HC Deb 01 June 1874 vol 219 cc788-95

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

  1. (1.) £65,153, to complete the sum for Criminal Prosecutions (Ireland).
  2. (2.) £5,346, to complete the sum for the National Gallery.
  3. (3.) £1,448, to complete the sum for the National Portrait Gallery.
  4. (4.) £11,300, to complete the sum for Learned Societies.
  5. (5.) £8,361, to complete the sum for the University of London.
  6. (6.) £7,697, to complete the sum for the Endowed Schools Commission.
  7. (7.) £15,240, to complete the sum for the Scottish Universities.
  8. (8.) £1,800, to complete the sum for the National Gallery, &c. Scotland.
  9. (9.) £455,946, to complete the sum for the Commissioners of National Education, Ireland.
  10. (10.) £555, to complete the sum for the Office of the Commissioners of Education, Ireland.


said, he and several of his Friends were under the impression that the Votes relating to Irish education would not be proceeded with that evening. Indeed, it was stated on the Notice Paper that these Votes would not be taken.


said, it was the Vote for English education which was referred to in the Notice Paper. The precedent of former years had been followed in the matter.

Vote agreed to.

(11.) £1,980, to complete the sum for the National Gallery, Ireland.

(12.) £1,784, to complete the sum for the Royal Irish Academy.

(13.) £3,403, to complete the sum for the Queen's University, Ireland.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £3,476, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1875, in aid of the Expenses of the Queen's Colleges in Ireland.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

(14.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £213,792, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1875, for the Expenses of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad.


, in moving the reduction of the Vote by £1,000 the increase of salary given to Sir Edward Thornton, said his objection was, that Her Majesty's Minister at Washington was the only member of the Diplomatic Service who had been singled out by the Government for an increase of his salary. In 1870, when the Committee on the Diplomatic Service made their Report, they stated that they had received unanimous testimony that the cost of living and the necessary expenses on the part of that Service both in Europe and America had greatly increased of late years. If, therefore, a general increase of diplomatic salaries had been proposed, he would have had nothing to say on that occasion. But the residence of Sir Edward Thornton at Washington had been signalized by a series of diplomatic disasters, among which were the rejection by the American Senate of a Treaty signed by Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States, and the negotiation of the Treaty of Washington, whereby no compensation was secured for the Fenian Raids, and the Island of San Juan was sacrificed. Moreover, the House had been informed that no understanding had been come to with the American Government as to the interpretation of the Three Rules contained in the Treaty, under a breach of which £3,500,000 had been paid by this country to the United States as compensation. These Estimates showed that the Foreign Office had been inclined to cut down rather than to raise salaries. They had reduced the salary of the British Minister at Berne, when France had appointed an Ambassador at the Swiss capital; they had cut adrift Consular chaplains, and also certain Consuls; and the only person selected for an increase of salary was our Minister at Washington. He objected to that increase, because it would be viewed in the United States as a continuation of that approbation of the negotiators of the Treaty of Washington which had been lavished on them by the late Government. He believed that one of the considerations which influenced the last General Election was the humiliation that this country experienced on account of that Treaty. He could see no objection to the Government transferring Sir-Edward Thornton to another appointment, where his talents might be more successful. He begged to move that the item of £6,000, being the amount of the salary proposed to be given to our Minister at Washington, be reduced to £5,000, the sum at which it stood last year.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Item of £6,000, for the Salary of Her Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States, be reduced by the sum of £1,000."—(Sir Henry Wolff.)


