§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. RATHBONE
, in moving that the Bill he now read the second time, said, its object was to be the extension of the principle of superannuation to the municipal officers of various large towns throughout the country. The Bill, he added, was merely permissive, and had been approved by such places as Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Brighton, Dover, and Exeter. He had been told by a town councillor in the provinces that an officer who held his post after being unfit for duty had by his mistakes cost the municipality somewhere between £300,000 and £400,000. The superannuation allowances were intended for those who from illness or old age might have become incapacitated for the discharge of their duties, and the proposal, if acceded to, would, he believed, conduce to both efficiency and economy.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Rathbone.)
§ MR. RYLANDS moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, on the ground that public interests should be protected even at the expense of private individuals. He objected that a system should be introduced into the public service which our great mercantile establishments refused to adopt. Above all, he implored the House not to listen to the proposal to compensate persons on account of ill-health—a system which had already imposed considerable burdens on the country. In 1870 the compensation paid on that account, exclusive of pensions in the Army, Navy, and the Law, was no less than £835,392. Men who were retired at middle age were afterwards found remarkably vigorous, and the whole system was becoming so scandalous that Parliament would soon be forced to take it up in earnest. He contended that public officers ought to provide for their own superannuation allowance either 1510 by means of annuities and investments or by a reduction from their salaries for the formation of a superannuation fund. Some of the large railway companies had adopted that system, and the superannuation fund thus established was administered by a certain number of directors and persons employed by the company. In asking the House to refuse its assent to this Bill, he trusted its rejection would have the effect of compelling town councillors to adopt a system under which all public employés would be compelled to pay a certain sum towards a superannuation fund or provide that their officials shall compulsorily retire at a certain age.
§ MR. DICKINSON
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that the system pursued by the London and North-Western Company was a very simple and correct one—that of deducting 2½ per cent from the pay of their officials, and providing that the claim to a pension should not exceed a certain amount. What was the particular ground on which the present application to Parliament was founded? Here was a certain class of men who undertook a distinct service for a certain amount of pay; and when they got old it was proposed to pay a certain sum to get rid of them. In a case which occurred in Queen Anne's Bounty Office, an official had engaged a well-paid officer for a considerable number of years, as he would not retire without what he considered sufficient payment, and it was found necessary to pass an Act for the purpose. He did not see why there should be any difference between the mode of dealing with persons in the public service and those who were employed by private individuals. Working men and artificers got no pensions from their employers, but were told that they must themselves lay by for the time of old age; and why should not the same rule be applied to a higher class of people? When men who were unfit for their work would not leave their situations, what could have a worse moral effect than to give something to get rid of them; for such a system tended to discourage habits of thrift on the part of the employed. He hoped before long that the House would take into consideration the whole question of superannuations and pensions, and see whether some better plan could not be adopted.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Rylands.)
§ MR. BIRLEY
said, that the object of the Bill, the Motion for the second reading of which he had seconded, was to remedy a grave practical inconvenience. There was a great inducement at the present time to create offices which were unnecessary, in order to provide for old and faithful servants who were unable to discharge their duties efficiently, or to retain them in the offices to which they had been appointed. It had been said that corporations ought to act like private establishments, which had no arrangements of this kind. Now, he disputed that statement. In many, probably in most private establishments, old servants were pensioned at the discretion of the employers. In the case of municipal corporations the matter was entirely different; and he believed it would be for the interests of the ratepayers for the House to read the Bill a second time, so as to ensure more efficiency in the duties which the officers were called upon to discharge. A good deal had been said about the abuse of superannuation allowances. He had no doubt that many abuses existed; but he was not prepared to argue from the abuse against the use of pensions altogether; and he believed that the power of granting superannuation allowances, moderately exercised, would be highly beneficial to the ratepayers in such places as Liverpool and Manchester, who exercised a beneficial influence over their corporations. He did not think the corporations promoting this Bill were so much under the influence of their officers as had been suggested. A system of compulsory retirement would not be affirmed by the country. This Bill met another suggestion, by giving powers to provide superannuation funds from the contributions of the corporation officials; but that scheme could not, of course, come into operation for some years. The promoters of the Bill would gladly cooperate with others in introducing into it proper safeguards; and he therefore hoped the Government and the House would concur in reading the measure a second time.
§ MR. MELLY
supported the Bill. Such large and important bodies as the Corporations 1512 of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Bristol ought to be placed in the same position in regard to their servants as that occupied by the Commissioners of Police, the Metropolitan Vestries, the Ecclesiastical Commission, the Commissioners of Prisons, and other public bodies. The municipal corporations were responsible to the ratepayers for the exercise of the powers intrusted to them, and it would be better for them to give a retiring pension to an old servant than to create a new officer in order that he might be assisted in the discharge of his duties. There needed to be no apprehension of the abuse of the power now proposed to be granted, for there were always two parties in every corporation, and each was ever ready to denounce anything in the nature of a job perpetrated by the other.
