HC Deb 17 June 1861 vol 163 cc1206-16

Order for Committee read, Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, he had no charge to bring against the Government for introducing the Bill, inasmuch as they had, perhaps, been misled by numerous petitions and representations forwarded to" them on the part of the grand juries. Its object was to increase the remuneration given to county surveyors in Ireland and to grant to them superannuation allowances, but the principle involved in it would go much further, as it would equally apply to all officers paid out of the county rates. In the county of Cork alone there were at least 500 officers who on the same grounds as county surveyors would be entitled to an increase of remuneration, and in the whole of Ireland there could not be fewer than 5,000. To prove that this was not a needless alarm he need only point to the fact that among the Amendments to the Bill of which notice appeared on the paper was one by the hon. Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy) to add to the salaries of and grant superannuations to the secretaries of grand juries. He confessed he did not see how their claim could be resisted if the principle of the Bill was sanctioned. The salaries of the surveyors were to be increased to £600 a year; that was to be the maximum. But when a maximum salary was fixed, it was apt, practically, to become the minimum. Some of the surveyors, who made themselves disagreeable, politically or otherwise, might be cut down to £300; but those who went hunting with members of the grand jury—and they would hunt oftener when they had £600 a year than when they had £300—would get the maximum salary. They would not discharge their duties the better for the increase. The fact was there was a number of young men in Ireland who had nothing to do, and their first proceeding was to get an office with a small salary; the next was to get the salary increased; the next to get a superannuation allowance attached to it; and then to prove that the office was utterly useless, and ought to be abolished. He had known cases where that had been done. No doubt the Bill had originated in goodnature. But there were several sorts of goodnature. One was to put your hand into your own pocket and pay £100 in charity, and say nothing about it; another sort was to put your hand into your own pocket and pay the £100, and put it in all the newspapers. That was a higher order of goodnature. Another was to put your hand into your neighbour's pocket, pay it out of that, and then advertise it as your own charity. And this was very much what the Bill proposed to do. It was brought in by English officials, who had no property in Ireland to pay the increased taxes arising from it. Instead of increasing the salaries of the present county surveyors, he thought it would be a better plan to add to the number of the surveyors at a less salary and divide their districts. There should be a smaller division of districts, and a graduated scale of payment. The claims of the officers of the Poor Law Board for superannuation were made on grounds that would apply equally well to Irish Members of Parliament. It was said they were overworked, that they had no time for social duties, that their patience was tasked to the utmost, that they must satisfy everybody, and that they could not look forward to any promotion or provision—precisely the case of the Irish Members. The principle of giving superannuation to local officers ought to be carefully considered by the House. Some returns had been ordered which would prove the great increase that had of late been made in the amounts of the county rates paid in Ireland. Those returns had not been laid upon the table, and he wished to know the reason of the delay. With respect to the Bill he thought the principles which it contained were most objectionable, and before they were adopted the subject ought to be fully inquired into before a Select Committee.


said, he rose to support the Motion of his hon. Friend, and to attest that he had beard a strong desire expressed that the Bill should not be proceeded with. It proposed at one blow to double the salaries of the county surveyors; for, as this Bill had been framed by the right lion. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell), it was at the option of the grand jurors, without regard to the cesspayers, to accomplish this. He trusted that now the public feeling of the people of Ireland was known upon the Bill the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw the measure.


said, that considering the nature of the duties which the county surveyors had to perform, and the responsibility thrown upon them, their present salaries were quite inadequate. The salary was nominally £300 a year, but when travelling expenses were deducted, frequently no more than £200 remained, and the private business of these officers was not uncommonly merely nominal. How could it be expected that competent men could be got at such a salary to discharge the duties of these officers? If inadequate salaries were given the duties of the office would devolve upon an inferior set of individuals, who, on account of the smallness of their remuneration, would be tempted to accept bribes. He would also remind those who opposed the measure that it was merely permissive, and not compulsory, and that it, therefore, involved no addition to the burdens of the ratepayers, except upon their own action with a view to the duties of the office of county surveyor being more efficiently performed. It merely carried out the recommendations of the Committee by which the subject was investigated three or four years ago, and he was surprised at the opposition with which it had been met.


