it should be applied immediately in general, or should be postponed till after the lives of the present holders. He was originally of opinion that the first plan was the more advisable, but, on consideration, he thought it better to postpone the application of the rule, as Government would be compelled, if it adopted the rule, to work with unwilling, rather than with willing servants, and that, he was convinced, would be a false and profitless economy. Such being the case, he had abandoned his project of applying his rule immediately. One word with respect to superannuations. It had been found, that in many cases the reduction of a number of offices had led to a great increase in the number of superannuations. He was inclined to think, that where a person was in possession of an unnecessary office, it was better to reduce the office, and give him superannuation, than to continue him in an office which might acquire a claim to be preserved from the mere fact of its being long in existence. Acting upon this principle. Government had reduced three Commissioners of the Customs. In the Excise they had also reduced three Commissioners; and they had decided not to fill up the Commissionership which Lord Seymour had resigned, and another which it was expected would be vacant in a very short time. When this was done, they would have reduced no less than five Commissionerships in the Excise. The House was no doubt aware of the inquiries which were made into the state of the different departments of the revenue by a Commission of which Lord Wallace had been at the head, and that a great deal of good had resulted from that Commission. The present Government, acting on that principle, had determined to appoint a Commission to look into the Board of Excise, and the Gentleman who had undertaken the office of presiding over it, was his right hon. friend. Sir Henry Parnell, with whose qualifications for the office the whole country must be satisfied. He thought that a considerable number of offices might be reduced, and a great saving thus made for the public. Another considerable saving might be made by the consolidation of two or more of the public Boards. It was at present under the consideration of Government whether the Board of Stamps and the Board of 361 Taxes might not be consolidated, and whether the duty of the two departments might not be performed by one Board. If this could be effected, a considerable saving would be made by the reduction of several officers now employed in the collection of taxes, and by a great reduction in the number of Commissioners of both Boards. He could assure the House that all these matters would be carefully considered, and that no views of patronage would prevent Ministers from making all possible reduction which should take effect immediately, and not like some former reductions, which, though agreed upon at the moment, were not to take effect till a future period, and when that period arrived, the principle of the reduction was almost forgotten. It was on these grounds that Ministers were determined to proceed, and he hoped that they would give satisfaction to the House. Under these circumstances, he hoped the hon. Member would not press his Motion. It would be impossible to accede to it in the way in which he had put it. A great object with Government was to see how the public business could be done with as great economy as possible, but at the same time giving to those employed in the public service such remuneration as would ensure the business being done in the best manner, and take from the persons so employed the temptation of defrauding the revenue. It would be a very ill-judged economy to keep those employed in the service of the public at such small salaries as would expose them to the temptation of acting dishonestly or carelessly. He again hoped that the hon. Member would not press his Motion. He could not consent to it in its present form, yet he was unwilling to divide against it, as it might give rise to an erroneous opinion respecting the conduct and views of the Government.
