§ MR. J. HOLMS
, in rising to move—That, having regard to the recommendations made in 1874 by the Select Committee on Public Departments (Purchases, &c), this House is of opinion that the recent appointment of Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office is calculated to diminish the usefulness and influence of Select Committees of this House, and to discourage the interest and zeal of officials employed in the Public Departments of the State,said, that the Committee in question was appointed in 1873, and numbered amongst its Members three of the present Ministry and two ex-Ministers. They devoted the greater part of their time to an inquiry into the Stationery Department, which they found to be sui generis in its relations to the Treasury, being, in fact, practically under the control of the Treasury, of which its head was an executive officer. The character and extent of the work in the Stationery Department were shown by the fact that in 1872–3 £484,000 was expended in contracts for paper, printing, bookbinding, and small stores, and the total expenditure, taking the Post Office, the Gazettes, and other, branches, amounted to a total of £680,000. Of these, the sale and distribution of Parliamentary Papers came to £100,000 a-year. There was also, under its roof, a department which had to do with the Gazettes, yielding a profit in 1874 of £27,000. It was, in fact, a miscellaneous Department, demanding in its head much knowledge and experience. The Committee did not regard the late Controller (Mr. W. R. Greg) as being fully acquainted with the t stationery trade, the fact being, as he (Mr. Holms) believed, that he was appointed by Lord Palmerston, very much because he was a man of literary attainments, and not because he was acquainted with the stationery trade. He entered upon his office perhaps under the impression that he was to some extent 1331 free to do what he liked. It had indeed been said of the office of Controller of the Stationery Department, that it was "the Deanery of the Civil Service." It appeared that Mr. Greg was not well acquainted with the duties of his office, nor was it to be wondered at, seeing that he only came down for a few hours at the end of the day to sign cheques, money orders, and documents of that kind. Fortunately, he had next to him a gentleman, Mr. Reid, who showed such knowledge and ability that it was believed that, if he had not been in a secondary position, a great saving might have been effected. Since 1874 the Department had been under leading strings to the Treasury, and the present Secretary to the Treasury was well acquainted with its details, and during the last two years good work had been done. The amount saved last year, for example, on certain items of the Vote of £494,000 was £45,000, or something like 9 per cent; and he was told that a saving of £25,000 additional was anticipated on other Votes next year, making, on the whole, a saving of over £70,000. Now, that sum was a saving in the work done for Home Departments alone. Well, in relation to the Indian Department they were bound, he considered, to pay attention to it; and it was to be hoped that there would be a saving in work done in that Department to the same proportion. But although the Stationery Department had been well managed since it had had the assistance of the Secretary to the Treasury, the House could not always expect to have the aid of one who was so well versed in the business of the Department. What was wanted, therefore, was that the Controller of the Stationery Office should himself be practically acquainted with his work. The Committee accordingly recommended that at the next vacancy provision should be made for placing under one officer, who should possess the requisite technical knowledge of stationery and printing, the control of all the details of the Stationery Office and the management of the London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Gazettes subject to the Treasury. They also reported that great public convenience would be attained if the whole arrangement of the sales and the distribution of Parliamentary Papers and Government Papers 1332 were under the care of the Controller, and that a central depot might be established. The spirit of the recommendations of the Committee was, that the head of the Department should have his duties somewhat increased, and that he should be practically acquainted with the trade, as if he were really a stationer. The evidence taken by the Select Committee was very voluminous, and as to any part of the Report, there was very little difference of opinion, while in respect to the Stationery Department, the Committee were unanimous. They could not expect a first-rate man for the salary paid to the late Controller, but it would be better to pay £2,000, £3,000, £4,000 or £5,000 a-year to get such a man. The question was, How far did the recent appointment to the head of the Stationery Department meet those recommendations? The gentleman appointed was Mr. T. Digby Pigott, against whom he had not a word to say, everything he had heard of him being greatly to his credit. But who was Mr. Pigott? He was first introduced in the year 1859 as a temporary clerk in the War Office, and became one of the establishment in 1860. Subsequently, he became Secretary to the several Under Secretaries of State for War, and upon one occasion was Secretary to a Royal Commission—that upon the Promotion and Retirement of Army Officers. When appointed to the office of Controller of the Stationery Office he was one of 101 junior clerks in the War Office, being 69th upon the list, and in receipt, he believed, of £300 or £400 a-year. It was not pretended that he possessed the qualifications laid down in the recommendations of the Committee; he was not exactly the man the Committee had had in mind in making those recommendations. Indeed, the Secretary to the Treasury stated, in reply to a Question put on the 18th of June last, that Mr. Pigott did not possess any technical knowledge of stationery or the like, adding, however, that the Prime Minister