thought that the Bill did not proceed in the right direction. If the salaries were not sufficient let them be increased, but he objected to the power which appeared to be given by the Bill to the county surveyors, of delegating to inferior persons duties for which first class officers were paid. With regard to superannuations, he wished to know why that particular class—the county surveyors—were to have superannuations, to the exclusion of all other officers; and he, likewise, desired to be informed if any estimate had been made out of the increased charge which the Bill would impose on the counties. The Bill excluded the ratepayers from all control, and although the subject required legislation, he thought the Bill had better be postponed for the present year, and next year legislation might take place on the subject after full inquiry.


said, he felt he had a right to claim the vote of the lion. Member for Cork in favour of the Bill, as he formed one of the large majority of the Irish Members who had addressed the Chief Secretary as advocates of some such measure as this. The measure carried out all the recommendations of the Committee of 1857. He (Mr. H. Herbert) considered that any postponement of this Bill would be an act of great injustice to a large body of men whose hopes had been encouraged by the professions of hon. Members on both sides of the House in their favour.


said, before they proceeded further with the Bill they ought to know what were the intentions of the Government with respect to the many Amendments that were to be proposed in Committee. The measure and the proposed Amendments on it not only extended the principle of superannuation to all county surveyors, but also to all their assistants, and they were numerous. In that respect he did not think it was applicable to the condition of Ireland. He thought that the assistants ought not to be included in this provision. It should be recollected that all these offices were Government appointments. It was scarely fair, then, to call upon the country to pay them those large salaries, and afterwards superannuations. He hoped the Government would declare their intentions before they entered any further into the matter.


said, the intentions of the Government with respect to the Bill were to be gathered from the Bill itself. The Bill had three objects in view—to increase the salaries of the county surveyors, to increase the salaries of their assistants, and to provide for them superannuation allowances. It was permissive in its character, and he could not understand how his hon. and gallant Friend, who had always been the advocate of local government, opposed the Bill, which was intended to allow counties to manage their own affairs. He had himself endeavoured to reform the grand jury laws; and in consequence he had received various letters stating that no reform could be accomplished unless the county surveyers and their assistants were elevated in their position. A Committee sat on the subject some years ago, who unanimously recommended that the salaries of the county surveyors and their assistants should be increased, and that the grand juries should have the power of granting them superannuation. That was the recommendation of a Committee which almost wholly consisted of Irish country gentlemen. These surveyors, in fact, had charge over a large sum of county expenditure, and to increase their salaries, therefore, would be the truest economy. So it was with the question of superannuation. The superannuation of an inefficient surveyor would be saved in the efficient management of a successor in the course of two or three years. He, therefore, gave his cordial support to the Bill.


said, he addressed the House on that question, not as an Irish Member, but as an Irish cesspayer, and he could assure the House that the cesspayer of Ireland had a great objection to pay rates for any such purpose as that contemplated by the present Bill. If it were true, as stated, that a large majority of the Irish Members had urged the Government to introduce this Bill, he despaired of the course of the cesspayer in Ireland. In Tipperary the county taxation had increased 20 per cent during the last ten years, and if Parliament were to pass the present Bill, every salaried officer in Ireland would apply to have his salary doubled. He objected particularly to the superannuation clause, and was astonished to see from the paper that the hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. Butt) had given notice of an Amendment to make-that clause retrospective. Let them not call it merely a permissive Bill. They all knew the readiness with which Irishmen put their hands to paper, and he feared that they would be persuaded under the Bill to put their hands to many a job. Why, by the 7th Clause, it was provided that, after ten years' service, a county surveyor could claim superannuation, and, it as was to be retrospective, men who had long since retired would be entitled to claim superannuation. He hoped the Bill would be thrown out; but, if the Irish Members were determined to raise the salaries of county surveyors, let them, at all events, wait until the grand jury laws were put on a sounder and more healthy footing. The appointment of these county surveyors should not be left in the Castle of Dublin. There was great danger that the surveyors would be appointed, not for their scientific attainments, but for their political services.


There would be the test of examination.


