HC Deb 14 July 1868 vol 193 cc1194-9

rose to move— That it is expedient that the Departments of Public Health, Cattle Plague, and Quarantine should cease to exist as Establishments, due regard being had to all personal interests and to all individual claims. He reminded the House that this was no new subject with him. He had addressed the House more than once on the subject of the public health, though he had not been able to make himself intelligible to the noble Lord at the head of the Department (Lord Robert Montagu) who fancied on one occasion that in referring to the illness of the Minister for War, he was referring to his official conduct. The case of the Minister for War or of Prince Arthur proved that the remedies of the noble Lord were of no avail. It was not from faulty vaccination, for it might he said of them, what Hood said of Miss Kilmansegg— In short she was born, and bred, and nurst, And dressed in the best from the very first, To please the genteelest censor; And then, as soon as strength would allow, Was vaccinated, as babes are now, With virus taken from the best bred cow Of Lord Althorp's, now Lord Spencer. The failure of the precautions in the case of the right hon. Gentleman and the illustrious Prince was a proof of the practical inutility of the Department. He contended that the whole of the establishments referred to were based upon a theory which was easily refuted by the Sixth Report of the Medical Officers of the Privy Council, and a vast expense had been incurred without any corresponding results. Some time ago it was determined to employ special conveyances for persons taken to the hospitals; but the very first one that refused to employ them was the Smallpox Hospital. Passing from that point to the cattle plague, he contended that the employment of special railway cars had failed, because, it was not in the cars but in the conveyance of cattle that the so-called infection lay. He denied altogether that the cattle plague had been communicated by infected cattle imported from abroad. The doctrine of the Privy Council was not founded on scientific grounds. ["Agreed!"] As for quarantine, the Vice President of Council on Education had stated that it was not established for sanitary purposes. When the Estimates were brought forward he should move that the expense charged for these Departments should be disallowed and the establishments suppressed.


