HC Deb 02 May 1877 vol 234 cc249-55

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said. that it was a Bill to enable the Grand Juries of Ireland to grant increased remuneration to the assistant county surveyors, and also, with the approval of the Lord Lieutenant, to grant them superannuation. The present salaries of these officials was fixed at a maximum of £80 a-year. Considering that they had all passed examinations as engineers, he thought it was impossible to obtain the services of a qualified man at such a salary. They had each of them to travel, perhaps, 1,000 miles in the course of a-year, and one of the provisions of the Bill would give the Grand Jury power to vote them a further sum for travelling expenses. He trusted that the House would read the Bill a second time. If there was anything in it which the Government regarded unfavourably, he should be happy to consider any Amendments which might meet their views. He had only further to add that he hoped hon. Members for Ireland would assist him in obtaining this small modicum of justice for a deserving, and, at the present time, badly-paid body of men. He concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. William Johnston.)


, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, the hon. Member who moved the second reading (Mr. W. Johnston) said it was a modicum of "justice to Ireland." He (Mr. Biggar) did not view it in that light. It was a Bill which proposed to take money out of the pockets of the ratepayers, without their consent. He knew very well what the duties of the assistant surveyors were, and he thought £80 a-year a very fair salary in relation to those duties; and, in his opinion, the Grand Juries should not have power conferred upon them to make orders to give them superannuations. As a matter of fact, they merely gave their spare time. ["No, no!"] He thought they were very fairly paid for driving, on an average, three miles a-day. He had several relations who had held the office, and as they did not give their time to it he thought they were already sufficiently well paid. They were certainly gentlemen of respectability; but he could not see why the Grand Juries should have increased powers conferred upon them to impose increased expenses on the cesspayers; and he therefore moved the rejection of the Bill.

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. Biggar.)


ventured to say that there was no such persons as assistant county surveyors. They were only assistants to the county surveyors, and the difference was an important one, as these gentlemen were trying to get themselves recognized as independent county officers. Their position, he admitted, was one of the most anomalous kind. Although they were appointed by the county surveyors without the intervention of the Grand Jury, they could not be removed without the sanction of that body. He thought that legislation of the kind proposed by the Bill was rather premature until their position was more clearly defined, and placed on a more satisfactory footing, although he admitted that their salaries were at present small. From a public point of view the result of raising the salaries of the county surveyor's assistants would be an advantage. Practically, the greater portion of the county work had been thrown upon them; and it followed that if the salaries were too low, the class of men would not be the best in the profession, and they would also be open to temptations from contractors to accept remuneration in a manner that would not conduce to the benefit of the county. Believing that legislation was required on the subject he would not oppose the second reading, but should the Bill reach Committee, he would feel bound to suggest considerable Amendments.


supported the second reading of the Bill, taking exception to several of its provisions, however. The most objectionable part, he thought, was the Proviso giving the power of increasing the salaries of the assistant surveyors to the Grand Jury, without having previously obtained the assent of the magistrates and associated cesspayers at the baronial presentment sessions. That power, he thought, should be subject to some control from the ratepayers. The general tendency of legis- lation had been to give the ratepayers control in the county expenditure, and it would be unfair to make an exception in the present instance and deny the ratepayers a voice in the matter. He thought, however, that it would be well if, for the future, assistant surveyors should be fewer in number, better paid, and selected from a class of men fitted to succeed eventually to the office of county surveyors. The hope of ultimate promotion would induce a higher class of men to serve at first in the subordinate office.


said, that the only way to have good roads in Ireland was by paying the assistant county surveyors well. He knew the work they had to do, and therefore gave his hearty support to the measure. It had been stated that those surveyors did not travel many miles in the year, but they travelled not only 1,000 but over 6,000 miles a-year; and out of their salaries of £80 a-year they paid at least a third of that in expenses, leaving them only £60. He hoped the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) would withdraw his Amendment and allow the Bill to be read a second time, which might be amended in Committee.


objected that the Grand Jury should have the power of deciding in the matter of salaries of those men; he was not in favour of superannuation. They were a most useful class of men, and their labour and services were very valuable, as the main part of the work was really done by them. The late Government showed every disposition to take the subject in hand; but the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) was prevented from doing so by pressure of other business. It was evident the men were underpaid, and all the objections urged by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) could be dealt with when the Bill came to be considered in Committee. The men, as a class, were very dissatisfied. They had to do a great deal of important work, and they were badly paid. To say, as had been done by the preceding speaker, that a third of their income was expended in travelling expenses, was to understate the fact. He believed that half of their salary was so consumed, and that left the men only £40 a-year to live upon. Amendments might be made in Committee; but, in his opinion, it would be only fair to give them something additional in the matter of pay.


said, he should vote for the second reading of the Bill, as he thought the assistant surveyors ought to be fairly paid.


said, he had no objection to the Bill being read a second time, but several provisions would require careful attention in Committee. Before the House proceeded to a division, he thought they should have an understanding from the hon. Member who introduced the Bill that he was prepared to accept an Amendment limiting the power of the Grand Jury to grant increases to the salaries of the assistant county surveyors.


was of opinion that the Bill would require considerable alteration before it became law, and he certainly thought that the question as to whether the salaries should be raised ought to be referred to the presentment sessions as well as to the Grand Jury. The Government would object to the relations between these assistant-surveyors and the county surveyors being changed. As had been well observed, the former were assistant to the surveyors and were not county officers, and, therefore, he could not agree to the provision for pensions. He also doubted the wisdom of increasing the travelling allowances. The limit at present fixed for the salary, £80, he admitted, was unsatisfactory. This class of men occupied a responsible position, the duties of which were in many respects analogous to those of the surveyors to Highway Boards in England, and he did not think it was always possible to secure competent men at so low a salary. An increase, therefore, might very fairly be assented to; but as to what the precise limit should be, that would be a matter for consideration in Committee. Under these circumstances, he felt justified in supporting the second reading of the measure, as he felt sure that the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston) would not object to have these points dealt with in Committee.


entertained very great respect for the assistant surveyors, whose duties, he knew from experience, were very arduous in measuring stones and in various ways assisting the surveyors. He agreed in the remarks of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), that the Grand Juries should not have the settlement of those matters, and he should vote for the Amendment, as at present it was not desirable that any change should be made. That should be deferred until the House saw what form for county administration the measure which the Government intended to bring forward would assume. It might under a new system certainly change the position of these surveyors' assistants. He should be glad to see the position of the class improved, and if they were deprived of their private practice, and they did practice, some of them largely, then some compensating arrangement should be made; but at the present moment he felt it would be injudicious to make any change in the relation of this class to the surveyors. With that view he should vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cavan.


said, he should. vote against the Bill.


thought that the Bill had been brought forward at an inopportune moment; and that the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston) and those who supported him would have better consulted the interests of a most meritorious class of men if they had postponed this question until the whole system of county administration had been brought before the country by a Government measure. It was his intention to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cavan.


supported the Bill, and thought the position of the surveyors' assistants required consideration. Until a reform of the Grand Jury system was brought about, he believed the Bill would be for the benefit of the counties.


considered credit was due to the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston) who introduced the Bill, and hoped it would be amended in Committee. He should support the second reading.


said, in reply, he could assure the House that he would receive all Amendments that might be proposed in a favourable manner.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 211; Noes 32; Majority 179.—(Div. List, No. 110.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday 11th May.