HC Deb 14 July 1868 vol 193 cc1185-94

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the extent, cost, and classification of the Civil Service. Premising that on account of the late period of the Session, to which, in order that certain Returns might be prepared, the question had been deferred, he was unwilling to delay the progress of the Estimates, and should not therefore address the House at so great a length as he had originally intended, he remarked that although there had recently been debates upon particular portions of the Civil Service, the entire subject of its organization had not been discussed for some time past. The present, he thought, was an appropriate time for considering it, for this was the end of a Parliament and of an electoral system, and the impending change would undoubtedly lead to considerable alterations in the manner of dealing with the public expenditure and public Departments. He was anxious, too, at a moment when our finances were not in a condition to afford any increase in these charges, to strengthen the hands of the Government; for an increase had unfortu- nately of late been the rule. Moreover, the new system of examinations, whether competitive or test examinations—the result of the labours of two very valuable civil servants some years ago—had been in operation long enough to show what its effect had been upon the service, and whether any amendment was required. Another reason for considering the question at the present time was that whereas some years since only a fraction of our civil expenditure was included in the Estimates—owing to the charges on the Consolidated Fund, the Civil List, and various fee and other funds not coming directly under the cognizance of Parliament—we had gradually brought the whole of it, with the exception of the Court of Chancery and one or two minor Departments, and the charges of the Judges and great Officers of State, within the annual Votes. The House was thus able, on the face of the Estimates, to ascertain the charge of the Civil Service, and to deal with it as a whole. In the suggestions and criticisms he was about to offer, he wished it to be understood that he did not wish to interfere with any existing vested interests, or with the fair claims of any member of the service; for he thought the inadvertent neglect of this rule when making great changes had had a mischievous effect. His principle, too, in dealing with these great establishments would be to economize, not by here and there cutting £50 or £100 off salaries, but by endeavouring to reduce the numbers where the charge was too great; and he thought he should be able to show that there was an excellent opportunity for an enterprizing Chancellor of the Exchequer of making such reductions. He would proceed to give the House some figures as to the expense and condition of the Civil Service, meaning by that term the body of persons employed in the Government service in civil capacities, and charged directly or indirectly on the Consolidated Fund or the Votes of Parliament—including members of the Judicial, Legal, and Police establishments, the Revenue Departments, and the civilians employed in the army and navy, but excluding all officers, whether combatants or non-combatants, provided for in the Votes for the Army and Navy. He would now give to the House the present charge and the present number, as accurately as he had been able to obtain them. And here he would say that he had to thank his right hem. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who with great kindness had placed at his disposal the resources of the Treasury, and enabled him to obtain those figures, if not quite accurately, yet as nearly so as it was possible to do in the case of such vast establishments. The state of things was this—The salaries, wages, payments for services in the shape of remuneration, stipends, or whatever else it might be called, in the Civil Service proper amounted altogether to £1,855,000 a year. The similar payments in our Judicial and Police establishments amounted to £2,833,000. The payments in our Revenue Departments for the same services amounted to £3,280,000 a year; and the payments of civilians, strictly so called, in the Naval and Military Departments, or in other words, in the "War Office, the Admiralty, and the Dockyards, amounted to £2,868,000 a year. The House was therefore dealing with no less a sum than £10,839,000 a year in respect of the civil expenditure of the country. The House would be interested in comparing that sum with the strictly Military Votes or the Votes for the pay and allowances of the combatant and non-combatant forces of the army and navy. Separate Votes were taken in the Army and Navy Estimates for the pay and provisions of the officers and men of the two forces; and these together made up a sum of £8,785,000. Therefore, the expenditure for what were strictly speaking civil salaries and wages exceeded by no less than £2,000,000 the entire annual charge for pay and allowances of the officers and men of the army and navy. [General PEEL asked the number of men included in the Returns.] He was on the point of giving this information. There were 650 persons in the higher grades of the four divisions of the Civil Service who received annual salaries to the amount in all of £1,092,000 a year. Of course, he excluded from this the officers near the person of the Sovereign charged on the Civil List. There were 364 clerks receiving altogether as salaries £368,000, and here he was only taking clerks of the highest grade, with salaries of, or above, £800 a year. Then there were 13,808 clerks and others receiving salaries under £800 a year, which made a sum of £3,369,214; so that there were altogether in the Civil Service 14,822 persons employed receiving salaries to the extent of £4,830,392. Then there were on wages 79,554 persons who received £4,448,106. Both classes made a total of 94,376 persons, who received from the State £9,278,498. In addition to that the State had to pay for clerical assistance a sum of £154,131, and for salaries and allowances to persons not entirely, but only partially, paid from Imperial funds £1,406,392. The sum total, therefore, amounted to£10,839,021. But we not only paid this large sum to our civil servants, but we allowed in the shape of civil pensions and superannuations a very large sum besides. There was for this purpose a charge on the Consolidated Fund of £352,000; Civil Votes for Police, £118,000; for others, £255,000; Law Funds, £50,000; Revenue Votes, £468,000; Army Votes, £135,000; Navy Votes, £223,000; making a total of £1,601,000, which, added to the charge for salaries, &c, gave a grand total of £12,440,000. He did not think there was any country in the world in which so large an expenditure was