HC Deb 08 May 1873 vol 215 cc1700-7

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Baxter.)


rose to explain that the object of the measure was to repair an accidental omission on the part of the heads of one or two Departments of State, especially of the War Office. Under the Superannuation Act of 1859 a certificate of qualification from the Civil Service Commissioners was a necessary condition for obtaining a pension. It had been discovered, however, that a considerable number of persons had been going on for years working at lower salaries than they could have got elsewhere, under the conviction that they would be entitled to receive pensions; but when the Treasury refused to grant them they stated that the heads of the Departments had not told them of the necessity of procuring certificates from the Civil Service Commissioners. In 1871 pensions were refused to no fewer than 225 artificers employed at Woolwich under the War Office. They had all entered the service after 1859; but the authorities had failed to inform them of the necessity of obtaining a certificate from the Civil Service Commissioners. The same thing occurred in the case of other employés under the War Office. Two sergeants in the Military Hospital at Chelsea and two officials in the Convict Department in Tasmania were likewise refused pensions. All these, believing they would be pensioned, had served at lower salaries than they would otherwise have received, and the Bill simply proposed to put them in the same position as they would have occupied if the heads of Departments had told them immediately what it was necessary for them to do.


in rising to move the rejection of the Bill, said, it was a very remarkable thing that neither on its introduction nor on the occasion of its second reading was the slightest reason adduced for it by any Member of the Government. He was unavoidably absent at the time of the second reading; but he had read the reports in The Times, which, he supposed, was generally looked on as an authentic record of what occurred in Parliament. The measure professed to deal with certain cases which did not come under the operation of the Superannuation Act of 1859; but it was most extraordinary that the omission referred to by the right hon. Gentleman had not been found out till the year 1873. He could not understand such negligence on the part of heads of Departments. The Superannuation Fund was rapidly increasing, and he intended to do what he could to strike at the root of the system. He was satisfied it led to a class of men being employed who were very inefficient public servants. Again, when a Government was hardly pressed there was such an inducement to abolish old offices, in order to pension off the holders of them, and then to create new ones for the hangers on of the Government that the system became most demoralizing in its operations. The Bill of 1859 was warmly discussed, and Sir Henry Willoughby strongly objected to it, predicting what its effect would be. The right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), whose name was on the back of the Bill of 1859, stated that the increase caused by that Bill would not be more than £70,000 a-year at the outside; and, in reply to the late Mr. Wilson, who estimated the increase would be £100,000, the right hon. Baronet expressed his belief that it would be nearer £50,000 than £70,000. In 1859 the superannuation allowances in the Civil Service were, in round figures, £167,000. They increased to £256,000 in 1869, to £338,000 in 1870, to £399,000 in 1871, to £415,000 in 1872, and to £416,000 in 1873; while the estimate for 1873–4 was £424,000. These figures, he thought, would justify the House in resisting any measure which tended to increase superannuation allowances; and he therefore would conclude by moving that the House resolve itself into Committee on that day six months.


seconded the Motion, on the ground that an examination of the Estimates for a series of years showed that the superannuation allowances added to the non-effective services showed a total of £5,250,000.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. Joshua Fielders,)—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


pointed out that, according to the right hon. Gentleman's statement, the Government were paying lower salaries to men than they would otherwise receive by holding out to them the hope of obtaining pensions. This was a most mischievous system, which ought not to be tolerated by the House, and he should therefore vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Fielden).


concurred with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in thinking this a most mischievous system, which they ought not to tolerate. These superannuations caused a regular annual increase of the National Debt. The Government ought to pay their servants properly, and not throw the burden of their superannuations upon posterity.


said, the explanation of the circumstances which rendered this legislation necessary had just been stated for the first time, but could not be declared satisfactory. Was the House dealing with cases before or after 1859? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: After 1859.] It was said that these public servants had been appointed inadvertently, and he admitted that it would be unfair to visit the fault of the heads of Departments upon their subordinates. But it would only be reasonable first to show that they were competent for the work they undertook to perform, and before they got their pen- sion they should obtain their certificate. He could not see the propriety of granting pensions after only 12 years' service. In Committee he should move a clause that the persons concerned should only be entitled to their pensions on receiving the certificate of the Civil Service Commissioners.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 43: Majority 67.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Amendment of Superannuation Act, 1859).


moved the introduction of the words "Civil Service," with the view of subjecting to examination and to the necessity of obtaining a certificate the persons already in Government employ who had not undergone examination.


said, that an Act of Parliament had been passed requiring persons to pass a Civil Service examination before they were admitted to the Civil Service, but a number of persons had been working for many years in the different Departments without having, through inadvertence, submitted themselves to examination and obtained the requisite certificate; and by this Amendment, after 10 or 12 years of meritorious service, they were to be tested to see if they were fit. He thought that was a gross injustice.


said, this was an attempt to whitewash the heads of Departments, and pay pensions to persons who had been improperly appointed by them. If the Act of Parliament were a wise one, the House should uphold it, and insist that gentlemen who had not fulfilled the conditions it imposed should either forfeit its advantages or bring themselves within its provisions by submitting to the necessary examination.


