HC Deb 07 February 1859 vol 152 cc151-6

THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER moved for leave to bring in a Bill with regard to the superannuation of civil servants of the Crown. The measure he was about to propose was similar to that which was introduced last Session, but which was then withdrawn on account of some Amendments which had been given notice of by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Wilson), and of the desire of the House that the Session should be brought to a close; at that late period of the Session he thought it right that any Bills which were likely to promote discussion should not be pressed, and he had accordingly withdrawn it. The principal Amendments of which notice had been given by the hon. Gentleman were in reference to including in its operation the officers and labourers of the Dockyards. These officers were brought under the provisions of the present Bill, and no further opposition might therefore be expected. Hon. Gentlemen would remember that this question of superannuation had already been investigated by a Select Committee of the House in 1856. Subsequently the subject was considered of so much importance that it led to a Royal Commission which had presented two Reports, the last being in March last. The Bill he now proposed was intended to embody the recommendations made by the Select Committee and the Royal Commission. The principal heads of difference between the proposed Bill and the law as it at present stands were, first with regard to the duration of services and time of superannuation. It was intended that superannuation should commence at the termination of ten years, and that the full superannuation allowance should be granted at the end of forty years' service. Under this Bill every person in the Civil Service, of the age of sixty, would be permitted to receive his full superannuation, and at sixty-five retirement from the public service would be compulsory. This latter provision Her Majesty's Government considered to be for the interests of the public and the exigencies of the service. But if special circumstances should render it advisable that any gentleman above the age of sixty-five should remain in the public service, owing to the sense entertained of his abilities and usefulness, power was given in this Bill to retain his services. Of course that power would only be exercised in the case of a person of rare and distinguished abilities. The most important provisions of the Bill were those which regulated the new scale of superannuation. The old scale was defective in every respect. The defects were pointed out by the Committee of the House and by the Royal Commission, and the remedies which they recommended were embodied in the Bill. One of the greatest defects of the existing system was, that superannuation being fixed, for example, at the end of a septennial term of service, the same pensions were often enjoyed by persons who had really served very different terms. These defects were remedied by the present Bill, superannuation being calculated by the yearly services of the public servants. Provisions were also inserted having reference to special circumstances; for instance, regulating the superannuation to which professional men who entered the public service comparatively late in life should be entitled. The Bill also contained provisions by which the whole of the judicial service of the country, with the exception of the Judges of the superior courts, were brought within its scope. It also provided for the abolition of offices and other matters of an analogous character, which hitherto had not been satisfactorily settled; or if so, were arranged rather by the discretion of the Treasury than by the sanction of the law. In moving for permission to bring in the Bill, he could only express a hope that it would meet with no objection, and that it would be found to give all the satisfaction which the exigencies of the case required.


said, he did not rise to oppose the introduction of the Bill, but he thought a part of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman required explanation. In the first place the right hon. Gentleman had said that the present Bill was substantially the same as that of last Session: but he then referred to his (Mr. Wilson's) proposed Amendments to the Bill of last Session, and stated that the present Bill included the objects of those Amendments. But if the Bill was substantially that of last Session, it certainly would not include the principle for which he (Mr. Wilson) had contended, and still contended. The House would recollect that when the noble Lord the present Secretary for Ireland (Lord Naas) brought in a Bill on this subject two years ago, he (Mr. Wilson) called attention to one of the consequences which would follow from it—that its effects would be to do away with all distinctions between the public servants in regard to superannuation. Those who knew the circumstances under which the Bill of 1834 was brought in, knew that no persons in the civil service had any legal claim to superannuation allowance, except they had submitted to the abatements provided for under that Act: but if you repealed the enactment creating abatements, you could not deny to all persons in the public service allowances, as was done under the Act of 1834. Those who would he acted on by not going on that principle would be the most defenceless persons in the public service day labourers in dockyards, and certain persons employed in the Post-office, who at present were not entitled to superannuation allowance. He was aware that Orders in Council had been issued upon the subject; but they applied to the superior officers in dockyards, and instead of mending the case of the other persons to whom he had alluded it had only made it worse. You not only had dealt liberally and almost lavishly with superior officers—perhaps doing them no more than justice—in giving them full salary on retirement; but at the same time it had been arranged that other men in the same service should not receive more than a fourth of their salaries after fifty years' service. He knew a case of two men who had entered the same service on the same day, and who retired on the same day, both of them with unexceptionable characters, both of them having received the thanks of the Admiralty: one of them had been superannuated on £740 a year, and the other on £40 a year. That arose from inequality of the law as it now stood. He contended that as abatements had been abolished, there was no principle on which you could draw a distinction between any parts of the service. Having, however, been induced to take that step, it now only remained to do justice, and to allow the superannuation allowance to bear the same proportion to the salary, whether great or small, of every man in die public service. There was a class of men who were most injured, inasmuch as they had no superannuation allowance, and they were men in whose cause no one could be said to be interested on political grounds, inasmuch as their means were on so low a scale that they had no votes, and their advocates in that House must be free from suspicion in taking such a course. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the persons to whom his (Mr. Wilson's) Amend ments last year referred—namely, dockyard labourers only—would he included in the Bill, and whether it would affect alike all the permanent officers, high and low? If that were so, he would he content, and he would do all in his power to assist in passing the Bill. If not, he should give notice that at the proper stage be would endeavour to introduce Amendments which would do justice to all classes of public servants.


