§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ MR. RATHBONE
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he should like to quote an argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, founded on the recommendation of the Royal Commissioners who had been appointed to consider the subject. They reported that it was important that the mind of the Civil servant should be set at ease as to his position in case his health broke down, or that he was other- 323 wise incapacitated; next, that when a Civil servant had spent the best part of life in the public service and was suddenly incapacitated, they thought public opinion would not allow him to starve; and thirdly—and this last was the main ground on which he based the measure—that many persons were kept in the service after they had become unfit to fulfil their duties, simply because their removal would be a hardship. Actual experience of the latter ground had shown him the necessity for some such measure as he submitted to the consideration of the House, and which he might say he did at the request of the Corporation of Liverpool. They had been told that in one Corporation the retention of officials who had been meritorious public servants and who had lost their health by their devotion to the service and were no longer able efficiently to perform their duties had cost the town no less than £70,000. He would mention one case with the circumstances of which he was personally acquainted. It was that of the medical officer of a large town who had conferred great benefits not only on the community among whom he had laboured, but on the public at large. This gentleman was just able now to carry on his work. If, however, an epidemic should break out, and if he were to break down, and was unable to discharge his duties, would not the loss to the town be ten times greater than if they provided him with a decent retiring pension? Yet it would be unfair to turn him out without some provision for his old age. The present Bill, which was supported by nearly all the Corporations in the Kingdom, provided that before a pension was granted to a public officer the approval of one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State should be obtained; that the superannuation should not exceed the rate of pensions granted under the best tables to public servants; that the grant of a pension should be voluntary on the part of the Corporation or the public body; that no grant should be valid unless sanctioned by two meetings of the Council, the second of which was held at the interval of a month from the first, two-thirds of the members of the Council being present; and that the Council or public body might, if they thought fit, make arrangements to deduct certain portions of the officers' salaries or emoluments to 324 form a fund out of which such superannuation might be paid. As the Bill also provided all necessary checks he hoped the House would consent to the second reading of the measure.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Mathhone.)
§ MR. FIELDEN
said, that as he opposed the same Bill in the year 1873, he must oppose the Bill now before the House. He opposed it on the broad principle that the tendency of legislation of this kind was to treat people as children and not as grown-up men; whereas what the House ought to encourage, especially in persons in the receipt of large incomes, was a feeling of independence, self-reliance, and thrift. Now, the system of pensions and superannuations struck at all these principles. He opposed this measure also on account of the experience already obtained as to the effect of granting pensions and superannuations in the public service. If the same principles were introduced into municipal corporations, the increase of local rates would become so enormous that they would be perfectly unbearable. What had been the increase of pensions and superannuations in the public Departments during the last 80 years? In 1844 the amount of superannuations and pensions was £627,400; in 1854 it had increased to £706,400; in 1864 it was £850,300; while in 1874, according to the last Return issued, it had increased to the enormous amount of £1,080,700, an increase of £453,300 in 30 years, or at the rate of 72 per cent. Looking at its working in the public service, it was probable that if the principle were introduced into municipal corporations it would cause a great increase of rates. The fact was that the House as holding the purse-strings of the nation would be compelled to meet this matter face to face. He wanted to know, if this Bill should pass, where the principle was to stop? The hon. Member had quoted individual instances of hardship; but if we legislated on individual instances we should make bad laws, and do what the House would, individual grievances would occur. If the principle of superannuation were extended to municipal corporations, did the House suppose it would end there? If mu- 325 nicipal corporations were excluded, all other bodies would be prevented from claiming the same privileges; but once open the door by this Bill, and why-should not Boards of Guardians and Local Boards be permitted to grant superannuations? [An hon. MEMBER: Local Boards do.] He was not aware of this. They could compensate for removal from office; but Local Boards had no power to grant superannuation allowances. Other Boards, such as school boards, had been established which made heavy demands on the rates. They were told that in the metropolis alone the enormous sum of £25,000 last year had been spent in getting children out of the streets and making them go to school. If the House would remember the number of persons now employed under school boards, they would be able to estimate the drain upon the school boards if all these officials were able to claim superannuation allowances. The local rates were growing enormously, and he would ask hon. Members whether they were prepared to vote for a measure which, if carried to a logical conclusion, would add largely to the rates? In the appendix to the fourth annual Report on the Local Government Board for 1874–5 would be found a statement of the sum levied as poor rates in England—only a portion of which went to the poor, while a large proportion went to other purposes. In 1840 the amount levied under the head of poor rates in England was £6,067,400; in 1844, £6,990,100; in 1854, £7,317,900; in 1864,£9,680,400; in 1874,£12,851,000. Within the period embraced by the Returns the increase had been £6,783,000, or at the rate of 112 per cent, and he did not think it would stop there. Then, if it was proposed to give superannuation in respect to men receiving from £300 to £600 a-year, why not also superannuate the labouring man when he was broken down in health or overtaken by accident? for he did as much in his way to produce the wealth of the country as any official of a corporation. He opposed the Bill on the ground that they ought to teach the people habits of independence, self-reliance, and thrift; and, because he believed it to be opposed to that principle, he moved that it be read a second time that day six months.
