HC Deb 30 June 1857 vol 146 cc689-707

, in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill to repeal the 27th section of the Superannuation Act of 1834, said he must claim the indulgence of the House for a short time even at that late hour (a quarter past eleven) while he laid before them a case worthy of attention, involving, as it did, the interests of a large number of some of the most devoted and most able servants of the Crown, and involving also a very serious grievance, which called for the immediate interference of the House. He approached the question with considerable diffidence, not from any doubt of the justice of his cause, but because he spoke in the presence of many who were better informed than himself upon the subject, and of others who were the authors of the Act of 1829, from which this system dated. The history of the superannuation of the Civil Service dated from 1810. Before that time no general system of superannuation existed, but various modes prevailed of providing retiring pensions for civil servants of the Crown. Life offices were created, the salaries of successors were frequently charged with pensions for the payment of their predecessors, and sinecures were created and pensions granted. In 1810 a general Act was passed, which dealt with the whole question of superannuation. In the Customs and Excise Department an old system of superannuation which had been the subject of various Treasury Minutes and Acts of Parliament still remained, but in 1812 a Bill was brought in by which the sum of £334,000, the amount of the old superannuation funds in the Customs and Excise, was swept into the Exchequer, and a general superannuation was granted to these civil servants on a liberal scale. That system continued up to the year 1820. A considerable period had then elapsed since the termination of the war, and the country was alarmed at the great expenditure upon various departments of the service. In that year Mr. Hume made his celebrated Motion in Parliament upon the subject, and an Amendment proposed by Mr. Bankes, to the effect that an Address be presented to the Crown, praying that an inquiry might be instituted into all the branches of the public service, political as well as military, with a view to economy and retrenchment, was carried. Upon that the Treasury, adopting the course which had always since that time prevailed upon similar occasions when Parliament had been attacked by paroxysms for retrenchment, set to work in earnest, and made their first foray upon the salaries of the clerks in the Public Offices, and a Treasury Minute passed in the year 1821 laid down the principle that all persons in the civil service should pay a certain percentage upon their salaries, in order to form a superannuation fund, and fixing a scale of allowance for retiring officers; and in 1822 an Act was passed to carry the provisions of that Minute into effect. But in the Report to His Majesty, made by Lord Sidmouth, then Secretary of State for the Home Department, his Lordship said it appeared to him to be much more rational to assign to civil servants such unencumbered salaries as might be thought just for them to receive, than to resort to the complex and illusory system of ostensibly giving them a certain salary and then deducting a portion of it for compensation. That was Lord Sidmouth's opinion of the very system which was prevailing at the present day. However, notwithstanding this and similar remonstrances from various quarters that Act was passed. It provided that all civil servants should contribute to a superannuation fund by a deduction at the rate of two-and-a-half per cent from all salaries between £100 and £200, five per cent from all salaries above £200, and ten per cent from all salaries above the regulated amount—that was to say, beyond the amount which might be fixed as the future permanent salary of any civil officer. It was at the same time provided that in case of the death of any civil servant, or of his resignation or removal from office, without his having received any retired allowance, the whole amount of his contribution should be repaid. The principle of that Act, however, appeared to be so unjust that in the year 1824 it was repealed, and an Act was passed which provided that the whole charge for superannuation should again be placed on the public revenue, and that the amount of the deductions received under the previous Act, which amounted to the sum of £90,000, should be returned to the contributors. He had, therefore, in favour of the proposition which he intended to lay before the House, the strong fact, that the system of charging public servants for the superannuation allowance to be made them, was during its trial between the years 1822 and 1824 so universally condemned, that the Government felt bound to bring in an Act to repeal it after its trial for that period. Well, the new system continued for some years, until again the attention of the Legislature was directed to the heavy charge for superannuation, and in 1828 Sir Henry Parnell's Select Committee on Public Income and Expenditure, in their third Report, recommended the readoption of the system which existed between 1822 and 1824. They proposed, however, to make a distinction as to the scale of superannuation between the then existing civil servants and those who should be afterwards appointed, and they recommended that in the case of future appointments the scale should be so regulated that the whole charge should be provided out of the fund raised by deductions from their salaries without any cost to the public, while, at the same time having regard