HC Deb 23 March 1888 vol 324 cc193-222


MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

, in rising to call attention to the Report of the Select Committee on Perpetual Pensions, and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, steps should be forthwith taken to give effect to the Report of the said Committee; and that, considering the large and increasing annual charge upon the country for general pensions and non-effective services, it is desirable to adopt measures for the thorough revision of the entire pension system, said, that the subject divided itself into two heads, of which the first—namely, that relating to perpetual pensions—had now become of comparatively minor importance, for since the matter was first raised in the House a large number of perpetual pensions had disappeared by commutation. The second portion of the Motion was not only very much the more important, but was also much the more difficult, because on the first he was fortified in the action he now took by the unanimous Report of the Select Committee, on which the Government's own Attorney General sat; on the second—though he could easily point out the evil—he did not pretend he could be as clear as to what the proper remedy for the evil was. It might be—though he hoped it world not be—that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) would think that he had a right to complain that in the second part of the Motion he was trespassing on the ground he was attempting. If he did, he should plead as an excuse that in one of the noble Lord's speeches during the vacation he held out to him an inducement to take the matter up in the House. He would now refer to the Report of the Select Committee, in which they were unanimous, although the Radical element in the Committee was in a perfectly small minority. The Committee reported— That pensions, allowances, and payments ought not in future to be granted in perpetuity, on the ground that all such grants should be limited to the persons actually rendering the services intended to be rewarded by such grants, and that such rewards should be wholly or in main part defrayed by the generations benefited by the services so recognized. That it is unjust that future generations should be burdened with payments to persons who have had no share in the original services. That offices with salaries and without duties, or with merely nominal duties, should be abolished. That all existing perpetual pensions, allowances, and payments, and all hereditary offices should be determined and abolished. That in all such commutations the Lords of the Treasury should take into consideration the circumstances of such pension, allowance, or payment, and whether or not any real service had been rendered by the original grantee or was now performed by the actual holder of the office. The Committee further reported— That in all cases the method of commutation ought to involve and insure a real and substantial saving to the nation. He now asked the House to give effect to the recommendation of the Committee, and in doing so he trusted that he should be fortunate enough not to raise any kind of Party feeling, and that he should win the consent of the Government to carry out the recommendations of a Committee of which their own Attorney General was a Member. There now remained uncommitted 76 perpetual pensions, involving an annual payment of between £60,000 and £70,000, and they varied from £19,000 a-year to £1 and a few shillings a-year. He, however, proposed to deal on this occasion with only two, one relating to the Duchy of Cornwall and one relating to the Duchy of Lancaster. With regard to the former, amounting to £16,216, it appeared that it was granted in 1838 to the Duchy of Cornwall for the loss of the annual revenue of £11,536 derived from tin coinage duties, post groats, and white rents. It appeared, however, that for the 10 years preceding the 1st of October, 1838, the Duchy of Cornwall had only received £10 per annum in respect of these post groats. By a Treasury Minute dated 1839, it was stated that His Majesty King William IV. had expressed his intention that the post groats in Cornwall should cease after the 5th of April, 1841, on the termination of the existing lease, and that Her present Majesty on her accession had been pleased to confirm such intentions, and that, therefore, it did not appear to the Lords of the Treasury that the sum of £630 14s. 2d. should be provided for beyond the 5th of April, 1841, and that the compensation should be diminished after that date. It would, therefore, appear that a perpetual pension of £16,216 had been granted in respect of the loss of the annual sum of £11,300, and that a part of the former sum consisted of the annual sum of £630 14s. 2d. granted in respect of the loss of an annual sum of £10. The annual payment of this sum of £630 14s. 2d. had, however, been continued ever since 1841 without any legal authority and by what might be termed the quiet connivance of the Treasury. It was a monstrous thing that such an unjustifiable payment should continue. He also asked the House to take into consideration the payment of £800 per annum to the Duchy of Lancaster for "butlerage" and "prisage." Presage was the right which the King