said, he regretted that the hon. Gentleman had taken that opportunity of casting a slur on Sir Edward Thornton. [Sir HENRY WOLFF denied that he had done that.] He had under-stood the hon. Gentleman to say that the whole of Sir Edward Thornton's career at Washington had been a disastrous one. He could not imagine a greater slur than that to be cast upon a professional man, and he hoped that if the hon. Member himself ever held a responsible diplomatic appointment he would not have such aspersions thrown on him in that House. He would not enter into the policy of the late Government in regard to the Fenian Raid, the Island of San Juan, or the Three Rules; but if there was anybody to find fault with in respect to that large bundle of questions, certainly it was not Sir Edward Thornton. The late Government had repeatedly accepted the responsibility as to the whole of the Treaty of Washington, and disclaimed the idea of thro wing that responsibility on the British Minister, or the British Commissioners. As to the additional salary proposed by the late Government for our Minister at Washington, it was proved before the Select Committee that the cost of living at that city had very much increased of late years, and also that the importance of the Washington Mission was growing every day, more especially in connection with the Canadian Dominion, as to which many important questions arose which brought them into relation with the United States. It was highly desirable that the Mission at Washington should be in a position to afford the necessary hospitality to people going there from Canada, Europe, and other places, in reference to those great questions. Moreover, the climate of Washington was very dangerous to Europeans at certain seasons, and it was necessary that officials stationed there should leave that city for a considerable portion of the year. Again, the depreciation in the American currency had practically reduced the value of money; and altogether the salary of our Minister was deemed insufficient by the Select Committee. He believed that the interests of the public service would be benefited by the proposed arrangement.


thought the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs need not have made that a personal matter. Why was not the salary of the Secretary of the Legation at Washington increased, as well as that of his chief, on account of the additional cost of living? If the reasons for doing so were good in the one case, they were equally good in the other. Besides, the Select Committee reported that the cost of living had been much increased in Europe as well as in America. He objected to that singling out of Sir Edward Thornton for a special mark of favour at the Foreign Office; and, unless he received from the Government an assurance that it was not intended as a continuation of the approbation which had been bestowed on the negotiators of the Washington Treaty, he must press the reduction of the Vote.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 2; Noes 89: Majority 87.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

  1. (15.) £204,574, to complete the sum for Consular Establishments Abroad.
  2. (16.) £37,769, to complete the sum for Colonial Local Revenue, &c.
  3. (17.) £2,930, to complete the sum for the Orange River Territory and Saint Helena.
  4. (18.) £122, Slave Trade Commission.
  5. (19.) £10,830, to complete the sum for Tonnage Duties, &c.
  6. (20.) £4,460, to complete the sum for Emigration.
  7. (21.) £15,686, to complete the sum for the Treasury Chest.
  8. (22.) £359,957, to complete the sum for Superannuation Allowances.


said, the Vote under consideration deserved attention, and he should like to know who were the recipients of the pensions in question, and on what basis those pensions were calculated? For example, he found a lady's name on the list whose father was placed on the fund in 1791, by Mr. Pitt, and who had received up to the present time no loss than £12,791. He also found that last year Sir Alexander Spearman retired from the office of Controller of the National Debt Office, with a pension of £2,500. This gentleman commenced his official career in the Treasury, and was obliged to leave in 1840, in consequence of ill-health. At that time he was in receipt of £1,200; but how his pension was calculated was a mystery, because it appeared that although he had been Assistant Secretary to the Treasury for 31 years, and was therefore only entitled to a pension of £1,240, he had received the liberal superannuation allowance of £1,330. Last year, when he retired from service, he received a full allowance of £2,500 a-year, but upon the ordinary basis he was only entitled to £1,930. There were many other items of the same character, and it really was absolutely necessary that something should be done to ascertain what was really the condition of what he might call the non-effective public service. It amounted at that moment to the enormous sum of £5,500,000 paid in pensions, and there was no doubt that we should have to pay income tax and taxes upon every article we consumed as long as this vicious system continued. Now, take the House of Commons for example. The sum paid for salaries was £41,976, and pensions £11,707. In the list of retired officials he found the name of Mr. Dorrington, a Parliamentary agent, formerly a clerk in the Private Bill Office, who retired in 1853 on a pension of £1,900 a-year, and who had since altogether pocketed £36,000 for doing nothing, except attending to his own private interests. In the Department of the Treasury the salaries were £58,000, and the pensions £14,282; in the office of the Paymaster General the salaries were £21,855, and the pensions £10,541; and in the Exchequer and Audit Department the salaries were £39,209, and the pensions £14,478. He could occupy the Committee an hour in showing the inconsistencies in some pensions as com- pared with others, and he always found that the best men were worst treated. He, however, would not trouble the Committee with any more then; but it was time that public attention should be drawn to the subject.