to vested interests, the scale prescribed by the Act of 1822 should be maintained in the case of existing civil servants, and if there should be any deficiency in the fund that that deficiency should be made good from the public revenue. A Bill had been introduced by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry those recommendations into effect, but after meeting with a strong opposition, headed by Lord Glenelg, that Bill was withdrawn. He had thus brought the history of the matter up to the year 1829, and from that year the system which at present existed dated. Up to that year there existed a system of superannuation to which the clerks in the public offices were not called on to contribute. This was the subject of such discussion in Parliament, and though the Bill of 1828 was withdrawn the Government in the following year showed that they had not given up the idea, for in that year a Treasury Minute was passed for the purpose of reducing at a future period the heavy charge for superannuation, and by that Minute deductions were imposed upon the salaries of all civil servants who might be thereafter appointed, at the rate of 2½ per cent on salaries not exceeding £100, and of 5 per cent on salaries exceeding that amount. A subsequent Treasury Minute, passed in 1831, regulated the mode of awarding retiring allowances, and in 1834 an Act was passed which carried those arrangements into effect. By that Act the scale of retiring allowances was fixed to commence at one-fourth of the salary after ten years' service, with a septennial increase until it ended at a maximum of two-thirds of the salary after forty-five years' service. It was easy to guess what the object of the Government was in 1834 in passing that Act. It was simply to reduce the public expenditure under the guise of a Superannuation Fund. The avowed object was, provision for civil servants; but, looking to the circumstances of the time in which that Act was passed—to the fact that public charges for effective servants had reached the amount of £21,000,000, and for non-effective £5,000,000—there could be no doubt that the bonâ fide object of the measure was the reduction of expenditure, while the Government endeavoured to persuade the country that in forcing the civil servants to contribute to the Superannuation Fund they were granting a boon to those servants. It might be asked why that Minute of 1829 was not protested against? The fact was, there was no one to protest against it; because as the Minute of 1829 was not retrospective, there was no one concerned in opposing it at the time. That legislation was for children unborn. Having thus sketched the history of the superannuation system, he would now show the manifold inequalities and anomalies which existed in it. The Royal Commissioners, who had presented their report in the spring of the present year, divided the civil servants as regarded superannuation allowances into five classes. The first class included the higher political and judicial offices and the diplomatic service, and to the persons in this class pensions were granted without deductions. In the second class were civil servants who received their appointment before the 4th of August, 1829, to whom superannuation allowances on a very liberal scale were given without any deductions. To the third class belonged civil servants appointed subsequent to the 4th of August, 1829, and those connected with the departments which, since the passing of the Act, had been brought under the operation of the Treasury order, their salaries were charged with deductions. The fourth class included those who were neither subject to abatements nor entitled to superannuation allowances; and the fifth, those who were not brought within the Act but obtained superannuations from the Treasury. Out of 56,740 employed in the civil service, at salaries amounting in the aggregate to £5,595,000, only 15,311 were subject to abatements; the other 41,429, whose salaries amounted to £3,172,000, were guaranteed their pensions, but suffered no abatements. This was one of the monstrous inequalities by which the system was characterized. But there was another anomaly to which he wished to call the attention of the House, and that was, the unequal operation of the tax on the different classes. To show the inequality between the second and third classes, suppose that A entered the service in 1828 at the age of twenty. He might after fifty years' service be entitled to a pension of £100 a year for which he would have suffered no abatement. If B entered the service in a similar capacity in 1830 he would after fifty years' service be entitled to a pension of only £66 13s. 4d., and would have suffered abatements to the amount of £1,049. The inequalities were not, however, confined to differences between classes, they were to be found in the treatment of different members of each class. For instance, in the Post Office, letter carriers, messengers, and mail clerks paid no abatements, but were entitled to superannuations. [Mr. WILSON made a gesture of dissent.] Superannuations had been granted to letter carriers who had served the country for a length of time. The officers in the higher departments of the office, however, were liable to abatements. In the same branch of the service the chief officers at London, Dublin, and Edinburgh suffered abatements, while those at Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow neither paid for superannuation nor received it. Some time ago it was discovered that the officers of some of the hulks at Portland and similar places suffered abatements, while the officers who were at