had given careful consideration to the Report of the Select Committee. Well, if the noble Lord had, he (Mr. Holms) could not but think that a very different man would have been appointed. He was afraid that in this, as in some other appointments made by the Prime Minister, the interests of the country had not 1333 been foremost in his mind, and that there had been something behind. How was it in the present case? He did not know what was behind; but he understood that Mr. Pigott was a son of the late rector of Hughenden, who, he believed, with his family, had rendered valuable assistance to the Prime Minister in that county which he had so long and so creditably represented. Was such an appointment, he asked, fair to the country? Was it fair to the Civil Service? Either the position was to be regarded as a sinecure, or it was not. If the man to hold it should be well acquainted with the duties to be performed, then Mr. Pigott was not the man. If, on the other hand, it was to be considered as a prize for State purposes, it would not be contended that Mr. Pigott had rendered such valuable services to the State as that he should be appointed. The predecessor of Mr. Greg, the late Mr. M'Culloch, was not only eminent in literature, but was perfectly well acquainted with the details of the Department over which he presided. Mr. Greg was not, but he was eminent in literature. Mr. Pigott knew nothing about stationery, nor was he eminent in a literary walk of life. In the Department itself might have been found a man who stood next to Mr. Greg, and was every way suited to the position of Controller. He alluded to Mr. Reid, who was in receipt of £700 a-year, and there was also the editor of the Gazette, who received about £800 a-year; and it had been owned by the Secretary to the Treasury that there were many able men in the Department. But if even that were not so was it not possible to find a suitable man outside it? Surely it was. He could not believe that the appointment would be defended by any right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench. But he came to the broad question of the value of Select Committees of that House. Was the House of Commons prepared to admit that Select Committees which had done good service in the past with respect to public Departments, and the expenditure of public money were to be regarded not as a reality, but as a sham? Were their recommendations to be treated as mere waste paper? He did not believe so; for if they were, then he could not but think that hon. Members would lose all interest in serv- 1334 ing on them or in moving for their appointment. Then the House should consider the effect of such an appointment on the Civil Service generally. It would produce a feeling of great disappointment, for had the promotion been within the Department a step would have been given to 50 or 60 employés. Instead of that, the Service would see that a junior clerk had been lifted from the War Office and placed at the head of a great public Department. It was not a little remarkable that a Royal Commission of which Mr. Pigott had acted as Secretary, was the Commission on Retirement and Promotion in the Army, the object of which was to obtain a flow of promotion in the Army; but if a flow of promotion was good for the Army, was it not also good for the Civil Service? He hoped the House would support the Resolution, as in doing so it would establish its own dignity and authority, and enter an emphatic protest against the appointment which had been made. As Chairman of the Select Committee to which he had referred, he felt it his duty to draw the attention of the House to the subject, and to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. MELLOR
seconded the Motion. He was a Member of the Committee presided over so ably by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms), and he fully concurred in the conclusions at which it had arrived. There was great necessity for the Motion which had been made, for he believed that, unless the House of Commons pronounced a decision on the question on the present occasion, the principle of political patronage would be extended in a direction that had already gone too far. His own practical experience, extending over 45 years, had led him to the conclusion that men ought to be selected for public appointments on account of their qualifications and the knowledge of the duties to be entrusted to them; and unless they proceeded in that direction more than they had done hitherto, not only would additional expense be entailed upon the country, but the work of the nation would not be properly performed.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "having regard to the recommendations made in 1874 by the Select Committee on Public Departments (Purchases, &c), this House is
of opinion that the recent appointment of Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office is calculated to diminish the usefulness and influence of Select Committees of this House, and to discourage the interest and zeal of officials employed in the Public Departments of the State," —(Mr. John Holms,)
§ MR. A. H. BROWN
, as a Member of the Select Committee, wished to add a few remarks, and in particular to direct attention to the character of this Department. It was in reality rather a sub-department of the Treasury than an independent Department, and consequently there was no reason why the head of it should be a person of political importance. He ought, rather, to be thoroughly acquainted with the paper trade, which, almost more than any other trade, abounded in technicalities. In fact, a knowledge of the printing trade was essential in order to direct the Department efficiently, and it must necessarily be difficult for a junior clerk in the War Office, not possessed of that knowledge, to perform his duties satisfactorily. Many gentlemen who had been long employed in the Stationery Office came before the Committee and gave most valuable evidence. Their position had been ignored and a younger man was promoted over their heads. This would, of course, tend to discourage all those gentlemen who had been superseded, and could not be for the benefit of the Public Service. He had no knowledge of the gentleman who had been promoted to the office, but he regretted that the appointment had been made. If Select Committees were to be of any value, their Reports ought not to be passed over without being fully and carefully considered.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) and the remarks made by him, together with those with which the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. A. H. Brown) had supported it, raised a somewhat false issue with regard to the functions of Select Committees of that House. Both those hon. Gentlemen had spoken as though the appointment of Mr. Pigott to the Controllership of the Stationery Office, instead of the appointment of someone who possessed "a technical knowledge of stationery and printing," was an appointment calculated to diminish the usefulness and influence of Select Com- 1336 mittees. Moreover, the language of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down would rather lead the Committee to suppose that the whole object of the Committee of which he was a Member had been to consider what ought to be the organization of the Stationery Office; that the Committee had spent two years in considering that subject; and that it had made with reference to it a recommendation which had been summarily set aside. Now, he did not think that this was doing justice to the Committee of which the hon. Gentleman was a Member. That Committee did not spend two years in considering so minute a point as the character of the person who should be placed at the head of the Stationery Office. It was a Committee appointed for an important purpose— namely,To inquire into and report upon the existing principles and practice which in the several Public Departments regulate the Purchase and Sale of Materials and Stores.The Committee sent in a Report containing no fewer than 134 paragraphs, and only a portion of one paragraph had been specially referred to in the present discussion. Undoubtedly, the recommendations which the Committee made with reference to the Stationery Office formed one of the most important parts of the Report; but they had also made a great many other recommendations with regard to that Department. Those recommendations had been carefully considered, and to no inconsiderable extent acted upon by the Treasury. Looking to the general principles on which the Stationery Office ought to be administered, he found the Committee did not recommend any alteration in the control of the Office by the Treasury. As had been acknowledged by the hon. Member for Hackney, the Treasury, since the Committee was appointed, had bestowed a great deal of attention on the management of this Department. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury and his hon. Friend the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Winn) had, in fact, introduced no inconsiderable improvements into the working of the Department, and had made a considerable reduction in its expenditure. It was not therefore fair to say, even if the recommendation as to the choice of the person who should succeed the late Controller was not acted upon, that the recommen- 1337 dations of the Committee were treated as being worthless. The Treasury had endeavoured to carry into effect some of the recommendations of the Committee with but partial success. For instance, with regard to the publication of a cheap edition of the Statutes and the arrangements to be made for the sale of the Papers of the two Houses of Parliament, the Treasury, in deference to the recommendations of the Committee, had made attempts which he believed had not, thus far, proved successful. And now he came to the question of the selection of a proper person to be at the head of that Department, which, in the view of the Committee, was to be, not an independent Department, but one under the control of the Treasury. Undoubtedly, the Committee did recommend that the gentleman who succeeded Mr. Greg as head of the Stationery Office should possess a technical knowledge of stationery and printing; and when the appointment came to be filled up he was aware that his noble Friend (the Earl of Beaconsfield) had his attention especially directed to that recommendation, and that he gave it his consideration. [Laughter.] Well, but his noble Friend took a different view of the necessity for appointing a gentleman who was technically acquainted with stationery and printing, and therefore might be said to have been connected with the trade, from that at which the Committee arrived. The responsibility in this matter did not rest with the Committee, but with the First Lord of the Treasury, and there were several considerations which would naturally present themselves to his mind when he had this appointment to fill up. It would be a matter of some difficulty and delicacy to take a person out of the stationery trade and appoint him to the office of Controller. It was by no means certain that they would be able to find among the successful members of that branch of trade one who, for the remuneration the Treasury could offer, would be disposed to abandon a business he was conducting with success in order to accept this office. Therefore, the choice among those in the trade was, to a certain extent, limited; and, of course, if they took a man who had been uusuccessful in business, objections would be raised to him also, and the same would be the case if the man appointed were connected with any particular house in the 1338 trade. Altogether, the choice of a man for an office of so much importance involved many considerations beyond those which appeared to enter into the view taken by the Committee, and it was not enough to take a man with merely technical knowledge. The Prime Minister, upon whom, as he had said, the responsibility rested, therefore, acting on the best of his judgment, came to the conclusion that it was not desirable, at least at the present time, to seek for a gentleman possessing the peculiar qualifications referred to. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) himself doubted, from the observations which had been made on the present occasion, whether the Members of the Committee themselves were in their own minds so thoroughly persuaded of the necessity of the appointment being made on the principle laid down in the Report; because the hon. Member for Hackney said that they should either have taken a gentleman who was practically acquainted with the trade, or promoted the gentleman who was second in command in the existing Stationery Office. However reasonable it might be, the suggestion of that alternative showed that the Committee did not consider it absolutely necessary that the person appointed should be practically acquainted with the stationery and printing trades. No doubt, if Mr. Reid, the second in command, were appointed, they would have a gentleman whose merits were very high, and in whom the Secretary to the Treasury and the hon. Member for Lincolnshire had the greatest confidence. On the other hand, it was not a necessary rule that promotion must always take place within each Department, and reasons might easily be suggested why a man might be advantageously brought in from another Department. He would come with a fresh mind and bring a fresh eye to bear on any abuses which might exist. The hon. Member for Hackney said that Mr. Pigott was not a man who, from his previous services, was entitled to what he humorously termed the "deanery of the Civil Service." If this were to be regarded as an honorary appointment, with but little work to do, given to men for good services in other Departments of the State, no doubt Mr. Pigott would not be a proper person to select. But he was selected as being a man comparatively young, who had jus- 1339 tified by his character and abilities the expectations formed respecting him when he first entered the Public Service. It was said, and great stress was laid upon the fact, that he was the son of the former vicar of Hughenden. His noble Friend (the Earl of Beaconsfield), with whom he had had some conversation on the subject, told him that he had very little personal knowledge of Mr. Pigott, except that he had on his early introduction to the Public Service been pointed out to him as a young man of great ability, and likely to be a valuable public servant; that he had watched his career with some interest on account of his connection with a former vicar of Hughenden, and had uniformly found that he was spoken of very highly by those who had had opportunities of observing his career. He had been employed from time to time in duties rather above the ordinary duties of a clerk, and had been selected for particular services of an important character. He was in the prime of life, with 17 years of Public Service, and had shown himself to be a really good man of business. Under his charge there was every prospect that the work of the Department would be well performed. These, and no others, were the reasons which, as he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was informed by the Prime Minister, influenced him in making this appointment, which he did with a consciousness of the arguments that could be used for and against the selection of men in the trade, and with a full sense of the good services and merits of Mr. Reid, the second in the office. He believed in the personal fitness of Mr. Pigott, having observed his career from time to time since he entered the Public Service. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) did not think that these circumstances at all justified the censure which it was proposed to pass upon the appointment.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he was not at all disposed to regard the affair from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). At a time when they were doing their best to improve the status of the Civil Servants, it would be an unfortunate course to adopt, and altogether a departure from sound principle and common practice, if they were to say to men who had nearly reached the top of the tree—"No matter how long your 1340 services, or how great your efficiency may be, you will not be promoted to the headship of your Department, but we shall take a junior clerk out of another office who knows nothing about the business and appoint him over you, in order to have the advantage of a fresh mind. He did not know how far that doctrine might be carried; but if a man was to be appointed not because of his knowledge and experience, but because he came from somewhere else, and knew nothing of the particular business he would have to discharge, then, indeed, it would be a sorry look-out for the members of the Civil Service, who entered through the painful door of competitive examination in the hope that if they did their duty they would be promoted to the highest offices in the Department in which they were placed. That appeared to him to be the most salient point in the present controversy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer doubted whether the best course in filling up this office was to appoint the man who had the most practical experience; but in any case, it was, to say the least of it, very singular that when the claims of two men of equal experience conflicted, a third, of no experience at all, should be chosen. The present action of the Government seemed to him to be a most extraordinary way of carrying out the recommendations of the Committee. Several pages of the Committee's Report were occupied with recommendations affecting the Stationery Office, and the paragraph to which the Motion referred was not dashed off by the Chairman, or some particular Member, but it was prepared with very great care, and was considerably altered in its wording, and it was ultimately passed heartily and unanimously by the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had said that the Prime Minister had not thought fit to adopt the recommendation of the Committee, but those words might have two meanings. Either they might mean that the Prime