had by ancient prescription of taking to his own use and at his own valuation as much of all merchandize belonging to merchant strangers out of every ship importing the same as he had occasion for. A perpetual pension in consideration of this "butlerage" and "prisage" had been granted to the Duke of Grafton. It had been sometimes said that the whole question of perpetual pensions was a small one, but if the whole amount which had been paid in respect of all the existing and the commuted perpetual pensions had been invested at compound interest the nation would not only have been able to pay off the National Debt, but would have had several hundreds of millions of money in hand. He (Mr. Bradlaugh) further found that an annual payment of £100 10s. 10d. had been commuted for the sum of £2,700. The original sum was the aggregate amount which suitors had to pay to their Earls on going to the County Courts in the time of Henry III. He would not, however, trouble the House further with perpetual pensions, but would proceed to other points raised in the Report. In coming to the general Pension List he (Mr. Bradlaugh) fully admitted that, in whichever way they dealt with the question, huge difficulties stared them in the face. He believed that Parliament had already on one or two occasions tried to deal with the subject but had failed, and he imagined there was no logical way out of the difficulty except one in which he did not think the House—not even his Radical friends—would hardly support him. This solution was in the direction of the view advocated by Joseph Hume, that no servant of the State ought to receive a pension for services rendered to the State unless he was injured in its service. Joseph Hume also held that the servant of the State ought to be compelled, by the ordinary consideration which impelled every human being struggling for existence, to provide by his own thrift and economy against a time when he could no longer work and when sickness came upon him. He submitted that the sum for pensions of nearly £7,000,000 sterling, which was constantly growing, despite commutations, would grow to such a degree that in hard times the House would find that it was one of the matters which would call forth the loudest denunciations of the people in their misery. He would mention some of the suggestions which had been made to deal with this question rather than venture to propose any special remedy of his own. Perhaps one of the ablest compositions on this subject was a Memorandum by Sir Robert Hamilton, to be found in the appendix of the Report of the Civil Service Commission. There was a point raised in that Memorandum which was often raised in conversation—namely, all the servants of the State were in a different position from ordinary employés, and ought, therefore, to be differently dealt with. But they did not superannuate or pension all servants on length of service or for sickness. There was an excellent class of public servants known as "temporary" Civil servants. Although most of them had been over 25 years, some of them 30 years in the Service, none of them were entitled to any kind of superannuation because they happened to be called "temporary" Civil servants. Sir Robert Hamilton said that superannuation could not be defended as a charitable institution, but it could be defended on the ground that it was a means of procuring cheaper service and keeping down the amount of the salaries. He (Mr. Bradlaugh) maintained, however, that the experience of the last 30 years showed that the statement was not true.—that the system of pensions kept down salaries. Compared with the general service through the State he urged that they did not get such services cheaper; they often paid more for, and got less out of their servants than any other employer. The present system of pensions was demoralizing to the age, discouraged industry and thrift, and was an incentive to idleness. It was a condition of employment demoralizing to the employed. Being assured in their position, and with the knowledge that they would have a pension at a certain period, Civil servants were disposed to do as little work as they possibly could, especially some of those who filled the higher grades of Departments. With reference to the Army pensions he would only select one or two of the most remarkable instances which came to his notice lately. One was that of a gentleman who died last week in Westmoreland. He was held in such high respect in the neighbourhood that the local paper which announced his death appeared with mourning borders. The gentleman had filled the office of Clerk of the Peace, and, indeed, of almost everything official in the district where he lived. In addition to the emoluments he received from these offices, he had drawn a military half-pay for over 70 years. At 12 years of age he became an officer in the Army. In 1815 he started to join in the war, but the war ceased while he was in the course of his journey; and from 1815 to the day of his death last week this gentleman had drawn a military pension for services he had never rendered. What was the use of going through the farce of the House holding the purse strings of the nation, if it held them so lightly? There were a very large number of cases