made in the Civil Service at the present time. It was exceedingly difficult to make a comparison in this respect with foreign countries. In the case of France, as the House well knew, the whole expenditure of the Administration, with very slight exceptions indeed, was charged upon the public Revenues, not as in this country, in which the charge to a very great extent was borne on the county, borough, and other local rates. He had said that he could not make a complete comparison of our civil expenditure with the civil expenditure of France; but he had taken some pains to compare the cost of one branch—that of the administration of justice—in both countries. The items of cost for the administration of justice in France was as follows:—Salaries—Department, £23,000; Cour de Cassation, £47,000; Cours Imperiales, £279,000; Cours d'As-sises, £6,000; Tribunaux de Premiere Instance, £410,000; Tribunaux de Commerce, £7,000; Tribunaux de Police, £3,000; Juges de Paix, £315.000—£1,090,000; other expenses, £245,000—total, £1,335,000. The cost of the administration of justice in England was as follows:—Chancery, £180,000; Common Law, £182,000; Probate and Admiralty, £106,000; Bankruptcy, £120,000; County Courts, £491,000; Police Courts, £41,000; all other Courts, £33,000; prosecutions, £212,000; sundry expenses, £50,000; total for England, £1,415,000. In Scotland—Courts, £205,000. In Ireland—Courts £244,000; prosecutions, £18,000; sundry, £32,000; total of Ireland, £294,000. Total for the United Kingdom, £1,924,000; and if the £315,000 (the salaries of the Juges de Paix), was, us in fairness it ought to be, deducted for the purposes of comparison from the French Estimate, the result was, that our Estimate was nearly £1,000,000in excess of that of France. Now, what were the real facts as to our civil expenditure? There was no doubt that within the last twenty or twenty-five years that expenditure had greatly increased. It, had not increased in the years from 1861 to 1865, but it had gone on increasing within the last two or three years. He did not say that at the present time byway of reflection on anyone, but it was impossible to deny that the tendency for the last twenty-five years had been in the direction of a steady increase in our civil charges. He had tried to compare English with foreign expenditure, and also the expenditure of particular Departments at home with one another. It was exceedingly difficult to do so, because the system had altered very much of late years. There were Departments, however, as to which you could legitimately compare their state in 1853 and their state now. For example, the Foreign Office, in 1853, employed fifty-one persons; it now employed eighty-five. In 1853 the Colonial Office, before the great colonial changes, which one would have thought would have reduced the staff there, employed thirty-seven persons; now it employed fifty-three. The Department of Works then employed thirty-seven persons; now it employed eighty-four. Again, in 1853, the expenditure of the Admiralty Office proper was £122,000; it was now £182,000, showing an increase of £60,000. On the other hand, the Treasury, where eighty-four persons were employed in 1853, now had eighty-five; and in the Pay Office at both periods there were seventy-three persons. It was not therefore impossible in some Departments to keep down this increase of numbers and of expense. In the other cases mentioned, to his mind the increase was such that nobody could wonder if the Civil Service Estimates showed the effects of it. It was impossible, without an immense amount of trouble and of official knowledge—which, of course, at the present moment he did not possess—to compare the total expenditure in the Civil Service at the two periods, because there had been so many transfers of charge from the Consolidated Fund to the Votes, and from the Naval and Military Votes to the Civil Votes, and so on, that the mere figures, if quoted, would only deceive the House. But he had adduced facts which could be substantiated, and those facts evidently deserved the attention of the Government. One of the principal evils in the Civil Service, as at present constituted, sprung from the entire want of systematic classification in the different salaries of public servants. There were not two Departments in which civil servants of the same class had the same rates and augmentations of salaries. When he was at the Treasury he examined into this question in reference to one Department—the warehousing Department of the Customs—and there he found not less than eighteen varieties of classification, with different minimums, different maximums, different augmentations, and different proportions of salary, so that an officer had eighteen different sets of chances with reference to his promotion. The same system prevailed in other Departments. Now, he did not mean to say that the whole service should be classified in the same way; but at present there was an entire want of system, in spite of the exertions of the Treasury. Such a state of things produced the worst results, because it led to constant complaints and grumbling on the part of the officers; and when complaints and grumbling prevailed the public service could not be satisfactorily carried on. The next evil was the want of a sufficient distinction between officers who worked with their brains and officers who worked with their hands. One common word "clerk" was applied to gentlemen of the highest education, whose information and ability rendered immense service to their country, and men who were well paid at £100 or £150 a year for the merest routine work. This want; of a distinction between brain and handwork was a greater cause of difficulty than 'that to which he had just alluded. And he would give a practical illustration of the mistakes made even recently in not recognizing this distinction. There were formerly in the Customs two distinct classes of officers—the one known as landing waiters and gaugers, men of considerable education, who rose to £400 or £500 a year, and even to the highest posts in the; Customs; and below them were weighers, tidewaiters, and inferior officers. For a; reason which, he admitted, possessed considerable weight, these two classes bad been practically amalgamated. You now had the landing officers, who were the old landing waiters and gaugers, and the out-door officers, who were the weighers and tidewaiters; and all appointments to the superior were made from the inferior class, so that no landing waiters could obtain employment unless they had passed through the inferior class of out-door officers. The result was that you had far too good men as out-door officers, and you would find a difficulty by-and-by in obtaining sufficiently good men as landing officers. There was