§ Mr. Robinson
concurred with the noble Lord in the hope that the Motion would be withdrawn, for he was convinced that the reduction which it contemplated would operate very unequally in many instances. He was willing to give the noble Lord and his colleagues credit for desiring to effect reductions in the public service, but he was convinced that it would be useless to attempt any real economy unless the right of superannuation and to obtain civil pensions was altogether done away with. Consolidation might do much in obtaining the proposed end, but there would be no practical economy until the lavish system by which men, 362 after a few years service in a public capacity, were empowered to retire from office with nearly the whole amount of their salaries, was abolished. Why, he begged to ask, should not those engaged in the service of the public be expected, like persons employed in merchants' offices and public companies, to provide for their declining years? Some of the cases of superannuation which had lately occurred were of the grossest character, and certainly argued anything but a disposition in the Administration of the day to meet the distressed condition of the people. He might, for instance, mention one case where a gentleman, who, for twenty-three years had been receiving 1,400l. a-year as a Commissioner of the Customs, had been superannuated on the ground of deafness, although it was said he was as deaf when he first came to the office. He was at the present moment receiving 1,200l. a-year as a civil pension, although possessed of a private property of 10,000l. a-year. Now, did not, he asked, such a case, in the present distressed condition of the country, betray anything but a proper regard for the public purse? What he thought most objectionable in the system of superannuation was, the right which was assumed of retiring after a few years upon a pension nearly equal to the salary. He was as willing as any man could be, that in cases where public officers became worn out with service, and were not in possession of adequate private means to support them in their declining years, that Government should be vested with the power of granting civil pensions, and he was confident the House would always sanction them; but he was strongly opposed to the principle of right to superannuation, which was in all cases at present assumed. With regard to the observations of the noble Lord respecting the rate at which the East-India Company remunerated their officers, he wished to observe, that a general system of reduction was in active operation by the Company, in order to meet its depressed condition. If, however, the East-India Company's civil officers were more highly remunerated than those of Government, it was to be considered that in return those officers discharged their duties as efficiently as it was possible to have them discharged. The principal fault of Government officers was, that, although well paid, they were in many instances inefficient, being generally selected more from patronage than merit. Indeed, while on the subject, he wished to put it to the noble 363 Lord and his colleagues, whether or not, while the general circumstances of the country were obliging individuals of the highest talent and ability to accept employment in private offices at salaries far inadequate to their talents and the services they were capable of discharging, they ought not to avail themselves of the opportunity of supplying the public service with efficient men, and thus save the necessity of holding out the inducement of the enormous salaries which were paid at present, and had been for many years past.
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, that he had but one observation to make upon the question before the House. The present discussion had convinced him more than ever of the natural dislike the Whigs had to lie three in a bed. But whenever they made room, it was for their own convenience, and not for that of others. Yes, what he had to complain of was, that many persons had been turned out of their employment by the Whigs, for no other purpose than that the Whigs might get some of themselves in. ["Name!"] Well, since the House was so very eager to have names—since they pressed him so hotly to give a name—he would give one, which would be a proof of the correctness of his charge against the Whigs. They had turned out Sir Charles Saxton, Commissioner of the Plymouth Dock-yard, in order to put in his stead Sir George Grey, one of themselves. The fact was related to him by Sir Charles Saxton, who besides stated that he was still able to perform the duties of his office. The Whigs turned him out, notwithstanding, giving him a retiring pension of 800l. a-year after they had done so.
Mr. Vernon Smith
begged to state, in reply to what fell from the hon. member for Worcester about the deaf Commissioner of the Customs, whom the hon. Member mentioned as if his deafness was feigned, though, in truth, he had been deaf all his life, and who was stated to be put on the Superannuated List at 1,200l. a-year; he begged to state, with respect to the pension, that the Government had proceeded according to the limits marked out in the Superannuation Act. Not only in the present instance had they acted according to the principles of that Bill, but they had always acted in accordance with it. As to what was said about private fortune. Government could not take that into consideration. All it had to consider was, the service done to the public. With respect to the high salaries paid to officers in the 364 East-India Company's service, the Company thought it necessary, in order to insure efficient persons; and when Government required good public servants, they should put them on the same footing, and the same principles should regulate Government officers. With respect to paying those pensions from funds, subscribed to by the officers, or by stopping a portion of their salaries for that purpose, the plan had been adopted; but, after trial, it was found necessary to abandon it.
§ Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, that those who were acquainted with the duties which many of the persons employed in the service of the East-India Company had to perform, would not feel any surprise that their remuneration was ample. It was seen by the manner of some of them, who had occasion to come before Committees of the House, that they were men qualified to fill the highest places. The business of the company was performed in the ablest manner, and with unexampled integrity. Indeed, some of the persons employed by the company at home, had to discharge duties as great as belonged to the departments of some of the hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench near him. Some of them had to carry on various correspondence on the great interests of our vast empire in India, which they performed in a manner in the highest degree creditable to their ability and fidelity. He would say a word upon superannuation. That was the great question—that was a matter which weighed down the country, and which he thought, as far as it was a superannuation depending on a scale of years, ought to be put down. When the Government wanted persons to fill certain situations, it ought to inquire whether it could not get men equally qualified for them without any expectation of a retiring allowance. If they could get such men, he did not see why they should not prefer them, and thus save the vast sums which the country now paid in retiring allowances. The case would be different if they had to mate the selection from a small number of qualified persons, or if the persons employed, such as a barrister, had given up his profession for the appointment.; hut here it was otherwise; and when they had to choose out of a large body of qualified men, they ought to make the selection of those who might be willing to take the appointment without any hope of a superannuation allowance. He did not approve of a deduction from salaries to make a superannuation fund; for if that 365 were done, it would be au admission that they were paid more than they were entitled to as mere salary. He would let the provision for retirement rest with their own prudence, as it did in the cases of persons employed by other public bodies. He remembered the case of a captain in the navy claiming compensation on retirement from a place which he held, on the ground that he had relinquished his profession for it. That was fair enough on the part of the captain, but Government should not have filled up the appointment by a captain in the navy when they might have got another person equally well qualified, who, on retirement, could make no such claim.
§ Mr. John Fielden
wished that Government, in considering the question of salaries and superannuation allowances, would also take into consideration the changes which had taken place within these few years in the payment of the wages of labour. He would put the House in possession of a few facts on this subject, which would show how much the wages of labour bad fallen off within a few years. The statement was made out from his own books. In the year 1814., the price which he paid for weaving a piece of cloth—a sort of calico—well known in the markets of Manchester, by the name of "third seventy fours," was 8s. The price was gradually reduced till the year 1816, when it came to 2s. 6d. the piece. In 1817 it came again to 2s. 6d., 2s. 9d. and 3s., and afterwards to 3s. 6d. In 1818 it rose again to 4s. In February, 1819, it fell to 3s. 9d., and continued to descend till December in the same year, when it came to 2s. 6d. In October 1820, it came again from 2s. 6d. to 2s. 9d. and 3s. In October, 1821, to 3s and 3s. 3d. In January, 1822, it fell again to 2s. 9d., and remained nearly stationary till May, 1823, when it fell again to 2s. 6d., at which it remained till the end of 1825, when it fell to 2s. In 1826 it fell to 1s. 9d. In August of that year it became as low as 1s. 6d. In the early part of 1827 it fell to 1s. 3d.; in May of that year it rose to 1s. 6d., in June to 1s. 9d., in August to 2s. In February, 1828, it was still at 2s.; but in May, 1829, it came as low as 1s. 1½d., and from that time to the present the average was about 1s. 3d. The present price was 1s. 3d. He hoped the noble Lord would consider these facts. But let it not be supposed, that these great reductions of the wages of labour gave a proportionate increase to the profits of the employer. No such thing. 366 At the very lowest rate of wages he gave the weaver as great a proportion of the price of the whole piece as he did at the highest. In every case he gave him the fourth of the price which the piece fetched. It might be asked why he made such reductions? He would answer, that he was compelled to make them by circumstances over which he had no control. He had always been the advocate for the poor. He had done as much to serve the poor as any other man, consistently with his limited means. He sat there as the Representative of the poor How did this bear on the question before the House? He maintained, that it did bear upon it. When hon. Members talked of superannuation allowances to men holding good appointments, he would beg of them to consider the condition of these poor weavers. With hard and continued work, few, if any of them were able to earn more than 6s. per week. What, he would ask, was that sum to a man who had to support a wife and a couple of children? What would any man in that House think if he were obliged to try and support himself and a small family upon that sum? Hon. Members should take these circumstances into account when they talked of settling the question of superannuation allowances. What, he would ask, was to become of his poor weavers when they were no longer able to work? He could not pension them off, he had not the means of doing so. They must go to the parish or starve; and yet they were the King's subjects, and as much entitled to protection as those individuals to whom hon. Gentlemen talked of giving retiring allowances on their giving up lucrative appointments. He would tell the noble Lord and his colleagues, that unless some means were devised of giving the poor more food and more clothing for their labour, they would not be able to keep the country quiet for any length of time. The people, however, were now perfectly quiet, as they had the greatest confidence in a Reformed Parliament, and the highest expectations that it would devise some means for their speedy relief.