of this kind. The Civil Service Commission pointed out that in the re-organization of the Accountant General's Department of the Admiralty in 1877 the numbers of the staff were 259, costing £70,562. In 1881 the numbers were 245, and the cost £55,885; in 1885 the numbers were 267, and the cost £61,324, although pensions to the amount of £20,097 a-year and bonuses of £51,299 had been granted on reorganization that were supposed to reduce this kind of thing. He again asked the House what was the use of placing Estimates on the Table, criticizing them, and moving reductions of a few sums, if this National burden was to go on constantly swelling? Those burdens were considered to press most severely on labour in this country; every pension reduced the purchasing power of the wage-earner's wages. As a further example of the abuse of pensions, he would remind the House that some time ago he put a Question to the Secretary of the Treasury with regard to a gentleman who was receiving a pension up to the age of 137 years, at least that was what the official records stated, and he, of course, relied on them. That gentleman came into his pension at the age of 68, and at the time he retired he was page to the Princess Charlotte of Wales. They could thus prove by a sum in arithmetic that the enjoyment of a pension beat Old Parr's Life Pills altogether as a means of prolonging human life. There would be no hardship in abolishing pensions in the Government Services. They were not paid in any merchant's office. There the employés, by means of life insurance, sick and provident societies and thrift, made provision for old ago and incapacity; but by the system of pensions the moral obligations of a whole class of persons who came upon the bounty of the State were destroyed. He hoped the Government would not oppose the Motion. He had not ventured to commit them to the course they should adopt with reference to pensions generally; but he thought there must be enough material to warrant that a small and strong Committee should be appointed to endeavour to find the most reasonable way out of the difficulty. He would leave the question of perpetual pensions to the absolutely unanimous Report of the Committee on the subject. He asked hon. Members who had Notices of Motion on the Paper in regard to the employment of the unemployed to join with him in doing that which would render the condition of the employed better, and would lesson the burdens which fell upon all industry. The country looked to that reformed Parliament to do something like justice in that matter, without regard to politics. These should not be Party questions. There was one class of pensions for which he could find no defence, though he had tried—he meant those mentioned at pages 51 and 52 in the accounts for the year under the heading of political and diplomatic pensions. They seemed to him to have less justification than any others. The noblemen and gentlemen mentioned in the pages to which he referred were, in the belief of the people, out of the need of such pensions. They seemed to rest on less justification than any others. He did not say that they had a right to go back on those pensions which had been already granted; but he asked the House to come to the decision, on the Report of some such Committee as he suggested, that they would not make their professions of economy unreal, but would make them practical, and that they would sweep their own doorsteps first. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)

, in seconding the Resolution, said, that the junior Member for Northampton had rendered good service for some years past in endeavouring to call the attention of the country to the abuses of the pension system. No doubt, there were many instances in which perpetual pensions were given for distinguished services in the Army and Navy; but in the majority of cases those pensions were such as the country ought never to have been saddled with. In some instances the money had not been paid, and was not even now paid to descendants of the persons to whom the pensions were originally granted, a pension having been bought and sold in the market more than once, and nobody was able to explain the reason for which it had been given. The case of the Penn pension was a scandalous and notorious one. William Penn never rendered any services to this country, and had no claim upon it; he was simply compensated by the State of Pennsylvania for any losses he had sustained. Yet down to 1881 £4,000 a-year was paid on account of that pension, and then, to complete the transaction, £107,000 was paid for its commutation. Thus close on £500,000 was wrung from the British taxpayer, and paid to persons who were not even descendants of the man to whom the pension was originally granted, and who himself never had any claim on the nation. That was one of the most extraordinary jobs to be found in the political history of the country. Again, many years ago, there was a Mr. Heneage, who held the office of Hereditary Grand Proclamator and Usher with a salary of £588 a-year. No doubt, the duties of the office were entirely visionary, though the salary was tolerably substantial. That case became so glaring that the post was abolished, but the salary was transmitted