HC Deb 07 June 1869 vol 196 cc1336-40

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 (Amounts of diplomatic pensions).


said, he objected to the amount of the pensions provided for diplomatists by this clause. He thought £1,700 for a first-class pension was too high an amount to award, when all that was required was that the first appointment to office should have been made only fifteen years previously, or when the aggregate length of service was in all ten years. He did not regard a residence in the capitals of France, Belgium, or other Continental States as any great hardship; and he could not understand why these pensions should be so very much larger, and be obtainable on so much easier terms than those which were open to members of other branches of the Civil Service. He trusted that the Government would consent to alter the figures 10 and 15 in the clause to 15 and 20. Unless the Government agreed to adopt that suggestion, he should be obliged to move an Amendment.


said, that practically the first appointment of a diplomatist under the clause, as at present framed, must date nineteen years before his being qualified for the receipt of a pension, inasmuch as he was compelled at starting to give four years' service as an unpaid attaché. There was not that discrepancy which his hon. Friend believed between these pensions, for the! Diplomatic Service and the superannuation of the ordinary Civil Service, al- though it was true that the manner of awarding them was different, because the nature of the services was different. It was in the highest degree improbable that the first class pension would be awarded to any one whose term of aggregate service had not exceeded ten years. The figures, as they stood, were inserted, because the Bill was the result of a Re-solution which was introduced, though unsuccessfully, some years ago, by the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Dodson), and which was proposed last Session by Mr. Labouchere, the Member for Middlesex, and adopted by the House. The hon. Member must recollect that all future pensions would have to be provided for by the Estimates, and that he could then raise the question as to their amount. If the opinion of the House were unfavourable, it would then be incumbent upon the Government to amend the scheme and bring it into accordance with the feeling of the House.


said, he thought it was desirable when it was proposed to refer to or introduce clauses which were contained in other Bills, to recite such clauses word for word, so as to make the subject-matter of them completely intelligible. This Bill proposed to repeal certain Acts described by their general titles; but it was impossible, except on close investigation, to tell what those Acts were which were to be repealed. It-appeared that after the commencement of this Act, the Treasury, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of State, might grant pensions to persons in the Diplomatic Department, such pensions not to exceed the salaries they received at the time their actual employment ceased. The following scale of pensions was laid down in the Bill—namely, £1,700 per annum for a first-class pension; £ 1,300 for a second-class pension; £900 for a third-class pension, and £700 for a fourth-class pension. Now this portion of the Bill had given much dissatisfaction, when it was considered how very differently the Government treated persons holding inferior situations in the public service when the question of superannuation was brought under their notice. At this time too, when the Government was discharging numerous public servants, high and low, from their service, on the ground that it was necessary to keep down the Estimates, per- sons were naturally induced to be very critical on the expenditure of the public money, and to feel dissatisfied with the granting of pensions of those considerable amounts after a comparatively short period of service. It appeared to him that it would be very desirable, under the circumstances, to revise those allowances. According to the explanation of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) the length of service to qualify for those pensions would be nineteen years. Well, supposing a young gentleman got his first commission at twenty years of ago, and served in that most agreeable of all public occupations, a paid attaché. After due time he would be advanced to the office of envoy or ambassador, and at the age of thirty-nine, when in the prime of life, and only commencing his career, as modern usage went, he would be pensioned off upon a salary, perhaps, of £1,700. The gentleman in question then would probably get himself returned to that House, and he would, of course, be found sitting behind the Treasury Bench, paid by the public as a politician. Now he (Mr. Chambers) thought that the length of the service should be extended, and that the party should not be entitled to his pension until he had passed the age of forty-five or fifty years. He could not help contrasting the treatment proposed to be given to persons in the Diplomatic Department under this Bill with that dealt out to the sailors of Greenwich Hospital. If it had been the practice formerly with the Government of this country to be lax and inconsiderate in dealing with the public funds in the interests of the higher class of public servants, it was certain that no such thing would be tolerated at the present time, for the public now watched with the greatest attention the mode in which the revenue of the country was expended, and viewed with great jealousy any grant of public money that savoured either of extravagance or injustice. He should support his hon. Friend who sat near him (Mr. Alderman Lusk).


said, he had received no answer to the question, why there should be so great a difference in point of time between the period of retirement from the Diplomatic and the Civil Service? If the Committee were satisfied with the amount of the pensions proposed, he should not divide against them; but in the next clause he should certainly move an Amendment extending the time of service from fifteen to twenty years.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 7. (Qualifications for pensions).


said, he considered the extension of the period of service which he proposed only reasonable; and he thought the Government ought to concede the point. He would move that the word "fifteen" be omitted, and "twenty" inserted instead.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 31, to leave out the word "fifteen," in order to insert the word "twenty."—(Mr. Lusk.)


said, he could not accept the Amendment. What was proposed by the Bill, was to take the diplomatic salaries and pensions under the existing conditions of service from the Consolidated Fund, where they were outside the jurisdiction of the House, and place them on the Estimates, where Ms hon. Friend might raise discussions as to their policy and amount on any future occasion.


said, he thought it would be cruel, when pensions were once granted, to be always discussing their reduction. They ought, in the first instance, to be very careful in what they did about pensions. He could not withdraw the Amendment, which he thought reasonable and fair, and he hoped Government would give way on the point.


said, he thought the proposal of the hon. Alderman a very reasonable one. Considering the length of time officers in the army had to servo before they were entitled to a pension, if those who belonged to the diplomatic body, after service in good climates, and all sorts of favourable circumstances, got their pensions, at the end of twenty-five years they were very well off. He should therefore vote for the Amendment.


said, he must repeat that the object of this Bill, brought in to carry out the Resolution of the House, was not to modify the system or amount of diplomatic pensions, but simply to place them within the grasp and criticism of the House. The Amendment, therefore, of his hon. Friend (Mr. Alderman Lust) was not reasonable or wise. If it were persisted in and succeeded he should be compelled to withdraw the Bill, and diplomatic pensions would not be voted from the Estimates, but remain charged on the Consolidated Fund.

Question put, "That the word 'fifteen' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 93; Noes 29: Majority 64.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Thursday.