said, he had failed to observe the hon. Baronet's Notice on the Paper; otherwise he would have risen immediately after his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had concluded his speech. With regard to the observations of the hon. Baronet, he understood that for some time the Treasury had been Considering the question, whether there might not be a further reduction in the Veterinary Department of the Privy Council. He believed that if the provisions of the Metropolitan Cattle Market Bill should be carried out it would enable the Treasury to effect a considerable reduction in the expenses of that Department. But, apart from the question, whether that should be carried or not, the Treasury were considering whether a reduction could not be made. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Pontefract, (Mr. Childers) he thought the hon. Gentleman had done good service in calling the attention of the House to the regulations with respect to the Civil Service. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the large amount of salaries and pensions, and the figures to which he had called the attention of the House, showed that this was a matter of no little importance. He had compared the number of persons employed at the present day in the different Departments of the Civil Service with the number employed some years ago; but he had himself admitted most candidly that that comparison would be imperfect unless you went into all the causes of increase, and into the different duties assigned to the Departments now in contrast with the duties assigned then. Anyone who had followed the course of legislation for the last few years must be aware that the tendency had been to require a much greater supervision over different branches of trade, of agriculture, and of the other descriptions of employment in which the population of this country was engaged, than had been required formerly. There was now a close inspection of the factories in which young persons and children were engaged in manufacturing operations. Now, such supervision required an increased number of civil servants and an enlarged organization. Again, there had been a rapid progress in luxury and refinements. Persons were content a few years ago to live in a much more frugal way than they did now. Persons now required luxuries and refinements which a few years ago were only enjoyed by those in a. higher grade than they occupied. All those circumstances tended to increase the expenditure for the Civil Service. He was not at all sure, either, whether those additional luxuries did not make persons in the Civil Service think that the hours formerly spent in public offices were too long, that so constant an attention to business as had formerly been paid to it was irksome, and that they ought to be afforded more frequent opportunities of absenting themselves from duty. In fact, there was much greater luxury in every department of life now than there had been in the days of our fathers. There was more luxurious living and a greater number of hours and days were spent in pleasure; and the effect was felt in increased demands on the public purse, he thought all that must be taken into account. Not only had the salaries of different officers been raised, but more persons were required to do the work. He thought it probable that something might be done in the way of reducing the number of persons employed in the public service; but, as regarded salaries, he could assure the House that the Treasury was the great keeping down Department. He had heard it alleged that the Treasury was the spending Department; but it was in the other Departments—more particularly the War Department and the Admiralty—the great expenditure took place. If any hon. Gentlemen attended even for one day in the Treasury he would hear there the constant cries of "Give, give, give," and "Lend, lend, lend," followed on the part of the Office by the reply, "No, no, no." But, with great respect, he must say that in its efforts to keep down the public expenditure, the Treasury was not always backed up by the House of Commons. It was true that in Parliament loud complaints were made of the amount of that expenditure; but when pensions and salaries were brought under the notice of hon. Members the tendency of the House was to increase those charges. His right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Queen's County constantly blamed the Treasury for refusing to make certain payments—[General DUNNE: Hear, hear!]—but it was his belief that if hon. Members supported the Treasury in its attempts to keep down the public expenditure, they would do much more good than they could possibly do by making abstract speeches and so forth. His hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract had compared the expenses connected with the administration of justice here with the expenses connected with the administration of justice in France. He had said he possessed no means of making a comparison between any other items in the Civil Service expenditure of the two countries. Now, he did not go so far as his hon. Friend, because he thought he had no means of making a comparison between the two items compared by his hon. Friend. He believed that the administration of justice in this country and the administration of justice in France proceeded on different principles. He thought it quite likely that under a system by which the administration of justice was so much centralized that administration might cost much less than it did in our country, where to a very great extent it was localized. But that which satisfied France might not satisfy England. It was of the last importance that a country should be satisfied with the system under which justice was administered to its people, and therefore this was one of the things in respect of which we must have regard to quality as well as to quantity. He confessed that to a great extent he went with his hon. Friend, as regarded the competitive system. He believed that when we carried it into the very low branches of the Civil Service we made a mistake. In these branches our object was to get men of good character, and trustworthy. Of course it was necessary that they should have a certain amount of education to enable them to perform their duties; but the effect of going too low with competitive examinations was to get men who were above their work. A man who passed a competitive examination, and was then appointed to a humble position, said—"I have passed an examination and obtained so many marks. I am entitled to something better than this." The consequence was that he became a discontented man. He was not content to give his services for the salary which had been paid to the man who had preceded him. He believed that the feeling to which he had just referred was at the bottom of a good deal of the discontent in the Civil Service. Therefore, while admitting the utility of competitive examinations in the higher branches, he did not think they should run the system too far. His hon. Friend had spoken of the want of classification. A good deal might be said on that score; but he did not know a more difficult question with which the Treasury had to deal than that of the adjustment of the duties and the salaries of officers in the Civil Service. The matter was one on which scarcely any two persons could be found to agree. The classifications of Departments and of ranks on some general principle was matter to which he had been turning his attention for a long time; but though in theory such a classification was one which recommended itself, in practice it presented serious difficulties. It could not be started without leaving vested interests untouched. In almost every Department a place had to be made for some person, who, though not properly coming within it, was really indispensable to the office. It would be almost impossible to lay down any rule to which there would be no exceptions. If a uniform system were established, and regard were had to vested interests, the rule so established could not be carried out for a century, or for fifteen or twenty years at least; and before then, some new notion might spring up, which would make another change absolutely necessary. Those were very considerable difficulties in a practical point of view; and although the theory might do very well if they were starting with a tabula rasa in a new society, yet, in an old country like this, with different Departments which had grown up from time to time, and where the existing staff had had their salaries fixed with reference to their special duties, the difficulties in establishing such a system would almost appal anybody who attempted it. At all events, it could only be done by means of a Commission, going not only into the question of the salaries of the different Departments, but also into the duties of almost every officer, and certainly of every class of officer in them. The subject was really one of vast dimensions, and he confessed that he almost thought it would be better to leave pretty well alone than to embark upon an unknown sea. At that hour of the night he would not trespass further on the time of the House, as he wished to get into Committee; but the question was one on which it was possible to speak at almost any length; and if he did not follow the hon. Member further into it, it was from no disrespect towards him, nor from any want of appreciation of the importance of the subject. He thanked him for bringing the question forward, and he hoped that the hon. Member's remarks would not be without their effect on the House when they were considering questions of salaries and pensions.

Motion negatived.