Millbank, Dartmouth, and other prisons did not; but this inequality was removed by a Treasury Minute, passed in the year 1851, which abolished the deductions from the salaries of officers of the hulks, and granted them superannuations on a different scale of allowances. These were a few of the inequalities and anomalies which existed, and which might be multiplied almost ad infinitum. If different classes were differently treated, it amounted to this—that public servants were differently remunerated for the discharge of the same duties. So unsettled and so fluctuating had been the conduct of both the Government and the Legislature upon this question, that the civil servants could not consider that Act of 1834 as a final settlement of the question. In addition to these inequalities there were weighty objections to the whole system of the civil service. These objections might be divided into three classes. The first objection was that the civil servants were not altogether sufficiently remunerated. Into that question he did not propose to enter, and with it his Bill would not interfere. At the same time he might be allowed to state, that of 16,000 persons included in the second and third classes the average pay was only £141 per annum, and of two-thirds of that number the average salaries amounted to but £86 per annum. It could not be said that those amounts were exorbitant. Sir Charles Trevelyan had stated in his evidence before the Commissioners that the Treasury had lately, in fixing salaries which were not to be subject to deductions, fixed them at the same amount at which they would have stood if no abatements were to be made from them for superannuations. This was another proof that the civil servants were not overpaid, and that the question of superannuation ought not to be mixed up with that of the salaries. The second objection which they took was, that many of those who contribute to the fund do not get any benefit from it. Cases of this sort involving great hardships had come to his knowledge. In some cases men had died having contributed to the fund for a great part of their lives, and their wives and families had received no benefit from it. It was calculated that only one in seven of those who paid ever derived any advantage from the fund. It might be said that the amount of superannuation allowances fairly represented the amount of the contributions, but he felt convinced that the most delicate calculations of all the actuaries in the world could not persuade the six out of the seven who never received any allowance that they were fairly treated. The system partook of the nature of a tontine, and was liable to all the objections urged against tontines. It was, in fact, a species of gambling. The third objection was that the amount of reduction was more than equal to the whole superannuation paid. The tax at present amounted to upwards of £66,000 a year, and the allowances paid were only about £11,000. During the twenty-seven years that the Act bad been in operation the civil servants had paid £900,000, of which £80,000 only had been returned to the contributors in the shape of allowances, leaving a balance of £820,000, which if it had been funded would have amounted to £1,000,000. Such were the imperfections of the superannuation system, and so great were the objections felt to it that in the beginning of last Session the Government brought in a Bill to amend it. That Bill was satisfactory so far as it went, but it did not deal with the question of the deductions. It was referred to a Select Committee, which went very deeply into the subject and agreed to several important Resolutions. The first Resolution, proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord Stanley), and carried by a majority of nine to two, was neither more nor less than a condemnation of the whole system of reductions. It was as follows:— That in the opinion of this Committee it is desirable to do away with the system by which a portion of the salaries of civil servants is deducted on account of superannuation allowances. The second Resolution was proposed by the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. FitzGerald), with the exception of the words at the end, which were proposed by the hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. Rich), and only carried by a majority of one. It was,— That, as a condition of such deductions being done away, the rates of payment in the various branches of the civil service shall at the earliest possible period be revised, with due regard to the amount of deductions remitted. The consequence of the Report of that Committee was that at the end of the Session the Government brought in a Bill which was founded on the Report; but, besides proposing to remove the deductions paid by the civil servants, it also proposed, in consequence of that remission, to reduce the salaries to the amount of the deduction remitted. It also proposed to calculate the superannuations which the civil servants were to receive upon the reduced scale of salaries, so that if it had passed into law the civil servants would absolutely have been in a worse position than they were now. The Bill consequently did not meet with general approval, and, owing partly to that cause and partly to the advanced period of the Session, it was withdrawn. In the recess the Government took the very wise and proper step of referring the whole matter to a Commission. That Commission was composed of Lord Belper, Lord Monck, Sir Alexander Spearman, the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Weguelin), and Sir Edward Ryan. Considering the high position and