Minister had carefully considered these recommendations, that he approved of them, that he had looked about inside the Department to find a man capable of fulfilling the requirements, but that, unable to find one, he had, as a last resort, appointed Mr. Pigott; or that, without the least inquiry or consideration, he had given Mr. Pigott the post off-hand. What he 1341 wanted to know was, whether the recommendation of the Committee was carefully considered by the Government, and was the appointment made afterwards, or was it made without any consideration whatever, and simply by the whim of the Prime Minister? The House was entitled to an answer to those questions, and he could only say that if Mr. Pigott had been appointed by the Prime Minister in the way he had suggested, the House should show their disapproval of such a proceeding by agreeing to the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, it would have been much more satisfactory to the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms), with whom he had sat on the Committee, if the Prime Minister were able to be present, and then no doubt the House would have had an able and amusing speech in defence of the appointment. But no one would say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his ingenious speech had defended the appointment, though he had made certain excuses for it. But if the House of Commons really wished to see the position in which it was placed, it must go back and consider this as only one of a series of similar appointments which had been made since this Government came into office, and had formed the subject of animadversion in the House. A noble Lord who had sat in the House (Lord Hampton) had been placed at the head of the Civil Service Examiners, another right hon. Gentleman (Sir Seymour Fitzgerald) had been appointed a Chief Commissioner of Charities, and they had had a most remarkable and humiliating debate relative to some of the legal departments of the present Government as to the appointment of Official Referees. These latter appointments had turned out to be entirely useless, and no one would forget the speech of the late Attorney General (Sir Henry James) on that subject. But what were the facts with respect to the present case? The Committee inquired into five great public Departments, and of these they found only one working in a very efficient manner—namely, the Admiralty, which was the result of the appointment of the Purchaser of Stores. All the rest were found inefficient in their working, but the most defective of all was this Stationery Office, under which there was an 1342 expenditure of something like £600,000 a-year. He did not wish to say anything of the late head of that Department (Mr. Greg); but no one who heard the evidence of that gentleman could doubt that he really knew practically little of the working of the Stationery Office, and he had to apply constantly to the second in command (Mr. Reid), who had been passed over in this appointment, for any information. If it was true that the Secretary to the Treasury and the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Winn) had been able to effect a saving of £45,000 a-year in one portion of the Stationery Office and expected to be able to save £20,000 in another, could anything prove more strongly the necessity for reform in the entire Department, and the value of putting a practical man at the head of it? The printing and stationery of this country had grown to an enormous amount. When Mr. Greg was appointed, it was not because he had any practical acquaintance with its working, but because he had claims on the Government and was a distinguished literary man. He, too, like Mr. Pigott, had been brought in from abroad, and the consequence was, that the office when inquired into was found to be grossly extravagant, seeing that it only required the efforts of two Members of the Government to save this enormous amount of money. The recommendations of the Committee had been disregarded, and disregarded in favour of something worse than that which they recommended. What was the reason for that miserable piece of economy—the reduction of the salary from £1,200 to £1,000 a-year? Was it from a lingering suspicion on the part of the Prime Minister that it was not right to give this gentleman, who had been placed in the office over the heads of others, the full salary, or with the idea that the country would be conciliated by this paltry saving? But what the country required was to have efficient men, and to pay them good salaries; and in the present case he maintained that the appointment was ridiculous, as the Government ought certainly to have chosen some one who was well acquainted with the minutiœ of the Department, and was able to control the expenditure on pens and blotting-paper. Would any person connected with commercial affairs appoint a man at the head of a great busi- 1343 ness dealing with £600,000 or £700,000 per annum without any practical experience of the business? And the business of the Stationery Office was almost all of a technical nature. This and the other appointments that he had alluded to showed that public efficiency was not the only thing considered. He had no doubt that so long as his hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) was Secretary to the Treasury, the Department would be well looked after; but he might be succeeded by some one who had not so much practical knowledge, and he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) was afraid that it would then be discovered what a mistake it was to place a junior clerk in the War Office at the head of the Stationery Office.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
