HC Deb 28 June 1861 vol 164 cc91-5

(10.) £750,000, Customs Department.


said, the Vote ought not to be pressed at so late an hour. It involved the effect on the expenditure of the department of all recent reforms.


said, he hoped the Committee would proceed; till the Estimates were got through there was no prospect of the end of the Session. The changes in the Revenue Department, in consequence of the abolition of some offices, had effected a saving of more than £100,000 on the year, though it would be balanced for a time by an increase in superannuations. That was really the whole case.


said, he was inclined to believe that the Committee knew nothing whatever of these Estimates. He wanted to know why they had stopped short in the Army Estimates, and why the hon. Under Secretary had not gone on with the Vote in excess? They had stopped short on a subject of which they knew little, and they were now asked to go into a question of which they knew nothing. He never expected much good to accrue from bringing these Revenue Estimates before the House. Its only effect had been to remove the responsibility from the hears of the Customs and Excise, who did understand the matter, and to lay on this House, who understood nothing of it at all. He should like to know what was the meaning of this Vote in excess.


said, he was not surprised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should deprecate discussion if the Government themselves relied upon the accuracy of the Revenue Departments without knowing the facts. He would like to know whether there was any balance form previous Votes. It appeared that no fewer than 450 persons had been discharged from the public service, either with compensations or on superannuations. Was there no way of bringing those persons into other departments of the public service?


said, that in passing from the Army to the Revenue Estimates they were strictly following the order on the notice paper. There could be no balances under this head, as all savings were returned to the Exchequer at the end of the year. Of course it could not be expected that officers who had filled situations at the head of Departments should be called upon to assume a subordinate position; but subject to that restriction persons under sixty years of age were at any time liable to be called upon to act in the public service.


said, he was glad that the hon. Gentleman opposite called attention to the amount of the superannuation list, which was increasing at a rate that was perfectly marvellous. He insisted that the Vote in excess ought to have followed the Army Estimates. The result, however, of the recent changes in the conduct of business had been to deceive the House, lengthy discussions occupying the early portion of each evening, so that no one could tell what business would really come on.


explained, that the Vote in excess of the Army Votes formed no portion of the Army Estimates, and, therefore, the Estimates for the Revenue Department were now properly taken. In fact the hon. Gentleman blamed them for adhering strictly to the course of which they had given notice. He feared there was too much truth in the charge of the increase in the superannuation list, but that did not apply to the Customs Department, which were so well managed by the heads of that Department that no fault could be found with them. The Estimates for that Department had been passed for some time in the same quiet way that a long lapse of time was dispatched in Scripture, in a single sentenc— And the land had rest forty years.


said, that the ex- perience of the last few weeks showed that the mode of proceeding with regard to voting the public money was anything but satisfactory. It would be well in a future Session if Government would see whether they could not begin the Estimates at an early hour in the evening, and not to be interrupted by questions about Garibaldi or anything else.


said, that the present disturbance in the Revenue Department was one of great magnitude and importance. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether a large majority of the officers of the Inland Revenue and Customs had not expressed to the Government a sense of certain grievances under which they laboured, and also whether in regulating the salaries and future allowances of those gentlemen Government would not adhere to the precedents which had been established?


said, he was not aware that any general discontent existed in the Departments referred to; on the contrary, he believed that general contentment prevailed. The hon. Gentleman's second question scarcely required an answer, because it would be the duty of Government to adhere to former precedents.

Vote agreed to, as was also

(11.) £1,440,000, Inland Revenue Department.

Motion, made, and Question Proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £2,050,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charges for Post Office Services, and the Collection of the Revenue, which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1862.


said, he wished to ask whether the Estimate furnished by the Post Office was not £2,161,133, and whether the Post Office had not been in the habit of late years of asking for a sum considerably more than they required? He hoped such a whole sale practice on the part of any Department would be discouraged by the Government. Perhaps that was the proper time to call attention to the discontent which prevailed amongst the Post Office officials. They complained that they had never been able to ascertain what were the recommendations contained in the Report of the Committee that was appointed to investigate certain matters of which they complained, or what decision had been arrived at. Without reference to the particular merits of the case, it was very undesirable that questions materially affecting the interests of a large body or men should be kept thus in suspense.


said, the hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the Government ought not to adopt a wholesale manner of dealing with the Estimate. That was a very proper subject for comment; but he believed that in one of the discussions on the finances of the year he apprised the House that they had taken this year the Post Office Estimate closer than had been done in former years, when the Revenue Estimates were always voted to the extent of £300,000 or £400,000 more than was actually necessary. The Government did not think that was at all desirable. With regard to the other point alluded to by the hon. Gentleman, there had no doubt been differences of opinion amongst persons of great weight in the same Department, a circumstance which necessarily occasioned delay in the answer of the Government. Those differences were now entirely removed, and the final answer of the Treasury was sent to the Post Office authorities about a week or a fortnight ago. The matter was concluded, and the measure consequent upon it was now in such a shape as to be soon submitted to the House.


said, he was glad to hear that the absurd and objectionable practice of voting more money for the Revenue Departments than was necessary was about to be checked.


said, he believed that they were voting at least half a million in excess of what was requisite for the Department. There were balances of £600,000 in the Exchequer at the commencement of the last financial year. He would move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £50,000.


said, it was possible that last March there might have been £600,000 on account of the Department in the Exchequer, but then the March quarter's salaries would be paid out of that.


condemned the practice of paying men who discharged the laborious and responsible duties of lettercarriers the paltry pittance of 18s. per week.

Motion made, and Question, That a sum, not exceeding £2,000,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charges for Post Office Services, and the Collection of the Revenue, which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1862.

Put, and negatived.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(13.) £538,574, Superannuations.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported on Monday next.

Committee to sit again on Monday next.