experience of the Commissioners, and the long time that this question had been debated, he was justified in looking at their decision in the light of an arbitration between the civil servants and the Government. On their decision he rested his whole case, and he craved the attention of the House to this very important passage of their report:— It has not been without much anxious consideration that we have arrived at the conclusion that it is our duty to recommend the total abolition of deductions for the purpose of superannuation, without any corresponding reduction in the salaries on which such deductions have been charged. Our first impression in entering on the inquiry referred to us was adverse to this arrangement; but on a careful review of all the difficulties of the case we became satisfied that, with a view to public interests alone, we could recommend no other settlement of the question as likely to be permanent and satisfactory. We are aware that the present system of deductions has had high authorities in its favour, and at the time when it was introduced it may have been considered a convenient mode of carrying into effect the unpopular measure of a general reduction of salaries. Nevertheless, for the reasons which we have already stated, we believe it to be unsound in principle; and we think that its inherent defects have developed themselves in difficulties of administration, of which the effect has been to create a mass of anomalies and inconsistencies most injurious to the public service. In this, as in other similar cases, it may be found impracticable to escape from a vicious principle and to establish a reasonable and uniform system without some temporary pecuniary sacrifice. But, believing that there is no other satisfactory solution of the difficulty, being confident that the ultimate advantage of the public will be much more than a compensation for any possible temporary loss, and having regard to the importance of maintaining the character and efficiency of the civil service, we are of opinion that by the recommendation which we have made we shall best discharge the duty which has been assigned to us. A recommendation more strong or more forcibly expressed he never met with. One word with regard to the pecuniary loss which his proposition might occasion to the Exchequer. That loss, he believed, might be amply compensated if this question were sincerely taken up, and a thorough revision made of the salaries of all the civil servants. By selecting such of them as were thoroughly efficient and giving them to understand that they would be treated well and liberally paid a great reduction might be made in the present number of the civil servants. Moreover, the superannuation allowances granted several years ago were much more liberal than the present scale, and of course as the present recipients died off there would be a reduction of expenditure in that respect. But even if a slight addition were made to the national burdens by his proposition, he believed that it would be amply compensated by converting a discontented into a contented and cheerful class of men. There was a precedent for the course which he recommended. He alluded to the measure adopted in 1847 with regard to the Chelsea pensioners on the Motion of Lord Panmure, then Mr. Fox Maule, and which was regarded as just, notwithstanding the addition which it made to the public burdens. Up to that year the pensioners were subject to a deduction of 5 per cent from their pensions, on account of their being paid in advance. This, however, was remitted to them, and thus a charge of £60,000 a year was thrown on the country. The Government had no reason to justify them in refusing to deal with this question. They had been asked several times this year whether they intended to bring in a Bill on this subject, but they merely replied that until the question which the Committee had put to the actuaries with regard to the deductions under the Act of 1834 had been answered, they could not undertake to submit any proposition to the House. But, as the system established by that Act had been unequivocally condemned by the Committee itself, and also by the Commission, the answer to that question could not at all affect his proposition. He thought he had shown that there was a sufficient reason for the immediate abolition of the Superannuation Tax, and as the Government declined to do anything in the matter, he called upon the House to support his Bill. The remedy which he proposed was sharp and decisive, it was to introduce a Bill containing but one clause, repealing the 27th Section of the Act of 1834 which authorized the deductions. This course, however, would not prevent the Government from imposing such conditions as they might deem necessary. Those conditions might be discussed hereafter. The merits of the civil servants had been admitted from time to time by every eminent statesman. The civil servant was seldom rewarded by popular applause. He worked generally in retirement and often in obscurity. The only reward which he could hope to receive was his small salary and the consciousness that he had faithfully discharged his duty. If the Government admitted that the grievances of which the civil servants complained ought to be abolished, he hoped that they would support his Bill, and endeavour to carry it through Parliament. If, however, they should refuse to give him their support, he hoped that they would state frankly what course they intended to take. The noble Lord concluded by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to repeal the 27th Section of the Superannuation Act, 1834.