felt that he should be guilty of undue reticence if he did not say a few words on this subject. He did not know of the vacancy until he heard of the appointment of Mr. Pigott; but it was only due to that gentleman to say, although no discredit had been cast on him by any speaker, that he had been undervalued. Mr. Pigott was a man of great capacity, and although only a junior clerk in the War Office, he had duties to perform which brought to him almost every kind of knowledge. He acted as private Secretary to Lord Pembroke while he was at the War Office. He was also Secretary of the Promotion and Retirement Commission; and the manner in which he carried out the difficult business which came before him showed him well qualified for any appointment that might be bestowed upon him. He (Mr. Hardy) always understood that this was one of what they called the great Staff appointments of the Public Service not necessarily to be filled up by the elevation of those from the lower ranks in the office. When a member of any Department of the State had displayed great efficiency, he naturally looked forward to promotion in any other office which he might be competent to fill; and he ventured to say the Prime Minister had had opportunities of knowing the qualifications of Mr. Pigott, and had watched his career in a manner which others might not have done. It was said Mr. Pigott did not know the details of the Stationery Office. He (Mr. Hardy) spoke as filling an office in which he had been placed over the heads of every department in the War Office; yet he had entered it 1344 with as little practical acquaintance with the duties of the office as any could well be; and he was called upon to discharge duties involving not only great principles, but many details. The real question, however, was this—a man when placed in a position of this kind might gain his knowledge from those about him, and if he was capable of turning his abilities to account would soon be able to utilize the information he gained; and he believed that Mr. Pigott, coming with great capacity and a fresh mind, would be found capable of dealing both with principles and details in the new position in which he had been placed. Surely this was a better principle than that of keeping a man in one constant narrow groove out of which he could not step without losing his balance. He believed Mr. Pigott would vindicate the choice which the Prime Minister had made, and show that in making the appointment he had only done his duty to the public.
§ MR. WATKIN WILLIAMS
said, he had listened to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the utmost astonishment and regret. It was only requisite to look at the faces of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to perceive the painful position in which they felt themselves placed. They must not blink the charge; it was a charge of jobbery in one of the great public Department—a most serious and grave charge made against the head of the Government for disregarding the high trust placed in him in appointing a most important salaried officer, and really no answer had been made to it. He entirely declined to be led away by the arguments of the Secretary of State for War, as they in no way applied to the point at issue; and that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was altogether fallacious and misleading. The office required a knowledge of details and technicalities with which Mr. Pigott was admitted to be altogether unacquainted. A Select Committee had investigated the subject, and reported on the necessity of practical qualifications for the Department. It had made recommendations which had been disregarded. The Report of the Committee had been set at defiance; and what was the defence? Absolutely nothing. It was worse than nothing—it amounted to a confession of the whole thing. There was barely an attempt to 1345 justify it. The challenge had been made and the House must vindicate itself. Were they to submit silently to these jobs? What right had the Government to disregard not only the recommendations of a Committee, but every rule of plain common sense and honesty, by placing a man in a position who confessedly did not possess the requisite qualifications for it? The Government were in this way demoralizing the public offices. They were utterly destroying the esprit de corps in the public Establishments by drafting a young man into an office through influence, and placing him over the heads of men who had stood the test of competitive examinations, and were devoting themselves to the thorough knowledge and efficient discharge of their duties in the hope of promotion in the Department. He must refuse to follow the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hardy) into a discussion of the personal qualifications of this gentleman—his character was stated to be of the highest kind, and his qualifications might be equally high. The charge was one of an improper exercise of patronage by the Government, in utter disregard of the recommendations of a Select Committee. Was this, or was it not, a type or specimen of other appointments which had been complained of, but which they had no proper opportunity of bringing before the House? He hoped the House of Commons would not ratify, but would utterly condemn the appointment, which was a gross job, and as to which, after listening to the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), he must say he thought there was no defence.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
also objected to the personal question of Mr. Pigott's qualifications being introduced into the discussion. As regarded them, he could, from having served in the War Office, bear witness; but, in his opinion, that circumstance did not warrant his appointment in the face of the recommendation of the Committee. As a Member of it, he felt certain that if the Members could be re-assembled they would by a large majority declare that this appointment had not been filled up in conformity with their Report and opinion. The head of this Stationery Department, under Mr. Greg, was a public servant of long experience and great intelligence; yet he had been passed 1346 over in favour of a younger man taken from another Department, who knew nothing whatever of the duties. It could not be expected that men who had qualified themselves to rise in a Department by the hope of promotion would be otherwise than discouraged by such treatment.