§ MR. GRAVES
regarded the Bill of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) as merely a protest against the general principle of pensions and superannuations. The Bill had been introduced after anxious consideration on the part of one or two leading corporations, in order to make the administration of their own affairs more efficient. It was found in practice that when an old servant came to a certain age, and the work was too much for his powers, the sympathy which was felt for a servant who had acted on their behalf for a number of years induced them still to retain him in a situation of trust, and it was felt that if superannuations were allowed younger and more effective men might be placed in the situations at lower salaries. This was merely a permissive Bill, and he thought that in so simple a matter the House would scarcely consider it a fitting opportunity to enter upon the consideration of the whole question of superannuations and pensions.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, the Bill raised the question of superannuation on account of age to superannuation on account of infirmity and incapacity. He thought a very wide distinction must be drawn between the two, because pensions on account of old age were of certain definition, and must come to an end within a reasonable period; whereas with respect to infirmity everyone knew how easy it was to get a medical certificate in that respect. The greatest jobberies were perpetrated under that denomination; and that part of the Bill 1513 dealing with infirmity ought to be carefully guarded. It was very doubtful whether in any case the public should be called upon to pension persons whose infirmity had not been caused by discharging the duties of their office. Again, no pension should be allowed for 10 years' service; and the age at which superannuation might take place ought to be definitely fixed for a period beyond middle life. These were doubtless matters for Committee; but as the Bill was in the hands of private Members, and not in the care of persons responsible to the country, it was necessary to draw attention to these points, in the hope that more stringent regulations would be introduced into the Bill.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, that the question was whether the Governing Bodies of great corporations such as those of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and other places should have the power of managing their own affairs in a manner most conducive to their interests, and of giving to their servants such allowances as they deemed the services which had been rendered were worthy of when those services became no longer available on account of infirmity or old age. The matter under consideration had no reference to the granting of pensions by the State. By putting any definite limit of age into the Bill its object would be defeated, because it would then be impossible to remove any servant who had not reached the age named. The hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) would sweep away all pensions, and leave a man when misfortunes befell him to beg from his friends, or go to the workhouse. But it would be impossible to carry on the public service on such a plan, and therefore he hoped the Amendment would be rejected.
§ MR. FIELDEN
intended to vote for the Amendment, because he felt that if they were ever to strike at the growing habit of granting pensions they must prevent the evil from increasing. Railway companies would not be allowed by their shareholders to adopt such a principle as that which was contained in this Bill. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company were introducing a system of deducting small sums from wages to form a superannuation fund for their servants; and, although they to some extent supplemented the amount, they 1514 merely adopted that course in order to encourage the men to save. This Bill would introduce a new principle into the system of local government, and if the House affirmed it he could not see how they could prevent an intolerable burden being placed upon the ratepayers of the country. It should also be remembered that when public bodies acted in that way they did not merely expend their own money, but they took the money out of the pockets of the great mass of the labouring people of this country, who could ill afford this tax on their hard earnings, and who were themselves as much entitled to a superannuation allowance as these officials.
said, he feared that if this power were granted to municipal corporations they could not refuse the same powers to the numerous local boards which were springing up throughout the country, and there would be no end to superannuations. One evil arising from a system of superannuation was, that it tended to decrease the amount of the wages which were paid. For these reasons he should vote against the Bill.
observed that having listened attentively to all the arguments upon this matter, he had failed to discover any reason why the system of superannuation, which had been found to work well in the civil service and under other circumstances, should be forbidden in the case of the municipal corporations of the country. No one could say that the corporations did not manage their business with great skill; and with their constantly extending duties there arose a greater necessity for an efficient set of officers. He asked the House how they could refuse to the great municipal corporations in England such powers as had already been granted in Ireland? It was no doubt true there was in Ireland a safeguard to the exercise of the power in its being necessary to obtain the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant, and it might be necessary to introduce some such safeguards into this Bill. There was, how-ever, this to be said for the greater English corporations, that they were already under the supervision of public opinion and the public Press, which was in itself a great safeguard. Another point was, whether the minimum of service required—namely, 10 years, was sufficient. The Irish Act required that before superannuation 1515 there should be 20 years of service, and further, that the persons superannuated should have bestowed their whole time upon the duties of their appointment. Some such provisions as these might be considered in reference to the present measure. These were, however, all matters of detail, and he could see no just principle upon which this House, which had already sanctioned superannuation allowances in several instances, should refuse the power to grant such allowances to municipal corporations.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 99; Noes 27: Majority 72.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Wednesday 8th May.