said, he rose to support the Motion. He did not deny that the civil servants were bound by the terms of the Act of Parliament which was in force in reference to the civil service when they received their appointments, but the question was whether it was right to enforce an Act which had been found to work with grievous injustice towards them. It was a sound principle, acknowledged by all the highest authorities who had considered the subject, that the proper way of paying the civil servants was to give them a moderate salary, and to hold out to them the expectation of a moderate retiring pension when no longer able to discharge their duties. If the salaries were fixed on a fair and equitable scale then it was unwise and unjust to impose a tax upon them such as they were now subjected to. It was said that notwithstanding this tax there were always plenty of candidates for these offices. He believed that if a tax of 20 per cent. were employed, the Government would still find an abundance of applications; but that would not prove the system to be a wise one. Was it a wise provision to make a man put by a certain amount of his daily earnings, when he might prematurely die, and his wife and family derive no benefit from it? The House had no right—it was not morally honest to call on the clerks of the civil service to make such a sacrifice. They could make a much better and safer use of their money themselves in providing for those who had a claim upon them than any Government or Parliament could possibly do. Where was the fund to which they were said to contribute? It had no existence. He defied any hon. Member to show that the amounts paid by those clerks were credited to them in any of the public accounts. He must say he regretted that the noble Lord had felt it his duty to bring forward this Bill, for it was derogatory to the character of the Government of this country that there should be quarrels and disputes between them and their servants. That House never could enter into the question truly, or settle it in any satisfactory manner. Nevertheless, the movement was in the right direction, and he would give it his support. He would prefer, however, to see the Government take up the question and settle it in a manner satisfactory both to the civil servants and the country.


Notwithstanding the late hour at which we have arrived (twenty minutes past Twelve o'clock), I shall feel it my duty to follow the noble Lord through the statements which he has laid before the House. The subject is too wide, the questions involved are too large, the civil service, whose interests are affected, is so important, and the sum of money which the noble Lord proposes to vote away is too great, to allow me to be silent on this occasion, or to pass the Motion by without putting the House in possession of what I consider to be the material facts of the case. I can assure the House that the task is not one that I have any desire to undertake; but I feel that it is a task from which, in the discharge of my duty, I ought not to shrink. The noble Lord has given a very clear, and, with one or two exceptions, which I shall presently notice, a very fair account of the origin of the present law with respect to superannuations. The true origin of the present state of things is this:—In the period immediately after the peace, the feeling in the House and country ran strongly in favour of economy, and one of the objects to which economy was directed was a reduction in the Civil Service Superannuations—"the dead weight," as it was called. I have before me the work of Sir Henry Parnell on financial reform, which embodies the general view held at the time, and in which he expresses a decided opinion against all superannuation pensions whatever. He says the salaries of the civil servants are unnecessarily high, so high as to afford every person adequate means of making provision for himself, and speaks of it as being undesirable that Parliament should grant them any superannuation pensions whatever. I do not coincide in that opinion. I only mention it to show the opinions in which this legislation began, and which there are in the House hon. Members old enough to remember. The Finance Committee at that time appointed recommended that reductions should be made from the salaries of the civil servants sufficient to create a fund out of which superannuation pensions might be paid, and an Act was passed embodying that recommendation. But when they came to apply the system to the salaries of existing civil servants, the strongest objections were made to it by them and by their friends in the House, on the ground that it was an undue interference with vested interests; that persons who had entered the service on certain conditions ought not to have those conditions disturbed by the interference of Parliament and by the imposition of an annual tax on salaries for the creation of a fund out of which superannuation pensions should be paid. The result was that the Act which enforced that system was repealed, and the sums actually received as abatements from the civil servants were, by the order of this House, repaid. In consequence of the failure of that attempt, the Treasury, on the recommendation of the Finance Committee in 1829, introduced the system at present existing, namely, that all persons entering the civil service after a certain day should be subject to a deduction from their salaries. Inasmuch as that