Competition—examination! Surely the right lion. Gentleman was not so primitive as to imagine that there was any reality in that test. The county surveyors should be appointed by those who paid them. Until they reformed the whole system of county surveyors, he would not give permissive power to expend upon them one sixpence additional, either in the shape of salary or superannuation.


said, he thought if they gave adequate salaries to the county surveyors they might expect them to devote their whole time to the performance of their important duties which were now, in many cases, delegated to subordinates. No doubt, as had been stated, those officers were appointed by the Government, but their salaries were fixed by the grand juries, who also had the power of dismissal. He gave his hearty approbation to the Motion for going into Committee.


said, he Would admit that he had given his consent to the main provision of the Bill so far as regarded the permissive increase of salaries of county surveyors; but he could not approve combining with it the principle of superannuation, which would open the floodgates to petitions, memorials, and all kinds of private solicitations. It was not real merit that generally carried the day in these appointments. It was the appeal ad misericordiam—the having a sickly wife and eight children—that usually prevailed. He saw grave reasons for acting with extreme caution, and he should oppose going into Committee.


observed, that while the Bill had met with more opposition than he expected, he might on the other hand, appeal to the valuable support it had received, as a proof, in answer to the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. George), that it was not introduced in defiance of the feelings of the Irish people, nor without sufficient inquiry as to what their wishes might be. He only wished that when solemn deputations called on the Irish Government to give effect to the recommendations of a Select Committee, they would ascertain what those recommendations were. Out of those who had to-night opposed the Bill, he had to reckon the hon. Member for the city of Dublin (Sir Edward Grogan), whose constituents were not affected by it; his noble Friend who spoke last, who recommended such a measure; and the hon. Member for Wexford, who Was a Member of a Government pledged to introduce a like Bill. By an amendment of the law in 1834, county surveyors, selected after examination by competent persons, were entrusted with the management of large sums of money, amounting to £400,000 or £500,000, to be expended in the maintenance of roads in Ireland. In 1857 a Select Committee was appointed to consider the case of those surveyors. On that Committee were the right hon. Member for Canterbury (Sir William Somerville), at one time Secretary for Ireland, the noble Lord opposite (Lord Naas), and the right hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Herbert), who had also been Chief Secretary for Ireland. The Committee examined the subject very carefully, and reported unanimously in favour of an increase of salary and in favour of a system of superannuation, with a power for the grand juries to require the exclusive services of those officers. A memorial, signed by between thirty and forty Irish Members, had been presented, requesting the Government to carry out those recommendations, which was all that this Bill was intended to effect. It did not propose a compulsory increase of salary nor a compulsory amount of superannuation, but it merely said to those who administered the fiscal affairs of the country, that if they had a large sum of money to expend, and they thought it expedient to spend a trifling sum more in its supervision and control, believing that economy and advantage would result from it, they should have the power to incur that expense. It also gave power to dispense with a valuable servant at a time of life when they ought no longer to retain him in his place, by superannuating him. It was said this Bill would make patronage for the Government. It was true that the appointments in the first place were made by the Lord Lieutenant from a List; the result of an examination; and in the order in which the names stood on that List; but the amount of pay was fixed by the grand jury, and the grand jury had the power of dismissing the officer. The Government did not jump to the conclusion that the feeling of the country was in favour of the Bill. It was printed at the close of last Session, and although it was largely circulated no petition had been presented against it. As to the intentions of the Government, they would adhere to the provisions contained in the Bill, but they would not pledge themselves blindly to object to any suggestions or Amendments in Committee.


said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the enormous extent to which the system of raising salaries and providing superannuations of these county surveyors might be carried under the present Bill. He denied that this power of superannuation, if given, would be permissive. If given, they might be sure it would be used, and the power of resistance on the part of the grand juries was so small that they must grant the allowance if asked to do so. What he wanted to know was to what extent would this power be used? There was a strong case, he thought, to raise the salaries of some of the county surveyors, and after a certain number of years they might give a certain amount of superannuation to those surveyors who had been underpaid. If the salaries were raised for the future they would be able to provide for themselves against the evil day. He would support that part of the Bill which contemplated raising salaries, but he objected altogether to recognizing the principle of superannuating every officer who was paid out of the county rates, without having some estimate of what the taxation would be to the cesspayers.


said, he should support the Bill, because he believed it to be just and expedient that every man ought to be paid for his labour according to his merits. The county surveyors were, undoubtedly, underpaid. He knew that in the county of Cork they could not afford to travel over the whole of their districts on account of the expense, and the consequence was that the grand jury had to rely in a great measure on the reports of subordinates. He was satisfied that it would be true economy to give the surveyors adequate salaries, and he held that they were as much entitled to superannuation as the civil servants of the Government.