explained that the Bill referred chiefly to workmen employed in the gun factory at Woolwich, and as far as the War Office was concerned the amount at issue was inconsiderable. These persons having been appointed through inadvertence on the part of the heads of Departments, they had an equitable claim to consideration; and, on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for War, the Treasury had agreed to provide for their claim in this Bill.


said, he thought the wording of the Bill too general. If it applied only to artificers at Woolwich he should have no objection to the Bill; but for all that appeared on the face of the Bill, there was no limitation, and it would apply to the whole Civil Service.


believed the Bill applied also to warders in prisons and to some appointments in the Post Office. If some words were introduced into the Act rendering it clear to whom it was to apply the opposition to the measure would disappear altogether. Why not, instead of several public Departments, say certain public Departments? He did not think it would be well to compel the men to submit to the examination now. He did not think that he could pass the examination which was required of him years ago.


said, it might have been proper to insist on the examination with regard to the men appointed between 1859 and 1861, but perhaps not with regard to the other hands. He thought that before the Bill was passed a list of those who were to be benefited by it ought to be laid before the House.


said, he thought the best course which the Committee could pursue would be to report Progress, so as to give the Government an opportunity of introducing words into the Bill limiting its application to the persons to whom it was intended to apply.


contended that the language of the Bill expressly limited its operation to certain persons.


having the greatest confidence in Her Majesty's Government in all matters of finance, would vote for them on the present occasion, especially as he was satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would never have sanctioned the introduction of a Bill to pay money merely from motives of generosity of benevolence, nor indeed unless he had been forced to it by considerations of inexorable justice.


said, he thought it desirable that the words of the Bill should be sufficiently wide to include all those whose cases ought to fall within its operation. The second recital of the Bill limited its operation to the case of those who, being perfectly innocent themselves, by the default of their superiors had not obtained the necessary Civil Service certificate. Was it the wish of the House of Commons that in consequence these persons should be deprived of the pensions which they had fairly earned?


read the first section of the Bill to show that under it Her Majesty's Government would have the power of applying its provisions to the case of any person they chose, and that they would, therefore, have an unlimited power of pensioning. He should vote for the Committee reporting Progress.


said, he thought the Bill should be left as it stood, and that the responsibility for carrying it into effect should be thrown upon the heads of Departments.


said, he wished to restrict the Bill to the artificers mentioned by the Surveyor General; whereas the Chancellor of the Exchequer would open the door to pensions being given to persons in higher positions. He had no confidence in the heads of Departments, through whose neglect of duty many thousands of pounds had been unnecessarily charged on superannuation funds. If other cases came to light, the Government could bring in a second Bill. He would support the Motion for reporting Progress.


said, he thought that the persons for whom the Bill was intended should be placed in a Schedule, so that it might be known definitely to whom it would apply.


expressed surprise that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was usually represented as a close-fisted economist, should now be described as a lavish spend-thrift. If the Bill were restricted, as suggested, an accidental omission would necessitate the introduction of another Bill.


said, he did not see why the Bill should not include all classes of Civil servants, who by inadvertence of their superiors had omitted to obtain their certificates.


agreed that the Bill should be more strictly limited in its operation.


said, he was sure the Committee were anxious to do justice to public servants, and in any case of doubt to give them the benefit of it. His right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had stated that he could not undertake to give the names beforehand, it being impossible to tell precisely who would be found to come within the scope of the Bill, and it was undesirable that Bills should be brought in to include one individual after another in the benefit of the measure. The Government had no objection, within a reasonable time, to lay on the Table of the House the names of the persons to whom the Bill should apply, such list to be completed by the next Session.


said, he did not understand why the limit of time in the Bill should extend as far as 1875. If the names were submitted to Parliament for consideration, there could be no objection to the measure, but their decision should be final.


said, he thought that the House should not have the function of deciding on each individual case; but he would agree to limit the time for making known the claims under the Bill to three or six months.


thinking the right hon. Gentleman had fairly met the difficulty, would withdraw his Motion for reporting Progress.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment (Mr. Dickinson), by leave, withdrawn.


moved, in page 2, line 12, after "Commissioners," to insert— A certificate from the Civil Service, Commissioners shall not be deemed to be necessary to entitle any officer of the High Court of Chancery, or of any judge thereof, who shall have been appointed prior to the passing of this Act, or on his subsequent promotion to any compensation, pension, retiring annuity or superannuation allowance, to which he may be entitled by virtue of any Act or Acts of Parliament now in force; but it shall be lawful for the Lord Chancellor, with the concurrence of The Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, to require any person to be hereafter appointed an officer of the Court of Chancery, or of any judge thereof, to pass such examination as they may deem necessary. His Amendment was required as an act of justice to those who had been appointed prior to the passing of the Act.


pointed out that such an Amendment was not within the scope of the Bill according to its title.


admitted that the objection was fatal, and would withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


expressed a hope that the clause promised by the Prime Minister would be brought up on the Report.


said, it should be so brought up.


said, he thought the clause ought to be discussed in Committee.


said, that if any difficulty requiring minute discussion should arise upon it the Bill should be re-committed.

Clause agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next.