a story—he did not know whether it was anything but a story—that a high wrangler at Cambridge, who might have been a Fellow at one of the small Colleges, was to be found among those doing the duty of weighers, because he hoped by-and-by to become a landing waiter, with a superior salary. The effect, also, of the competitive system of examination was gradually to raise the standard, and thus to give you too high a class of men for the simple duties which inferior officers had to perform. He was in favour of competitive examination for the class of persons for whom it was originally intended; but he thought that in the case of minor appointments, from which there was no promotion to the establishment, it should be left to the heads of Departments to engage or dismiss upon their own responsibility. At present you got men who were above their work and were always asking for increase of pay. Examination and even competitive examination was very well in the right place; but he was not for competitive examination run mad, and he feared that the system was tending in that direction. Another evil was the want of any systematic control over the expenditure of Departments and over the salaries and numbers of public servants. What was the case with regard to our legal Department? Who was responsible for the legal arrangements of the country? The Treasury knew nothing about them until an application was made; the Home Office would repudiate all responsibility; the Attorney General was overwhelmed with work, and did not attempt administrative functions; the Lord Chancellor had no charge in the matter, and thus there was nobody who was responsible for the financial arrangements of our Courts of Justice. The result was an expenditure of from £300,000 to £500,000 more than was necessary; and if we had a Minister upon whom we could call to redress abuses these things might be remedied. With a responsible Minister for instance there could hardly have been such a scandal as the Middlesex Registry and its three sinecures created since the so-called reform of the Law Departments. An evil which it was delicate to allude to was the absence of interference on the part of the House. Instead of endeavouring to repress extravagance, hon. Members were perpetually urging greater expenditure at the instance of individuals or Departments; thus the Treasury had to do that which the House ought to do; and, in the absence of proper Parliamentary interference and support, the Treasury was becoming, as a Department, unpopular with the other Departments, and much of its time expended on contests with other offices, to the detriment of its efficiency as the highest authority on general questions of finance. He therefore ventured to say that the House ought to interfere to a greater extent than it did in the direction of enforcing economy in the public Departments. Another evil in the Civil Service which must be looked into before long was unnecessary superannuation. The object of superannuation was two-fold. One was to retain valuable public servants and not expose them to the temptation of more remunerative employment, and the other to provide in old age for those who might have given more time to the public than to their own affairs and so prevent them being turned out as beggars into the streets. Of the two objects the former was of course the more important; and the latter would become insignificant, as the facilities for making provision for old age through companies or the Government annuity system became better known. But we applied the system to a mass of public servants as to whom it was a matter of comparative indifference whether they left the service or not. The practical effect was we did not get those servants for any less pay than we should get them for if there were no superannuation; and the very fact of its being looked forward to as a sort of vested right did harm instead of good, because it led us to retain inefficient public servants. We ought to confine superannuation to the higher ranks of the service—to those working with the brain. In the other ranks it would be desirable to introduce the system of deductions from salaries, the amount paid in to be returned with interest when a man left the service. To add the right of super- annuation to a salary when the office could be adequately filled without the superannuation was to a great extent to throw money away. He now came to the remedies he would propose. First, he would give all public servants to understand that if they could reduce their numbers, the reduction should be taken into account in dealing with their salaries. He believed that if this were done, in many instances two public servants would be able to do work which now required three. Next a clear distinction should be drawn between clerks and writers, between brainwork and handwork. In the clerical part of the service we should extend the system adopted in the Admiralty and Customs of employing an inferior class of men as writers, and paying them by the day, without any right to superannuation, and with power to discharge them if their services were not satisfactory. We might certainly carry out this plan much further than we did in the Military and Naval Departments, and he should like to see soldiers employed Upon work for which we paid at the rate of three or four times as much as a soldier's pay. The third remedy he proposed was simplification of class. It was possible by degrees to lay down a rule as to classification, which, of course, would not apply to all Departments equally, but still one which would prevent enormous additions to our expenditure. Fourthly, for the future when persons as to whom we did not require the present system of superannuation entered the service, he would give them no right to superannuation; but would treat them as we treat a large number of persons in the dockyards, in fact all the officers and men in the factories, who remained in the service just as much as they would if they were entitled to superannuation. In this way we should in process of time save between £750,000 and £1,000,000. The last remedy he would propose was that the House should, by its own efforts, endeavour to increase the control of the Treasury, and enable them to carry out those financial reforms which, if they were well-treated by this House he knew the Treasury was capable of carrying out. In making these suggestions he meant to convey no reflection upon right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was not a party but an economical question which was involved; it was simply how the House could best discharge one of its most important functions; and if he had done no more for the pro-sent than direct the attention of some hon. Members to the subject his object would have been gained.