§ 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. Fielden.)
§ MR. THOMSON HANKEY
said, that the large increase in pensions was due to a corresponding increase in the number of Civil servants and the total amount of wages; and he considered pensions to be deferred wages. The granting of pensions secured efficient services at a price lower than that at which they would be obtained if there were power to turn a man away at any time without any provision for his future maintenance; and it had been generally considered that the allowance of pensions was an advantageous method of paying for public services. The Bill did not affect the position of persons who were in the service of the Government; but the same principle was of course in existence there and elsewhere. In the Bank of England they considered that pensions were only a part of salary. They were only deferred salary; and it was considered that the service of the Bank was more efficiently and economically performed because pensions were given. This, therefore, was by no means so one-sided a question as it had been represented to be. Although manual labourers were not pensioned, they were not usually turned away after many years of faithful service; and he would appeal to the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) to say whether the men in his establishment were turned away penniless in their old age. He would also appeal to the Members of the Government to say whether the granting of pensions did not work advantageously in the public service. They were given by almost every bank and by many private establishments; and all that the Bill proposed was that the municipal service of the country should not be an exception to a salutary rule. He agreed with the hon. Member (Mr. Fielden) that every encouragement should be given to working men to lay money by. Was that not done already? Had they not their clubs to provide against calamities which might occur to them in life? He thought this Bill a wise and prudent one, and should therefore vote for the second reading.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he thought the argument of the hon. Member who had 327 last spoken was a strong one against the Bill. He also said pensions were a part of salaries, and the consequence of the passing of this Bill would be that a great number of municipal servants whose services had been fixed without any view to a pension, and consequently on a liberal scale, would put pressure upon their different municipalities to give them pensions in addition. This showed that the argument of the hon. Member cut two ways. Undoubtedly, if they gave municipalities this power of superannuation, they would open up a field for unlimited jobbery, for municipalities would be subjected to constant pressure for superannuation allowances. He would have been surprised at the hon. Member for Liverpool bringing forward this Bill, but for the fact that he brought forward the same Bill three years ago, when there was, though not a majority, a large minority against it and it failed to pass. If it were, as alleged, that the Corporation of Liverpool was anxious to superannuate one of its officers, let the Corporation bring in a Private Bill for the purpose, and not saddle the whole of the country with a jobbery Bill for superannuating all municipal officers merely to please Liverpool.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he thought he should explain to the House the vote he meant to give upon this question. He should vote for the Bill of the hon. Member for Liverpool, because his (Mr. Cross's) name was on the Bill when it was introduced in 1873. He had the misfortune to differ from the hon. Member for Yorkshire (Mr. Fielden) on is question when his name appeared on the Bill in the place of that of his lamented friend, formerly the Member for Liverpool, Mr. Graves. After the remark of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Anderson) that this was a Liverpool Bill, it was only right that he should state to the House that a short time ago a large deputation waited upon him at the Home Office from very nearly all the municipal corporations of England, strongly pressing upon the Government to take up this measure. On the part of the Government he declined to take up the measure; but, having given his opinion three years ago that better men would be obtained for the public service, and at lower salaries, and still adhering to that view, and believing also that a great saving would be effected to the public, 328 he should, as an individual Member, support the second reading of the Bill.
MR. M. T. BASS
said, he wished to make a remark or two on what had fallen from the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Hankey) in reference to pensions for labourers. His hon. Friend doubtless knew many manufacturers who employed 2,000, 3,000, or even 5,000 men. He (Mr. Bass) employed only about 2,000; but he thought it would be hard if he were called upon one day to give pensions to every one of those 2,000 men. If the Bill were passed, he believed it would be employed for Party purposes, and that Liberals or Tories who happened to be in power in a corporation would avail themselves of the measure to grant good pensions to officers who had favoured their views. On all grounds he thought the measure a most injurious one to the public interests, and he should join the hon. Member for Yorkshire in opposing it.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 94: Majority 7.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday.