HC Deb 18 February 1859 vol 152 cc592-6

order Second Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, he intended to move an Amendment in Committee to which he believed the Government would not object.


complained that a Bill of so much importance was pressed forward at so late an hour (near Twelve o'clock), He believed that the Bill would throw an enormous burden upon the country. The subject was referred to a Committee of the House, and after a very laborious investigation they reported. Afterwards a Commission was appointed to revise (rather an unusual course), the proceedings of the Committee. The Committee recommended that the tax should be abolished, but not that the salaries should be revised. He understood that this Bill would entitle the whole of the Civil Service to superannuation. The Government ought to inform the House what that superannuation would cost the country. In the shape of compensation and superannuation the country was at this moment paying £1,400,000, and if the whole civil service of the country was to be entitled to superannuation, he would ask where was it to end? Although the tax, which amounted to £70,000, had been abolished, there was nevertheless a new scale and state of things established. He objected to the form of the Bill, and to that bit-by-bit legislation it proposed, for in dealing with the question of superannuation they ought to deal with it as a whole.


said, it would be undesirable at that late hour to trespass on the attention of the House at any great length; but the House was no doubt entitled to an explanation of the nature and object of this measure. In the first place, it was the intention of the Government, if the House assented to the second reading, to move that they should go into Committee pro forma on Monday, in order that they might reprint the Bill with some Amendments, that would make it clearer when they came to discuss it in detail. It was proposed to introduce some alterations in the second clause of the Bill, which would, he thought, meet the views of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Wilson.) It was the wish of the Govern- ment that the Bill should accomplish that which it was principally intended to accomplish, namely—the putting all classes of the civil service on one uniform footing, as well as putting an end to those anomalies that had at present, and for a long time, existed in the system of superannuation. With regard to the observations of the hon. Baronet, he thought it was hardly fair to call the present Government to account for what was done some time ago in the appointment of a Royal Commission, to review, as he said, the proceedings of a Committee of that House. The Commission was appointed not to review, but to complete those proceedings. The hon. Baronet would recollect, because he was a Member of the Committee, that they did not arrive at a settlement of the question so as to enable the House to legislate upon the subject that Session. There was among other things an important question raised by the civil servants as to the sufficiency or non-sufficiency of the deductions made from their salaries to pay the whole of their pensions, and that question was still under the consideration of eminent actuaries who had not come to a conclusion upon it when the Committee broke up. The Government, therefore, thought it desirable to appoint a Royal Commission, consisting of five gentlemen of great eminence, to consider that point. The Commission, after considering the matter very carefully, made an elaborate Report, which was not in the nature so much of a revision of the proceedings of a Select Committee of that House as a general report upon the subject, and which confirmed, to a very great extent, the conclusions of that Committee. But with regard to the point raised by the hon. Baronet—namely, the additional expense which this Bill would throw upon the country by taking off abatements, the Government had to consider not what were the recommendations of the Select Committee or of the Royal Commission, but had to consider what was the act of that House. The noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth, now Chief Secretary for Ireland, introduced the year before last a Bill to put an end to that system of abatements—to put an end, and as he (Sir Stafford North-cote), thought wisely, to that question. This question should not be looked upon as a mere question of pounds, shillings, and pence, as the hon. Baronet had put it. For what was the object of the superannuation system? Its object was to get good men for the civil service at moderate prices, to keep them as long as their services were valuable to the country, and to provide for their retirement When their services were not sufficiently valuable to the country. If that system were to be continued it must be clear, intelligible, and uniform, because if you had a system by which people when appointed were uncertain as to whether they would receive superannuation, you could not, on the one hand, when you engaged them, get the benefit of the system by engaging them at moderate salaries, nor could you, on the other, from considerations of humanity, dispense with their services just at the time when they began to be of less value to the country than when they were engaged. The last great settlement of the superannuation question was in 1834, but in that settlement there were several blemishes. One was that the superannuation was confined to a certain number of offices minted in a schedule to the Act. A great number of offices, however, had grown up since the Act of 1834, which did not come within the scope of its provisions. The persons holding those offices were not subject to abatements, but they got pensions, though on a very irregular and unsatisfactory system. For instance, the officers of the Poor-Law Board, and some others, were paid off, not on any established system, but in an irregular manner. One of the objects of this Bill was to put an end to the scheduling of offices, and to make the superannuation apply to the whole civil service. With regard to the additional expense consequent upon introducing ail those other classes of persons, he thought the hon. Baronet formed an exaggerated opinion of it. Although it was perfectly true there was a large number of persons interested in the passing of this Bill, it was to a great extent because they desired certainty and something like a fixed system that they were so interested. The great class who would probably be brought within the superannuation provision, in addition to those who were now included, would be persons employed in country Post-offices. He could not at that moment give an exact estimate of the number of that class of persons; but the Postmaster General and the authorities in the Post Office had represented that the department suffered seriously by not having a proper system of superannuation and retirement, and by not being able to get rid of persons who were past service. The measure, therefore, if the House looked at it in a broad light, was one for the improvement of the civil service generally, and he believed it to be one of true economy. It was one of a series of measures which the present and the late Government had been taking for some time past for improving generally, and so economizing the Civil Service. He hoped the House would allow the Bill to be read a second time, because really its principle was already admitted, seeing, as every one would acknowledge, that if they were to pay their servants at all it was better to pay them on a system than upon no system.


complained that in an indirect way Clause 4 of the Bill sought to apply its provisions to any judicial office in the United Kingdom; and he contended that if it was desirable to bring judicial offices within its scope it should be by legislation directly applicable to them, rather than that they should be placed, in regard to superannuation, under the control of the Treasury.


said, as to the policy of applying the principle of the Bill to judicial officers, it was impossible to expect from a gentleman eighty-five years of age—supposing any of them to be so—that degree of attention which one less advanced in years would bring to the discharge of his duties. He agreed that the House should recognize the principle of rewarding length of service, but there ought to be a power of saying that at a certain time of life judicial officers should retire, and that power ought to be applied to persons who had arrived at a certain age, except the judges of the superior courts of law.


said, he did not rise to oppose the second reading of the Bill, but to state that in his opinion the effect of it would be to put it into the power of the Treasury to apply Clause 4 so as to enforce retirement on every judicial officer on his attaining the age of 65—he repeated at the age of 65, and the House would see that that was so if they read the clause in connection with Clause 13. He added, that in future stages of the Bill he would meet that part of it with the most determined opposition.


said, he wished to express a hope that the Bill was so framed as to include within its scope artificers and labourers regulary employed in the Government establishments; and also to ask if its operation was to be retrospective or otherwise.?


said, he trusted that the Bill would include the large class of supernumeraries employed in almost every department of the Government.


said, he would call the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ennis (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) to the fact that the limit of sixty-five years, mentioned in the Bill, applied to offices held otherwise than during good behaviour, which excluded Judges of County Courts in Ireland.

Question put and agreed to: Bill read 2o, and committed for Monday next.

House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock, till Monday next.