, said, it would be more convenient to discuss the Bill when the hon. Gentleman had it in his hand, and when the House would be better able to decide on its character; but, speaking generally, he might say that the class of officers to whom the Amendments of the hon. Gentleman applied were included in the Bill. But he might add that the dockyard labourers were specially provided for by the Admiralty orders, and it was unnecessary that there should be any provision in the Bill to include them.


said, that the Bill of last year was so worded that it purported to give superannuation allowances to Post-office servants in London, and excluded a large class of those servants in the country. There was caused a great disturbance in the provincial mind by this distinction, and he would suggest to the right bon. Gentleman to remove the defects of the Bill of last year, and place the official servants in the country on the same footing as those in London, which would much facilitate the passing of the Bill.


was one of those who took a fearful view of the increasing charge for superannuation allowances. He wished to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer if there was any document which he could lay upon the table which would show what would be the increased charge on the public purse if this Bill, as proposed, became law? By the Act of 1834, if any gentleman held the office of Secretary to the Treasury or Admiralty for five years he was entitled to a pension of £1,200 a year. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wilson) that you should treat all officers, high and low, on the same principle, if you could, and he admitted that in the higher political offices there might be some distinction made, as the tenure of office was generally very brief; but in the lower offices, such as those of Secretary to the Treasury or Admiralty, for a person who held them for five years to receive £1,200 a year pension was monstrous, and must cause dissatisfaction in the civil service, which was treated in so different a manner.


wished to correct an error into which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had fallen with regard to dockyard labourers,. The right hon. Gentleman said that Admiralty orders provided for them; but he believed that was a mistake, and, if so, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider the matter, and not object to the introduction of such persons to the advantages of superannuation to which labourers were as much entitled as any other class.


agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in error in this respect. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he wished to carry out the recommendations of the Commission which inquired into the subject, and one of its recommendations was, that whereas many officers in dockyards who were on day-pay were not entitled to superannuation allowance for the time they were on day-pay, that the time on which they received such pay ought to be taken into the calculation. With regard to labourers, they had no pension at all. He thought the principle of his hon. Colleague (Mr. Wilson), should be carried out, and that superannuation allowance should be extended to all classes of public servants according to the length of their services and the amount of their salaries.


said, that various suggestions had been made with regard to superannuation allowances in the last ten years. Once a Motion was made by a Gentleman opposite, the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), to reduce all salaries in the public offices. But a change came over Gentlemen opposite, and they tried to get rid of the system of abatements in the civil service, and the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Cocker-mouth (Lord Naas) was carried. It was then said that this was not merely a question of abatement, but that the House would be pestered by every public servant for a pension; and they saw the beginning of that state of things now, for every public ser- vant was claiming superannuation. He would throw out, for the consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that superannuation allowances represented a capital of £3,000,000. As the Government was changing their opinions on other points, perhaps they would reinstate the abatement clause, which would furnish them with an answer to every one asking for a pension.


was inclined to think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not in error with regard to the dockyard labourers; but he hoped that the Bill would contain provisions for the protection of that class even against the Admiralty. These labourers could not possibly save anything from their pay for their old age, and therefore were persons who, of all others, ought to be considered in any system of superannuation.


explained that he had referred to the latest copies of the Admiralty orders, which, as they bore a date so recent as October last, had not, perhaps, been seen by hon. Gentlemen who had just spoken. [The right hon. Gentleman then read from the Admiralty order in question a passage referring to the superannuation allowed to labourers and artificers.] This showed that the labourers in oar dockyards were in receipt of regulated rates of pension.

Leave Given.

Bill to amend the Laws concerning Superannuations and other allowances to persons having held Civil Offices in the Public Service, ordered to be brought in by Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER and Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE.

Bill presented and read 1o