said, he agreed with his hon. Friend, that the subject was a most important one, and one that demanded the strictest inquiry. He could not, however, go into it then, neither was he prepared to go into the particular cases, not having had any information as to the intention of his hon. Friend to bring them forward; but he might say generally that the greatest possible precautions were taken that no person should receive any payments to which he was not entitled. If his hon. Friend would kindly give him the particulars of any case, he would have that case investigated, so as to show that the persons whose names were in the Estimates were still alive and were those who received the money. If his hon. Friend turned to the Estimates, he would find that Sir Alexander Spearman had served the country 53 years, and that he retired at the age of 79, having rendered very efficient service. But with regard to the heavy charge for pensions, the Committee must be aware that unless there were such inducements to retire, it would be impossible to get rid of old and faithful servants when they were no longer fit for duty; and, on the other hand, it would be equally impossible to secure the services of young and able men merely for the salaries that were now paid. A question which the country would at some time have to consider was whether they should largely increase the pay of all public officers and do away with pensions altogether, or whether they should continue the present system of pensions.


wanted to know why the same rule was not applied in all


said, he thought the Committee were very much indebted to the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Mellor) for having raised this question. Everybody who had investigated the matter must feel that there were a great many anomalies connected with it; but he had come to the conclusion, that while there was much that was questionable in the system, there had of late years been a considerable amount of improvement. In his opinion the whole system of pensioning was bad. He thought they ought to pay men properly for the services which they rendered to the public, and to leave them to make provision out of what they received for the future. They would in that way secure much better services than could be obtained under the present system, and although the payments might be larger for the present such an arrangement would in the long run be the most economical for the country. He did not think they had any right to devolve on posterity payment for the work done now, and the present system was certainly one under which the existing generation shirked its own responsibility and transferred it to a future generation. He thought they ought to pay public servants liberally enough to enable them to do without pensions.


expressed his satisfaction at the prospect that the system on which our public servants were paid would be looked into. He thought that the difficulty as to pensions might be met by establishing an insurance fund to which public servants should be bound to contribute, and had reason to believe that many of the recipients of those pensions were still capable of serving the community if restored to the service of the State. He trusted that the Secretary to the Treasury would turn his attention to this subject.


said, he had expressed no opinion whatever on the principle involved in this charge. He had merely said it was a grave and important subject and that under the existing state of things these gentlemen had a right to pensions which formed part of the bargain made with them when they joined the service. If a change was made it would involve an enormous increase to the annual charge as well as great difficulties of administration.


complained that resident magistrates in Ireland after 20 or 24 years' service received their full salary on retirement instead of, as in other cases, only a proportion of it.

Vote agreed to.

  1. (23.) £32,238, to complete the sum for the Merchant Seamen's Fund.
  2. (24.) £24,000, to complete the sum for Distressed British Seamen Abroad,
  3. 795
  4. (25.) £15,760, to complete the sum for Hospitals and Infirmaries, Ireland.
  5. (26.) £4,148, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Charitable and other Allowances, Great Britain.
  6. (27.) £4,593, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Charitable and other Allowances, Ireland.
  7. (28.) £19,102, to complete the sum for Salaries and Incidental Expenses of Temporary Commissions.
  8. (29.) £2,645, to complete the sum for Oceanic Investigations.
  9. (30.) £4,733, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Expenses.
  10. (31.) £843,246, Customs Department.
  11. (32.) £1,401,013, Inland Revenue Department.


suggested that in many parts of the country great improvement and economy might be effected by amalgamating the two systems of collection for the public service—the Excise and Customs.


said, he was happy to inform the hon. Member that there was a Committee sitting which was charged with the duty of endeavouring to ascertain how far it was possible for one Department to act for the other in different parts of the country. He thought the proposed amalgamation might be advantageously effected in many parts of the country.

Vote agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;

Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.