HC Deb 03 August 1855 vol 139 cc1739-45

On the bringing up of the Report on Supply.


rose to call the attention of the House to a Minute of the Treasury, dated the 23rd of February last, granting retired allowances to certain Irish Poor Law Inspectors. He had no wish in doing this to introduce any personal remarks with respect to the merits of the particular individuals who had received these allowances. Though small in actual amount for the present year, the sum which was granted in the shape of retired allowances altogether was very considerable. In one estimate it stood at 200,000l. a year; but that was only a part of the entire amount, and unless care and attention were given to the manner in which these allowances were granted, the charge would by and bye become a most serious one. Upon this occasion he laboured under some difficulty, for he hardly knew whether he ought to call upon the present or the late Chancellor of the Exchequer to give an explanation of the Minute; for the Minute was dated the 23rd of February, and he believed that on the 21st of that month the late Chancellor of the Exchequer resigned his office, and was really, though not technically, out of office on the 23rd, and that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer did not assume office until the 25th or 26th; so that the Minute had slipped through the Treasury in the interval, and he (Sir F. Baring) was, in fact, going against an imaginary Chancellor of the Exchequer. These retired allowances had been granted, not under the Superannuation Act, but under certain Treasury Regulations. In 1835 the subject of retired allowances was referred to the Sinecures Offices Committee, who, in their second Report, recommended that the scale of the Superannuation Act should be the scale adopted in granting retired allowances, and that no allowance should exceed that scale, unless in special cases; they also recommended that the Treasury Minute should state the special circumstances under which the allowance was made, and be laid upon the table of the House of Commons. These recommendations had been adopted by the Treasury. Let the House now see what were the allowances granted to the gentlemen to whom he had referred, and how far they were justified by the Treasury Regulations; he should then call upon the Treasury for an explanation of their reasons for deviating from the usual course, and to say how they intended to act for the purpose of preventing such mistakes, as be supposed he must call them, in future. By the returns ordered in June last, on the Motion of the hon. Gentleman below him (Sir D. Norreys), it appeared that one gentleman, the salary of whose office had been 700l. a year, and who had served fifteen years, had a compensation granted to him of 400l. a year, although, if the Treasury Regulations had been carried out properly, he would have received but 175l. a year, instead of a sum which was within a few pounds of what he would have been entitled to under the regulations after forty years' service. That was one case. There was another nearly the same, with this difference only—that the gentleman receiving the retired allowance had served sixteen years instead of fifteen. A third case was that of a gentleman whose salary was 700l. a year, who had served only seven years, and whose retired allowance was 300l. a year; but by the regulations of the Treasury he would not have been entitled to anything unless he had served ten years, and he would not have received the 300l. a year as retired allowance until he had been from twenty four to thirty-one years in the public service. Another case was that of Colonel Clarke, with regard to which it was stated in his memorial that his health had broken down from exposure to night work. This being so he (Sir F. Baring) would not comment upon the case, for there might be special reasons for excepting him from the general rule. Of course the Treasury knew the facts, and were the best judges of them; but Colonel Clarke had certainly received a retired allowance for eight years' service, to which, under the regulations, he would only have been entitled after thirty years' service. The last case to which he would refer was that of a gentleman who had been in receipt of a salary of 500l. a year; he had served only three years, and the retired allowance of 250l. a year granted to him was what he would have been entitled to only in the event of his having served thirty years. The total of the maximum of what these several gentlemen would have received under the regulations was 350l. a year between them; whereas the Treasury had awarded 2,800l. between them. Now, these were cases which he thought required explanation; because he could not find that any special reason had been stated for those allowances being granted on a different scale from the usual one. The Minute was not in virtue of an Act of Parliament, but was merely a Treasury Minute, and on looking at it he did not find that there had been any Report, according to the usual practice, upon which the Minute was founded. The inconvenience of the rule laid down was so glaring that he did not believe the Lords of the Treasury could have read it without making a remonstrance against it. The Treasury Regulations directed that the special reasons for granting these retiring allowances should be set forth in the Treasury Minute; but no one reason was given, or attempted to be given, in that Minute except in Colonel Clarke's case. He complained, moreover, that the Minute had not been laid upon the table of the House in accordance with the Regulations of the Treasury, He could not comprehend why these cases had been treated specially. Were the offices permanent? Not at all. If retired allowances were given to officers who had a right to expect permanent employment, the Treasury considered that their expectations should be satisfied; but it so happened that the officers to whom he now referred had been appointed under a temporary Act of Parliament, and what was more, they had not paid any deduction under the Superannuation Act. He had compared their cases with the cases of officers who received compensation under the Superannuation Act and not only did they receive infinitely more than would be granted them under that Act, but they had never paid a sixpence of deduction; so that, instead of their cases being exceptional, they were really entitled, upon every ground, to much less than officers under the Superannuation Act. He believed he had said enough to show that the cases to which he referred were irregular, and he should be glad to have an explanation from the Treasury, not only as to the eases themselves, but with regard to the general practice of the Treasury, so that the House might know if the necessity was to continue for keeping a sharp look-out upon the Treasury in future.