regulation did not interfere with existing interests, and as everybody who accepted office had full notice of the deduction, it was thought a fair one, and was first embodied in a Treasury Minute, and afterwards, in 1834, in an Act of Parliament. Every civil servant who entered the service since 1829, and, subsequently, since 1834, has had full notice that he accepted office upon these terms, and knew that the full salary voted by this House was not the sum which he would receive, but that in case his salary was under £100 he would receive it subject to a deduction of 2½ per cent; and, if above £100, of 5 per cent. That regulation, as I have said, was embodied in an Act of Parliament; everybody had full notice; and there is not the smallest pretence for the assertion that any breach of contract has taken place with any portion of the civil service. The same Act of Parliament also introduced a certain scale of pensions, and, in like manner as each civil servant knew that he was liable to the annual deduction, so he knew that he would only receive a pension under the terms described by the Act. The question of a fund never arose. Neither the Treasury Minute nor the Act of Parliament contained a word about a fund. The Treasury made no fund; they merely accounted for the deductions, which were in the nature of a tax laid upon the salaries of the civil servants, and these deductions were annually stated in the papers presented to Parliament. There never was the smallest pretence for saying that the whole matter was not fully within the cognizance of Parliament. Remember, I am not now justifying the system, but describing the way it arose. That system has continued from 1834 down to the present time under the operation of an Act of Parliament, but as the number of civil servants who were liable to the abatement increased, which they did in successive years, and as the operation of the war income tax made itself felt, the deduction from the salary of 5 per cent under the superannuation tax, and of 6 per cent under the income tax, no doubt pressed very hardly upon them. Their complaints gradually increased, owing to the joint operation of these two causes, and on succeeding to the office I now hold, I found that many representations were made, that the question had been brought forward in this House, and I was also informed that a Bill had been prepared in the Treasury which dealt with the subject to a certain extent, making no alteration in the abatements, but introducing an improvement in the scale of pensions. In the beginning of the Session of 1856, I introduced a Bill which brought the subject under the notice of the House, and at the same time, wishing to treat the question in the fairest manner, I moved for a Select Committee, in order that the measure which I had introduced should undergo consideration by it, but principally for the purpose of enabling the House to hear the complaints of the civil servants and examine the foundation upon which the existing system rested. The complaints in question turned very much upon the opinion as to the existence of a fund to which the noble Lord has adverted, and also upon the circumstance that, as it was alleged, the civil servacts paid more than they received, that the bargain between them and the public was an unfair one, that the public gained more than it was entitled to, and that the deductions were, in fact, an unjust arrangement between the two parties. This matter was very fully gone into, and during the course of the investigation, the Committee desired that the opinion of two eminent actuaries should be taken upon a question which involved the equity of the case of the civil servants—that is to say, whether or not they paid more than they received. The matter was accordingly referred to by two actuaries, who found it involved such a vast quantity of numerical details, that they were unable to complete their report before the Committee terminated its sittings; and, therefore, the Members of that Committee were not assisted in their decision by the opinions of these two gentlemen. The Committee, however, came to an important Resolution as affecting the subject of the noble Lord's Motion. They resolved, upon the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord Stanley), "that in the opinion of this Committee, it is desirable to do away with the system by which a portion of the salaries of civil servants is deducted on account of superannuation allowances." They, therefore, condemned the system of annual abatements. When this Resolution was under the consideration of the Committee, a noble Lord not now in the House, but who then represented Portsmouth (Lord Monck), at my suggestion (for I was Chairman, and could not myself propose it) moved the addition of these I words:—"With respect to all persons who may enter the civil service after a future day to be named." The proposal which seemed to me an equitable one was, that we should leave all those persons now in the civil service in their present positions, without varying the terms upon which they accepted office, but that the system of deductions should be abolished with regard to all future civil servants. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) acceded to that Amendment, but the majority of the Committee were hostile to it, and therefore the Resolution was carried simply as a condemnation of the system of annual abatements. However, the Committee felt the difficulty they had to encounter in making an indiscriminate addition to the salaries of the existing civil servants without any corresponding increase of duty on their part, without any claim on the ground of merit, but simply because this tax had been imposed, and it was now thought advisable to remit it. The Committee, on consideration, felt the difficulty of adding £60,000 or £70,000 a year to the salaries of the civil servants without any apparent reason, and therefore they came to this additional Resolution, which, as they thought, would meet the difficulty. They resolved:— That as a condition of such deductions being done away with, the rates of payment in the various branches of the civil service shall at the earliest possible period be revised, with a due regard to the amount of deductions remitted, as there is no ground for an indiscriminate augmentation of salaries, which would otherwise result from the change proposed; that the revision now referred to shall be made previous to the 1st of April, 1857, when the abatements shall cease. I certainly understood this Resolution to mean that the Treasury should revise all the salaries of the existing civil servants, and that, except in some special cases which might require peculiar consideration, they should reduce all the present salaries to an amount equivalent to that of the abatements, so that, although the abatements themselves should be abandoned, the total amount of the salaries received should be unchanged. That was the effect of the Resolution come to by the Committee, and it was embodied in the Bill, which, however, came under the consideration of the House too late in the Session to be passed into law. I was pressed to abandon it, and having done so, in deference to what appeared to be the opinion of the House, there the matter ended for that Session. During the recess, it appeared desirable to Her Majesty's Government that this matter should undergo further investigation, and, accordingly, a Commission was issued, composed, as the noble Lord has with great candour admitted, of very able and competent persons, who produced a Report, the ability of which must be generally recognized. But the question which now arises is, whether the House shall at once proceed to repeal the clause in the Act of 1834 without any further legislation on the subject, merely upon the suggestion of the facts brought under their notice to-night. The noble Lord did not state to the House that the recommendations of the Commissioners involved a great number of questions which do not belong strictly to the subject of these abatements, and if he founds his case upon the Report of the Commissioners he is bound to give effect to the whole of their recommendations. The noble Lord said that it would be competent for the House, if they gave him leave to introduce his Bill, to accompany it with conditions which might restrict its operation. In answer to that, I beg leave to say that such a proposal does not meet the case. The recommendation of the Commissioners refer to many subjects quite independent of the conditions for the abolition of the abatement. In the first place, they recommend a new scale of pensions. Well, that can hardly be considered a restriction upon the abolition of the abatements; it is a separate subject which requires careful consideration. They further recommend an alteration with regard to the age of retirement, a provision respecting compulsory retirement, another respecting gratuities to be allowed to public servants, another with reference to compensations. They also make a recommendation respecting political pensions, another as to the pensions of judicial officers, to be arranged on a separate scale; and other recommendations refer to dockyard officers, the department of the Post Office, and the class of extra clerks. Those are the matters which, if the House be inclined at this moment to take up the subject, it will be absolutely necessary in some way to deal with. Another part of the question which must be considered is the great magnitude of the sum involved, and the importance of not taking a hasty step or legislating on imperfect information on account of the large pecuniary interests which are at stake. I will just state what is now the entire charge for pensions and superannuations of the civil service, and the House will see how large a sum we have to deal with. The diplomatic pensions amount to £25,718; the judicial and legal pensions and compensations for loss of office or fees amount to £240,551; the civil service pensions under the Superannuation Act amount to £867,295; and the pensions granted to artificers of the navy and ordnance amount to £74,700, making a total of £1,208,264 per annum now payable in respect of superannuation allowances to the civil service, and with a large portion of which we are asked to deal according to the Bill of the noble Lord. At present the Act is in this form—that all the departments which are brought under its operation are subjected to annual deductions, and that those departments which are not brought under its operations are not subjected to annual deductions, and are not entitled to the superannuation pensions. The present rule, therefore, with regard to deductions draws a line in some measure between those offices which are entitled to superannuation pensions and those which are not; and if that clause of the Act of 1834 were simply abolished