to the descendants of the Chief Proclamater. The claim was ultimately commuted for £15,852, the whole affair being from first to last nothing less than an outrage on the people of this country. As the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had stated, most of those pensions had been commuted; but, unfortunately, one of the most scandalous of the whole still remained on the list—that of the so-called Master of the Hawks. It was conferred 200 years ago on one of the sons of Nell Gwynne, for the ostensible purpose of supplying hawks, and pigeons to feed the hawks, and meat to feed the pigeons, and ever since then £1,000 a-year had been taken under these false pretences from the taxpayers for the purchase of hawks, pigeons, and meat. On his asking Sir Reginald Welby whether there was any prospect of the termination of that pension, the answer he received was that, so far as the Treasury was concerned, the money would have to be paid for ever. He ventured, however, to express a hope that the House would decide differently, and that the pension, which was a species of legalized blackmailing, would be summarily put an end to. If the House would kindly look at the Instructions given to the Committee on Perpetual Pensions, they would see that it was directed to inquire how far the present pensions should be continued, having due regard to the just claims of the present recipients and to economy in the Public Expenditure. Tested by those principles, he asked the House what right had the St. Alban's family to the continuance of that pension? There was no conceivable right, unless it was that the taxpayers had been defrauded to the amount of £225,000 in the past. That fact, however, hardly established a right to defraud them out of another £225,000 in the future, or to repeat the process as long as the British Empire lasted. They were told in the Committee upstairs more than once that if they interfered with the claims of individuals they would commit the sacrilegious crime of destroying vested interests. They had heard a great deal in Committee and elsewhere about vested interests, and it struck him as a curious thing that it was always the vested interests of individuals that were referred to, and that the vested interests of the public never got even a passing notice. He would venture to suggest that in asking the House to abolish the St. Alban's pension without further form or ceremony, they were only asking it to follow a very important precedent set by a Committee of the House in 1838. That Committee recommended that six pensions should cease at a much earlier period than that for which they were originally granted, and that 14 other pensions should absolutely cease then and there, no more money being paid to the recipients of the pensions than was due on the date the Committee made their Report. It seemed to him that that was a precedent quite good enough to follow in the case of the monstrous pension to the Master of the Hawks. The whole system of perpetual pensions was a relic of the good old times, when the institutions of the country were supposed to be kept up for the benefit of a few privileged families, while the common people were expected to return humble thanks, morning, noon, and night, for the privilege of being allowed to toil for these superior beings. There were still many persons who seemed to think that this country was a sort of free warren in which Providence intended them and their descendants to multiply and grow fat. But that was a tradition which was bound to perish in a short space of time, and it would be a great step towards bringing it to a final end if the House voted the Resolution which had been moved by the hon. Member for Northampton. The second part of the Resolution suggested that the whole pension system of the country required revision. Of course, it must be admitted that there were many cases of persons who had served the State, or were serving it, who deserved pensions. Our soldiers, our sailors, postmen, and many others of that class fully deserve pensions, for the simple reason that they were underpaid during the greater part of their lives. But he maintained that clerks in Public Departments who received from £600 to £1,200 a-year for work, if it could be called work, had no earthly claim to be supported by the State after their period of service was over. He would ask hon. Members to look over the Pension List and examine it carefully. It would be found that it was made up, not of persons who had been underpaid all their lives, but of persons who had been overpaid. Some appeared on the List because they had been used as Parliamentary tools and hacks; others because they had been useful in electioneering operations; and others because they were of no earthly use to anybody, and it had been found absolutely cheaper to pay them for doing nothing than to keep them muddling around Public Offices. On that point much evidence had been given before the Commission on the Civil Services now sitting. Mr. Collet, the Director of Naval Contracts, stated that the reorganization of his Department meant the pensioning off of a lot of incompetent men. It could be proved that the reorganization game, as played at the Admiralty, had burdened the country with