§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
, in moving that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, said, he had hoped that 897 Government would have undertaken to deal with the case of the dissatisfied annuitants, and as they had not done so, he had to oppose the Motion in order to call attention to the charges of those gentlemen. The three Presidency Funds had been raised by a percentage upon the salaries of the Civil Servants, and was individual property, to which Government had no title whatever. From what he understood he expected to be met by the legal argument, and therefore he appealed to the House at large. If ever equity ought to be upheld against the dry letter of the law that was such a case. The gentlemen he represented had done good service to the State, and some were now in the Service. They did not ask for the grant of a lump of money out of the contributions of the taxpayers, but that the Government would give them either the whole, or part of the excess of their own payments over the half value of their annuities. It was hardly a case the Government should refuse. It was true that one of those gentlemen had brought his case into Court, and that the decision had been against him, and he now appealed to the equity and justice of Parliament to set aside that judgment. In his opinion, the addition to the clause proposed by the noble Lord would be absolutely useless, because it would give him no power to deal with these unsettled claims. All he (Mr. Denison) asked was that the Government should inquire into the justice of these claims, and after examination determine whether they were or were not well-founded, the claimants being those who by position, character, and long service were entitled to generous consideration. The moderate request which he made to have the matter referred to a Committee was one which in the circumstances the Government could scarcely refuse, and he trusted he should have the support of the House in urging on the Treasury bench to grant that request. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be committed to a Select Committee,"—(Mr. Beckett Denison,)—instead thereof.898
MR. GRANT DUFF
objected that the House of Commons was not the place for discussion of questions of private right which could be brought before the tribunals of the country. The question had already been decided against the annuitants by three eminent legal authorities—Lord Westbury, Lord Cranworth, and Lord Chelmsford. He believed that their claims were founded neither on law nor justice, and that what was true of the Courts of Law would be equally true of any person who entered into this question with a sense of responsibility.
§ MR. FORSYTH
denied that there was any contract with these gentlemen entitling them to the excess beyond the half value of their annuity.
§ MR. LAING
considered that nothing could be clearer than that the claim put forward was a just one, and he believed that a Select Committee was the best tribunal before whom to bring a question of this sort, turning, not upon dry technicalities of law, but on considerations of policy and broad equity. For that reason he should support the Amendment.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
, in opposing the Amendment, wished to remind the House that what his hon. Friend was asking the House to do was to refer to a Select Committee claims which had been rejected by every tribunal before whom they had been brought. The transfer of the funds had been rendered necessary by certain alterations that had taken place, at the suggestion of the Covenanted Civil Servants themselves. He was sorry that hon. Members were not satisfied with the Bill, especially when it was remembered that words were about to be introduced in it, making the Secretary of State liable for any claim that might be established. Lord Salisbury had also directed him to state that all the documents at the India Office bearing on the subject might be inspected at any time by persons interested, and that no advantage would be taken of the Statute of Limitations in resisting claims that might be advanced.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.899
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ On the Motion of Lord GEORGE HAMILTON, the following Amendments were made:—
§ Clause 1, line 3, leave out "make over," and insert "transfer."
§ Line 9, leave out "take and assume," and insert "accept."
§ Clause 2, line 2, leave out "made over," and insert "transferred."
Line 5, after "India," insert—
all existing liabilities of the said Funds shall be deemed to be liabilities of the revenues of India, and all such liabilities may be enforced against the Secretary of State for India in Council in like manner as they might have been enforced against the trustees of the said Funds if this Act had not been passed; and.
§ Line 8, leave out "made over," and insert "transferred."
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next.