without any further legislation, a large class of salaried officers would immediately come upon the Treasury, and would apply for superannuation pensions, on the ground that they were now equally entitled with the rest, inasmuch as the system of deductions was abolished. The salaries of civil servants, subject to deductions under the Act of 1834, amount to £2,426,699 per annum, and the salaries of civil servants not subject to deduction amount to £4,910,602. Officers of the latter class are not now entitled to superannuation pensions; but if we simply abolish the present abatements, without taking a general view of the subject, and adopting the precautions which such a change in our system necessitates, we shall find a heavy permanent charge added to the expenditure of the country. I am perfectly willing to concede to the noble Lord that the present system, under which superannuation allowances are granted, is full of anomalies and inconsistencies, and that the present rule with respect to the abatements is far from satisfactory. I cannot admit, however, that the creation of a fund was ever promised either by Parliament or by the Government; neither can I admit that there has been any breach of a contract by any Government. The Commissioners themselves distinctly state their opinion that no such breach of contract has taken place, and that the civil servants have no claim on the ground of equity for the proposed change. The Commissioners recommend the change on the ground of expediency. They say, "the system is a bad one; you must pay forfeit for the abolition of it; you cannot get rid of it without surrendering £60,000 or £70,000 a year, and we think the system is so bad that we advise you to abandon it even at that cost." I admit, then, that the system is a bad one, and I regret that it was ever introduced. Still, it was deliberately introduced by Act of Parliament in 1834; that Act of Parliament has been in force ever since. All persons who have entered the civil service since that time have been perfectly cognizant of its provisions, and all the salaries of the present officers have been received subject to those deductions. Moreover, most of the great departments of the Government have been repeatedly revised since 1834; the salaries have been fixed with the knowledge that they were subject to these abatements; they have been received with that knowledge; and, I may add, that though the salaries of the political officers have in many cases undergone reduction during the last twenty years, yet that the alteration of the salaries of the general body of the civil service has been in the shape of increase, and not of diminution. Under these circumstances, I cannot admit that there is any equitable ground for the claim of the civil service. It is a matter, no doubt, for the consideration of this House whether they will make such an alteration in the law as will confer this immediate and indiscriminate increase of salaries upon the civil service. It is a mistake to suppose that this is a matter which is within the competency of the Executive Government. The Executive Government has no power to make the change that is suggested. The provision is included in an Act of Parliament; the present abatements are a tax upon salaries which is levied upon the authority of an Act of Parliament like any other tax; the Treasury is merely ministerial in the matter, and an Act of the Legislature will be necessary to effect the proposed alteration. Looking, then, to the extensive consequences of the simple alteration of one clause which the noble Lord proposes, and considering the necessity of legislating upon this subject—if it is to be legislated upon at all—in a more comprehensive manner and with a wider regard to consequences than is now proposed, it is not in my power to vote in favour of the Motion of the noble Lord. I would also say, that I do not see how the Government would be justified in undertaking to do anything with regard to this question until the Report of the actuaries has been received. The subject is now under the consideration of the actuaries, and the Commissioners promise the result in a supplementary Report. Under all the circumstances, then, and looking at the position in which the question stands, I do not see how it would be possible for me to accede to the Motion of the noble Lord. It is for the House to say whether the question can be decided in this summary manner, and whether, as guardians of the public purse, considering the large sum of money involved in this Motion, they think themselves justified in deciding in favour of it.


said, this was a question of so much importance as concerning the whole Civil Service, that the House ought not to come to a conclusion upon it without the fullest discussion. As that was impossible that evening, he hoped his right hon. Friend would waive his objection to the introduction of the Bill and allow the discussion to be taken on the second reading.


said, he was willing to assent to the introduction of the Bill, provided that it was fully understood that the object of such concession was merely to give an opportunity for fuller discussion, but the noble Lord must not be misled into believing that the Government would agree to the principle of the measure which was proposed.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Lord NAAS and Mr. HANKE Y.

Bill read 1°.

The House adjourned at a Quarter after One o'clock.