hundreds of persons who were heavily pensioned for no other reason than that they were found so intolerably useless that it was desirable on any terms to get rid of them, or their places were wanted for the friends of newcomers into office. It would be seen, by an examination of the Return moved for by the hon. Member for Morpoth (Mr. Burt), that in 1857 the reorganization of the Accountant General's Department alone cost £4,517 a-year in pensions; in 1869 another reorganization cost £8,400 a-year; and in 1878–9 a further reorganization cost £21,000 a-year in pensions and £52,000 in bonuses. Clerks who at that time were not more than 42 or 43 years of age received pensions of £328 a-year, and bonuses of £600 or £700. Another thing in connection with these pensions, which, he believed, was peculiar to this country, was that a man who received a very high salary in a Public Office was provided with a comfortable pension when he was bound to go out of office, which pension he received until he got another appointment, so that whether in or out of office the country took care of him. No matter what changes went on in the political world, he had a good salary or pensions. There was one case, at least, at the present moment which was nothing more or less than a public scandal. There was an amount of £1,200 a-year added to the Civil List on the recommendation of the Ministers of the day. The object for which that money was provided by a Resolution of that House in 1834 was that it should be annually given to those who by personal services to the Crown, by the performance of duties to the public, or by useful discoveries in science, or by their attainments in literature and the arts, had merited the gracious consideration of the Sovereign and the gratitude of the country. No one who was acquainted with the way in which these matters were managed in this country would be surprised to learn that literature, science, and art had seen very little indeed of this money. The pensions had generally gone to political friends of the Ministers of the day, or to someone who was already receiving pensions from another Department of the State, and literature, science, and art had been coolly kicked out-of-doors. It was very difficult to get together the instances in which these pensions of £1,200 a-year had been awarded. They were not published in any one Paper. They appeared in separate Papers, but were not brought together. He had been over these Papers, and he would venture to trouble the House with two or three specimens of the way in which the fund for the relief of necessitous persons had been applied. Joseph Haydn, the author of The Dictionary if Dates, who was living in great want and misery, was allotted a pension of £25 a-year in order to make his declining years more comfortable. The widow of Thomas Hood received £100 a-year, and the widow of Douglas Jerrold also received £100 a-year. Those were genuine pensions given to literary persons, or those who were nearest and dearest to them in the world. But let them compare with these the pension given to Prince Lucien Bonaparte, who received £250 a-year from the same fund, which was understood to be intended for the recognition chiefly of services connected with literature, science, and art. Another pension of £500 a-year was given to Lady Stratford de Redcliffe out of the same scanty fund, although her husband received enormous sums during his period of service to the State. Whether Lady Stratford de Red- cliffe deserved a pension was one thing, but whether it should be taken from this scanty fund, while poor literary men and artists were allowed to starve, was another question which he would leave to the House. Surely there were other funds from which these extravagant pensions might be taken. The principle on which the pensions were awarded often baffled comprehension. Two years ago £100 a-year was awarded to Mr. Augustus Mongrodien, while Mr. Jefferies, an author of great and singular merit, who had added very charming books to the literature of this country, was vainly seeking a pension, and was allowed to pass the remainder of his useful days in the utmost penury and want. Would any three Members of that House say that Mr. Mongredien deserved £100 a-year for anything which he had written? That pension was a specimen of the maladministration of the fund. The fund was small at the best, and it ought to be awarded by the Minister of the day with the utmost discretion, tact, and good feeling. He came next to pensions given to Civil servants. He had counted 406 persons who were comfortably pensioned off before they were 40 years of ago, and 774 who were pensioned off when between 40 and 50 years of age, or 1,180 who received pensions before they had reached 50 years of age. Scarcely one of them, as far as he could ascertain from the records, deserved either a large salary or a pension. In 1851 a pension of £500 a-year was given to a man of 25 years of age. What service could he have rendered to the country to deserve such a pension as that? Another person of 25 years of age got £300 a-year, and a lad of 22 got a pension of £150 a-year. He contended that if there were any principle under which these persons were entitled either to pensions or compensation