§ MR. BATES
said, that he, as another Member of the Committee, could not agree in what had just been said, and was by no means sure that the Prime Minister had not exercised a very wise discretion. He remembered that the Committee were all dissatisfied with the manner in which the Department had been conducted, and the question was whether it might not be the best thing to bring new blood into it. If the case had been his own, he, as a business man, would have followed the same course. The gentleman appointed might not at the present moment be thoroughly practical, but they should not forget that every man must have a beginning—even the hon. Member for Hackney must have had a beginning—and therefore he (Mr. Bates) could not support the Motion of the hon. Member.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that if the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken (Mr. Bates) were to follow his deduction to its natural conclusion, when he had to find any fault with one of his captains for the command of his steam-ships, that captain would be superseded and some one would be brought in from the outside who knew nothing about seamanship. [Mr. BATES: I have no steamships.] The same remark would apply equally to sailing vessels. The Department to which they were referring was a great merchant department, with a purchase of £600,000 a-year, and he appealed to any merchant whether he ever knew an instance of a man taken from a department without any knowledge of the particular technical branch, and put at the head of a merchant department of £600,000, or even £60,000 a-year. If merchants were so to conduct business they would conduct themselves into the Bankruptcy Court in a short time. The question, they were told, had been left in the hands of the Treasury. But where was the Secretary to the Treasury'? If he had been in his place, he (Mr. Mundella) should have asked him whether he could not have found a man practically conversant with 1347 the duties, and whether he had been consulted by the Prime Minister in regard to the appointment? The fact was—there was no use in mincing words about it—his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Watkin Williams) had characterized this appointment in its true words, and he (Mr. Mundella) agreed that it was a gross job. They had had a succession of them. It was but two years ago he had to denounce the appointment of a gentleman in his 77th year to the head of the Civil Service, and what happened at the time? Why, a gentleman, only 50, in the prime of life, was placed on full pension for life, so as to make room for someone else. It was through such jobbery as this the mistake as to green coffee and the other disgraceful errors of the Crimean War occurred—the attempt to put a square peg into a round hole—and it was time it was put an end to. He must again refer to the language of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Bates), which, as a business man, he (Mr. Mundella) should have been ashamed to use, and would ask him if he had known cases in which men taken from one branch of business had proved themselves thoroughly efficient in the new?
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
said, he had listened to this debate with great attention and very great pain. He had come down to that House perfectly unprejudiced and anxious to vote for the Government. He would not go so far as to say it had been a job, but he could not help feeling that the public interests had not been well consulted by this appointment. It did not appear that this gentleman had shown any qualifications for this appointment which had justified the Government in putting him over the heads of those who were well qualified. He did not think the House ought to sanction such an appointment, and he should feel it to be his duty to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 152; Noes 156: Majority 4.—(Div. List, No. 233.)1348
§ Words added.
Main Question, as amended, put.
Resolved, That, having regard to the recommendations made in 1874 by the Select Committee on Public Departments (Purchases, &c.), this House is of opinion that the recent appointment of Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office is calculated to diminish the usefulness and influence of Select Committees of this House, and to discourage the interest and zeal of officials employed in the Public Departments of the State.