Mr. John Stanley
observed, that the House heard night after night such statements as that which had been made by the hon. Member who had just sat down, but he could assure them, that they did not contain an accurate description of the condition of the working classes in the manufacturing districts. The reductions to which the hon. Member had just alluded must 367 have been caused by the power-looms. He could state, that in a district with which he was acquainted, the average earnings of about 1,400 men, women, and children was about 10s. a week each.
§ Mr. Wynn Ellis
said, that this was incorrect. There were no persons employed in any branch of the cotton-trade who had such earnings.
Mr. John Stanley
repeated the statement. The 10s. a-week; included the sums earned by women and children, for the earnings of the men were about 30s. a week; and he could add, that a more contented population did not exist than that of the district to which he alluded.
§ Mr. Wynn Ellis
could assure the House, that the picture given by the hon. Member who had just sat down was altogether overcharged as to the wages of the manufacturers; he, at least, was not aware of any place in which such wages were given. In the town (Leicester) which he had the honour to represent, the children did not at the most earn more than 5s. or 6s. a week. perhaps 5s. was about the average, and of this they had to pay 1s. a week for the use of a loom. He would admit, that the people had great confidence in a Reformed Parliament, to relieve them from their distress, and he hoped, that that confidence would not be misplaced. He hoped that Government would take some steps to relieve the people from their present great difficulties. In conclusion, he must repeat, that the account given by the hon. Member who last addressed the House as to the amount of the earnings of the weavers was not correct. Few men with sixteen hours of labour earned more than 6s. per week, and there were few families whose united earnings came to more than 9s. per week.
§ Mr. Gillon
considered, that this last statement did not fall short of the truth, as in his part of Scotland, the best hands, working sixteen hours a day, did not earn more than 6s. 9d. a week, and taking from that certain necessary deductions, their average weekly carnings might be safely put down as not more than 5s. 4d. Ordinary hands did not earn more than 4s. a week. He considered this peculiarly hard upon the workmen in his district, who had been formerly in respectable circumstances. In good times they had saved money, and in their prosperity endeavoured to provide for the evil day. Whatever money they had saved was spent long since, and they were, through the badness of the present times, 368 obliged to dispose of whatever little property they had collected. Something ought immediately to be done to reduce the expenditure of the Government, or no man could answer for the tranquillity of the country. It was quite necessary that pensions and superannuations should be reduced to meet the circumstances of the revenue, and to accede to the wishes of the people.
§ Mr. Marshall,
knowing the state of trade in the districts to which he belonged, could say, that wages were generally on the rise. Children, at a very early age, got 3s. a week, and the wages increased according to their age, from that sum to 6s., 8s. and 9s,; and able workmen received as much as 15s. or 16s. a week. A girl of eighteen years of age could cam 8s., and a lad of sixteen years of age 7s. a week.