remarked that they should give grand juries the power of employing first class surveyors, and that they should be enabled to pay them liberally.


said, the principle of the Bill was to give power to the grand juries to pay men better who they knew were at present underpaid. He did not believe grand juries would abuse the powers placed in their hands, and the provision that the increase of salary should be sanctioned by two grand juries was a sufficient safeguard against jobbing.


said, he objected to superannuations, and to raising salaries, but if it were required he would give the present surveyors assistance in the performance of the duties of their office.


said, over £1,000,000 a year was paid for county cess in Ireland, and he thought that they should be just to the poor farmers who paid it before they were generous to the county surveyors. They had good roads in Ireland at present, and there was no ground for saying that the business of the surveyors was not well done, or that there was any difficulty in getting good surveyors at the present rate of pay. There was no lack of candidates whenever a surveyor's office was vacant, and there were many other public officers, such as the medical officers of Unions, who had prior claims to the county surveyors. Taxation and representation ought to be convertible terms. It was not so in the Bill, and that, in his opinion, was one of the principal objections to the Bill. The universal feeling in Ireland was against the Bill. It was only making bad worse. He would, therefore, move that the House go into Committee that day three months, Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve solve itself into the said Committee," instead thereof.


said, one would imagine from the observations that had been made that the proposal was one for the increase of local taxation. It was nothing of the kind. The measure was the result of much investigation on the part of a Committee composed principally of Irish Members. He did not consider the grand jury system perfect; but he had not such an unfavourable opinion of them as to object to give them the slight power which the Bill proposed to confer on them.


said, he was in favour of the original Motion, considering the Bill would have a beneficial operation; but he was opposed to the system of superannuation in toto.


said, the discussion was 'a mere battle between the centralized authorities and the local interests of Ireland. He should support the latter, and considered there was no necessity either for the increase of salary or for the superannuation proposed. There was no ground whatever for the Bill.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 152; Noes 59: Majority 93.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 4 (Grand Jury at Summer Assizes held after passing of Act may on Application of County Surveyor resolve that his Salary be increased),


moved an Amendment providing that previously to an alteration being agreed to by the Grand Jury it should have been adopted by a majority of the magistrates and ratepayers at Sessions.

Amendment proposed, in line 7, after the word "put," to insert the words— Provided that the previous sanction of the presentment sessions of the county at large to any such increase of salary shall have been granted on application to be made in the same manner as is necessary for works exceeding in expense one hundred pounds on the county at large.


said, he must object to the Amendment, on the ground that the words would take away the control over the county surveyors which the existing statute gave to the grand jury, and transfer it to the Presentment Sessions.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes 54; Noes 61: Majority 7.


said, that, recognizing what appeared to be the wish of the minority, he would undertake to frame a provision to the effect that before the second grand jury could confirm any increase of salary the subject should be submitted to a Presentment Sessions.


moved that the Chairman report Progress.

Motion made and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 24; Noes 71: Majority 47.


said, he would propose an Amendment in the clause, providing that no appointment should be made under the Bill by a majority of less than two-thirds of the grand jury.


Will the hon. Member tell us what number would constitute two-thirds of twenty-three?

Amendment negatived.


proposed the insertion of a provision for increasing the salaries of the secretaries of the grand juries. The increase in the number of sessions held annually in the Irish counties had added considerably to the labours of these officers, and the grand juries had petitioned for power to raise their salaries.


ruled that the Bill did not apply to the case of these officers.

Motion negatived.


said, he wished to move a proviso to the effect that whenever the maximum salary was given to a county surveyor no allowance should be made for an assistant.

Amendment proposed, to add, at the end of the Clause, the words, Provided always, That when the salary granted to a County Surveyor shall amount to the maximum specified in the Schedule, it shall not be lawful for the Grand Jury to grant any salary for an Assistant Surveyor.


opposed the Amendment.


moved that the Committee report Progress.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 21; Noes 59: Majority 38.

Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."


moved that the Committee report Progress.


suggested that they should finish the clause.


withdrew his Motion.

Question put, and negatived.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again on Thursday.

House adjourned at half-after Two o'clock.