HC Deb 19 March 1840 vol 52 cc1243-5
Lord Teignmouth

rose to call the attention of the House to the case of Mr. Benjamin Mills. This gentleman had, for upwards of a period of thirty years, filled the situation of surveyor of taxes. His income during the war was 500l. a year, which was reduced in time of peace to 300l. a year, being made up partly of salary and partly of emoluments. His salary amounted to only 90l. a year, but on being removed from his situation he conceived that under the provisions the 4th and 5th William 4th., cap. 94, he was entitled to the enjoyment, in the shape of retiring allowance, of three-fourths of his income, as made up of salary and emoluments, and an opinion given by Sir W. Follett on a similar case, entirely confirmed his opinion. However, instead of this sum being awarded him, he had only obtained 52l. a year. So strongly did he feel the justice of this case, that if he went out with only half a dozen he should divide the House. The noble Lord then moved that the petition of Benjamin Mills be referred to a select committee.

The Chancellor of the Exchequ

said, that the situation in which this gentleman was placed was not attributable to the present Treasury Board, but was the effect of an old established rule. The Old Superannuation Act laid down a general rule that a certain deduction should be made from the salaries of certain officers therein specified, who, when they retired, should be in consequence of such deductions entitled to a proportional amount of retiring allowance. Since the passing of that statute, every case similarly circumstanced with that of Mr. Mills, had been decided by the Lords of the Treasury in the same way as his; and to every application of the kind, in which it was sought to put forward the amount of emoluments of which the officer; had been in the receipt as a ground of augmenting their retiring allowance, the Lords had uniformly replied, "If you had calculated the emoluments when the annual deductions were to be made, you would be entitled to have them considered now as a ground of claim, but you cannot cut both ways and be allowed to reckon them as part of your salary for the purpose of increasing your allowance." He thought it would be extremely inconvenient that gentlemen should be encouraged to apply to the House of Commons in cases of this kind, instead of applying to those whom they served. It would have a very bad effect on the public service if the House allowed any interference with the retired allowances of public officers, and he must therefore resist the appointment of this committee.

Mr. Freshfield

thought that the claim of Mr. Mills was so precise, and so fully supported by the Act introduced by the hon. Member for Pembroke, that it could not be set aside by any allegation of an old arrangement of a remission of taxation in his favour. The amount of salary which the surveyor received was uncertain, because it depended upon his own vigilance. There was a small amount of fixed allowance; but the rest was made to depend upon the vigilance with which he discharged the duties of his office. If any doubt existed as to the claim of this gentleman, he admitted that the matter ought to be left to the discretion of the Treasury; but where the words of the Act of Parliament were distinct, the individual ought to have the benefit of them. Now, though in this case the general words of the Act referred to salary only, the sense in which that word was used was explained by the particular clause, which provided any office clerk or other person who had served above ten years, and under fifteen, should be entitled to an annual allowance not exceeding a certain proportion of the salary and emoluments of his office; so that the word salary clearly meant salary and emolument. Yet here was the case of an officer who, after thirty-five years' service, came for compensation under that Act, and he was told that his fixed salary was only 90l. a year, and though the income of his office had been 400l., the compensation must be only the regular proportion with reference to that sum. The House must remember that these surveyors were men of the highest respectability, and men of education; and yet, he understood that the allowance granted to this gentleman was just 1l. per week. He begged to ask whether it were politic to have it said that nobody in the world deserved so little to be well served as the public, because nobody in the world seemed so niggardly as the public in compensating its servants when they retired after a long period of service.

Mr. Hume

said, that if the motion were for a committee to inquire how far the burdens thrown upon the public by the superannuation system could be got rid of, he should vote for it, because he considered that in the institution of that system, successive governments, instead of being niggardly, had been too liberal; but in the present case, as he fully approved of the course taken by the Treasury, he should oppose the motion.

The House divided:—Ayes 17; Noes 42; Majority 25.

List of the AYES.
Bramston, T. W. Plumtre, J. P.
Chapman, A. Round, C.G.
Chute, W. L. W. Rushbrooke, Col:
Dick, Q. Turner, E.
Ellis, W. Vere, Sir C. B.
Farnham, E. B. Wodehouse, E.
Halford, H. Wood, B.
Mackinnon, W. A. TELLERS.
Maunsell, T. P. Teignmouth, Lord
Packe, C. W. Freshfield, J. W.
List of the NOES
Aglionby, H. A. Hutton, R.
Baring, F. T. Langdale, hon. C.
Barnard, E. G. Lister, E, C.
Barry, G. S. Lynch, A. H.
Bewes, T. Macaulay, T. B.
Bridgeman, H. M'Taggart, J.
Briscoe, J. I. Morpeth, Lord
Brodie, W. B. Morris, D.
Brotherton, J. O'Connell, M. J.
Campbell, Sir J. Palmerston, Lord
Clay, W. Parnell, Sir H.
Clive, E. B. Pechell. Capt.
Collier, J. Pigott, D. R.
Currie, R. Richards, R.
Fielden, J. Rundle, J.
Gisborne, T. Style, Sir C.
Gordon, R. Thornely, T.
Hobhouse, T. B. Vigors, N. A.
Hodges, T. L. Warburton, H.
Hodgson, R. TELLERS.
Hughes, W. B. Steuart, R.
Hume, J. Parker, J.