§ Mr. Brocklehurst
having heard the statements of wages so highly rated in several districts, I should not be doing my duty to my constituency, and the dense population by which they are surrounded, did I not attempt to set the House right as regards the great depreciation of wages that have occurred in my own neighbourhood. The earnings were—
|Of Men||Young Men||Women||Children||Children under 10 yrs.|
§ It is intended to legislate as to the employment of those younger children; but great difficulty will arise as to families where there may be seven or eight young children, by interfering with their scanty earnings, unless means be devised for the heads of families gaining better wages. The rate of wages and distress in Ireland having been referred to, and having some knowledge of the state of Dublin, I beg to call the attention of the House, and also that of the Members for Ireland in particular, to evidence given last year by Mr. Jonathan Sisson before a Select Committee on the silk trade, that in 1824 there were 2,200 looms employed in manufacturing silk, and, at the common computation of five persons occupied indirectly by each loom, there would be 11,000 persons so employed; but in 1832 there were only 153 looms at work, employing 750;—thus 10,000 people have been thrown out of employment from this circumstance. It may be seen, that great distress prevails also in that country, and I would call upon the Irish Members to turn their attention to matters of this kind, rather than endlessly 369 occupy the time of the House by political discussions of subjects that only continue agitation. They can never hope to sec prosperity restored to that country until tranquillity be established, and capital once more have a chance of coming into operation; and I trust that, by establishing tranquillity, measures of amelioration can then be brought forward with a view to the relieving both countries. As it is, no real business can be proceeded with; and hearing last night a reference to the absence of young Members, I beg to say, as far as my knowledge of the House goes, the majority consisted of young Members anxious to discharge their duty, but for these long and useless debates; and if ever I hear young Members so reflected upon I shall move, that the House be counted. I must apologise for detaining the House upon the latter subject; the former one, as regards the distress of the country, needs none; it is of too great importance not to press itself upon public attention, and it will do that in a more serious way, I fear, ere long.
Mr. John Maxwell
wished to recall the attention of the House to the question really before it. It should be observed, that the salaries of Ministers, and of other public functionaries had been raised in consequence of the depressed value of the currency. This point had frequently been alluded to by different Gentlemen; and he was sorry to say, that it had never received the smallest attention. It did not, at all events, receive that attention which a subject of the greatest possible interest ought to command. So long as that fact was kept out of the view of the public—so long as they were inattentive to that great question, which he was glad to perceive would soon be brought before the House—so long would they proceed in a mistaken course. They ought to bear in mind what had taken place in this country during the depreciation of the currency. They had now, fortunately, an opportunity of looking to the overpaid salaries of public officers, and also to the underpaid wages of that part of the community on whom the prosperity of the State depended. He said this, because by them public credit was supported; from them the Treasury received the Malt-tax, the duties on sugar, on soap, and on all those great articles of consumption, the imports on which were as necessary to the exigencies of the State, as the commodities were necessary to supply the wants of the community at large. He 370 hoped that the question of wages would be more and more, made the subject of discussion in that House; and he trusted, that those Gentlemen who really had the welfare of the country at heart, whether they sat on that side, or the other side of the House, would warn Ministers of the necessity of attending to the wants of the people. They must have high wages and profits, or low taxes. The people ought not to be driven to despair—they ought not to be prevented from supporting and sustaining the credit of the country, by becoming the consumers of those articles, the duties on which were as necessary to the support of the State, as the articles themselves were necessary to the comfort of those by whom they were purchased.
Mr. Robert Stewart
said, that English Members complained of the time taken up in the discussion of Irish affairs; but if such declamatory speeches were persisted in as they had heard that night, Irish Members would have to complain of the time taken up in the discussion of English affairs. With regard to the matter in question, he was of opinion, that such wholesale Motions as that made by the hon. member for Evesham, instead of forwarding the object which hon. Members had in view in making them, tended rather to impede and thwart it. He would only bring one or two instances to show the absurdity of such a general Motion. By the hon. Member's Motion, ten per cent was to be taken off the salary of those that had 1,000l. That perhaps, might safely be done; but the hon. Member proposed, that ten per cent should likewise be taken off the salary of the clerk who had only 120l. a year. Did the hon. Member consider, that in these cases the proportions of reduction were equal? To him the Motion appeared so preposterous, that he should give it his most decided negative. He was surprised, on the former evening, to hear an hon. Member assert, that the present Government had made no reductions, or had no intention to make any. After the statement of the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), he was sure that no person would say, that Ministers had not made every reduction which was consistent with the public service.
§ Motion negatived.