HC Deb 27 February 1866 vol 181 cc1200-3

MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE moved for leave to bring in a Bill to amend an Act passed last Session, called "The Colonial Governors (Retiring Pensions) Act." He said, that without trespassing at any length on the attention of the House, he wished to point out those features of the Act of last year which rendered that measure, although introduced by the Colonial Secretary with the very kindest and best intentions, perfectly useless. That right hon. Gentleman's Bill bestowed pensions on Colonial Governors who had served for eighteen years, and who were sixty years of age; but no gentleman who had served in the colonies in any other capacity than as Governor was allowed to count the time during which he had resided there. Now, these conditions made the measure inoperative. In the first place, there were not two instances of Governors who had served for more than or even for eighteen years. A Colonial Governor was appointed for a period of six years; it was by the greatest possible interest and favour that he ever obtained three governments; and even if he received three governments, it very rarely happened that he served the whole six years in each. Again, assuming that a Governor was appointed at thirty, and that he had the good fortune to hold three governments in succession for the full terms, he would come home at forty-eight; but under the right hon. Gentleman's Act he would have to remain without any pension whatever for twelve years, until he was sixty. He might die of starvation in the meanwhile. It was a great hardship not to allow these gentlemen to count other Colonial service besides that rendered by them in the capacity of Governor. Without mentioning names, one instance in proof might be quoted. A gentleman of great distinction and consideration had served in different capacities in the colonies from 1827 to 1847. In the latter year he was appointed as Governor of an important colony, and he filled the same post in different parts of the world from 1847 to 1861. Thus he had acted in the colonies as Governor for fourteen years, and for twenty years before that he had served in the colonies in other capacities; yet he was not entitled to more than a trifling pension. The Bill which he now asked permission to introduce was one of a very moderate character. It reduced the time of service three years—from eighteen years to fifteen—which rendered the condition as to three governments a practical one. It also gave the pension to any Governor the moment he was entitled to it, unless he received other employment; and it permitted these officers to count all the time during which they had been engaged in the Colonial service. It was to be hoped that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell), having seen the working of his Act, or rather how little use it was, would not only assent to the introduction of that Bill, but to its passing into law. Since last year there had been a great change in regard to the position of Colonial Governors. Last year he had urged on the House the importance of the duties of those officers, how they ought to be supported by the Home Government, and that justice should be done to those men who devoted their time and their energies to the service of their country in distant lands. Events had since transpired which must have impressed upon the House the great importance and the heavy responsibility attached to those posts. During the discussions of last year some hon. Gentlemen treated lightly the position of Colonial Governors, spoke of them as being, after all, unimportant, as being given to half-pay officers who were not capable of filling great situations. The recent occurrences in Jamaica, in Victoria, and in North America showed how very mistaken was such a notion. Gentlemen were sent out to these posts to represent their Sovereign, with the possibility of having their conduct violently assailed while they were doing their best, and their characters blasted by the ignorance or the malevolence of parties at home. And yet, after they had served their country under such circumstances for fifteen or sixteen years, they would not receive the most trifling pittance on their return. The salaries of those gentlemen, who had to represent the Sovereign, were not sufficient to enable them to make a future provision for their families or to insure their lives, a thing which, by the way, could only be done in such climates at very high rates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he had understood, had last year thrown some obstacles in the way of a more satisfactory settlement of that question; because at one time, he believed, it was proposed that other Colonial service besides that rendered as Governor was to be allowed to count, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not sanction it. Whether that had been the fact or not, it was to be hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would think better of it now, and, giving to that matter the fair consideration which the justice of the case demanded, would allow the present Bill not only to be brought in, but to pass. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to introduce the Bill.


said, it was not his intention to offer any objection to the introduction of the Bill; but he must suppose that his hon. Friend would take proper care so to arrange the measure as to make it accord with the rules of the House when he did introduce it. The Bill of last Session had met with greater favour with Colonial Governors than his hon. Friend was aware of. He could not admit that it had been entirely inoperative, because it appeared from the papers which had just been laid on the table that seven Colonial Governors had already received well-merited pensions, so that instead of the measure being considered valueless it had been properly appreciated. He thought it would be better to postpone the consideration of the provisions of the Bill of his hon. Friend till the House had had an opportunity of seeing it. His hon. Friend understood the great difficulty everybody had to encounter with a Bill of this kind, and he could not hold out any encouragement that Her Ma- jesty's Government, who had given much consideration to the subject, were prepared to depart from the arrangement made during the last Session of Parliament.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to amend an Act passed in the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth years of Her present Majesty, intituled "The Colonial Governors (Retiring Pensions) Act,"ordered to be brought in by Mr. BAILLIE COCHRANE and Mr. CAVE.