considered the whole affair one of the most unjustifiable he had ever known. The question was a very serious one of Administrative Reform—how could it be expected that the ordinary Civil Servants of the Government would be inclined to show any energy in the discharge of their duties, when such gross favouritism was shown to a particular class of officers, and when they saw that one class of public servants was thrown aside, and another class was pensioned in a most extravagant manner? He had moved for the returns and for a copy of the Minute to which the right hon. Baronet had referred, for the purpose of showing that gross injustice had been done either to one or another class of public servants. Either the Poor Law Inspectors in Ireland had been very much over rewarded, or the paymasters of the constabulary had been very much underpaid. The latter had a right to believe that their services would be permanent, while the Poor Law Inspectors had no right to expect any such thing; yet the paymasters of the constabulary force, whose services had exceeded fourteen years, received an annual pension of only 42l., while the Poor Law Inspectors, whose services did not exceed seven and eight years, were in the receipt of a compensation allowance of 300l. a year.


felt that great credit was due to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Baring) for having brought the subject before the House. The civil servants of the Crown in Ireland had for years past complained of the practice adopted in granting retired allowances. it was considered that they had been given on unequal terms, and that an unjust distinction had been made between persons with and persons without political influence in conferring them. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would in the next Session take the matter in hand, and move for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the whole system of granting these allowances. By so doing he would confer great good alike on the country and the public service.


said, he wished to make one remark upon the statement of the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Baring), as to this Minute having slipped through a sitting of the Lords of the Treasury between the retirement of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer and the appointment of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. No person could misunderstand what the right hon. Baronet intended to insinuate. It was evident that he meant to insinuate that the passing of the Minute was an act of his (Mr. Wilson's). But no one ought to know better than the right hon. Baronet, from long experience, that the passing of a Minute by the Treasury was not done in a day. Weeks and even months were sometimes required before a Minute was determined upon. The insinuation, therefore, was both unfair and unjust. The right hon. Baronet also knew that the only alternatives contemplated by the Superannuation Act were old age and incapacity from ill health. When however a man's office was abolished while he was still young and in good health, but before he had had time to make provision for himself, the subject required to be dealt with on entirely different principles. In the Superannuation Act there were certain clauses not connected with the general scheme of the Act, referring solely to payments on the abolition of offices, and in those clauses ample authority was given to the Commissioners of the Treasury to make allowances to persons whose offices were abolished, but such person was at all times liable to be appointed to any other public office for which his previous services rendered him eligible. This reduced the matter to a question of policy, and hence each allowance stood upon its own grounds and upon its own merits. Thus, in one of the cases where the salary was 500l. and the retiring allowance was 250l., the party to whom that sum was granted had given up his profession in order to take the situation, which was abolished shortly after his entering upon it. The House should bear in mind how many different considerations entered into different cases; the Treasury had to weigh the circumstances under which persons entered upon the service, the professions which they had given up for that purpose, and the time and manner of the abolition of their office. They had in every case taken the greatest pains to act justly both to individuals and the country; the amount, however, which ought to be awarded in various cases might be viewed in a different manner by different parties. All he could do was to show to the House, as he had done by reference to the clauses of the Superannuation Act, that the Treasury had the authority to do as they had done, and if further proof were requisite, he might refer to the report of a Committee of that House, in which the authority of the Treasury had been distinctly recognised as having existed from time immemorial. In reference to the present case, it was well known that when Sir John Young was Secretary for Ireland he proposed to effect a reduction in the expense of the Poor Law establishment in that country, and be did so to the extent of between 11.000l. and 12,000l. a year; but there were certain officers whose engagements were such that he could not in honour remove them without granting them an allowance. The arrangement proposed by Sir John Young had been since carried out without any alteration whatever. In the course of this year there had been a reduction in the estimates in relation to this item of not less than 6,200l.


said, that in describing the Minute as having slipped through the Treasury at the time that there was really no Chancellor of the Exchequer in office, he had not the slightest intention to throw any imputation on the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury.


could assure the right hon. Baronet that, so far from the Minute having slipped through the Treasury, it had been the subject of long consideration and discussion before the change in the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer took place.


contended that great injustice had been done to the paymasters of the Irish constabulary, and expressed his opinion that the Irish Poor Law Inspectors had not the slightest claim for retiring pensions. He trusted that a Com- mittee of inquiry would be granted next Session, and that justice would be done to all parties.

The Report of the Committee of Supply was then agreed to.

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