allowance, that principle ought to be abolished forthwith, and nothing should be paid to persons who had done nothing for the country. In the Foreign Office a chief clerk received a salary of £1,250 a-year—and from his observation of the world he should say that £1,250 a-year was a very fair salary for a chief clerk, and that there were many men who would do the work for half the money. This gentleman, however, received in addition £950 a-year in the shape of compensation for the abolition of certain imaginary agencies, so that he got altogether £2,200 a-year. Prince Bismarck got £1,500 a-year; but, no doubt, this Foreign Office clerk was worth more than Prince Bismarck, and they had been told that they must not compare anything German with anything English. Another clerk in the Foreign Office received a salary of £925 a-year for 29 years, and at the age 47 he was retired on a pension of £650. No one could say that this clerk had served an ungrateful country. In the Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade it was found that 14 persons were not required, and they were quartered on the taxpayers at a cost of £3,135 a-year. If they had been employed by a private firm they would simply have received notice to go and there would have been an end of the matter. One of these persons after 14 years of easy service received a pension of £1,200 a-year. This was what was called managing the funds of the country in an economical and creditable manner. In 1859 several offices connected with the Order of the Bath were abolished. One of them was a "blanc Coursier Herald," whatever heraldic prodigy that may be, and he received £124 a-year for life. Admiral Seymour held three offices and received a different pension for each, in addition to his other emoluments, which were very considerable. The best thing that could happen to a man in the public employment was that his office should be abolished. It was true that he lost his appointment, but he retained, what he valued far more, the emolument, and whatever happened he was well taken care of for the rest of his life. He would ask hon. Members to look at a case, which would be found in the Appendix, on page 8, of a Consul who retired in 1852 and was supposed to be done with. Yet this gentleman had been receiving a pension of £600 a-year ever since, and he was at the mature age of 38 when this stroke of good look overtook him in the entire abolition of his office. Then there was the Second Secretary at Constantinople, who retired at the age of 44 with a pension of £900 a-year. There was an extra chaplain, who had only served for two years, and had preached, perhaps, 100 sermons, more or less indifferent, during that period, and who was retired on a pension of £75 10s. for life, after having received his salary of £350 a-year for two years. He had now received £1,600, and the profits were still pouring in. Clearly, literature, science, and art were not in it with the chaplains. A third class interpreter in China was paid £528 a-year, and then retired exhausted at 32, after 11 years' service, with a pension of £146 a-year. Ill-health was the cause assigned for the retirement in 1875; but, as he was still alive, it was probable that the pension had re-invigorated him. Then there was the solicitor in the Office of Works, who received £1,800 a-year, and was pensioned off in 1868 at £1,200 a-year. They all knew that solicitors got the best of it in this world; but he thought that very few of them drew such a prize as that, The Legal Profession, as anyone would suppose, came well out of a scramble of this kind. There was the case of Sir T. B. Maule, Director of Public Prosecutions, who received a pension of £500 a-year for life after four years' service. He called that a monstrous abuse of the public money; and he believed the country, when the facts came to the knowledge of the taxpayers, would regard it as an outrage upon them. The Legal Visitors of Lunatics had a pension of £350 after seven years' service. That case was very remarkable, because the Comptroller and Auditor General had reported that the gentlemen in question was not entitled to compensation at all. Nevertheless, the money was given all the same. The Registrar of the Court of Bankruptcy retired on a pension of £666 after six years' service. The payment of that money, also, was an outrage upon the public. He had dipped into the book, and had taken the cases at random from the Appendix. He did not search for them; but he had opened page after page of the book at random, and he thought he had given sufficient cases to show the necessity for a revision of the whole of the pension system. It might be contended that the pension system was absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the efficiency of the Public Service; but other nations, quite as clever and as prosperous as we were, did not think so. The United States paid no pension to the President, or to the Cabinet, or to any person in Civil employ.




said, yes. Probably the right hon. Gentleman knew more about the United States than he did; but he ventured to inform the right hon. Gentleman that he was strictly accurate in his statement, and that there was no pension system in the United States, as the right hon. Gentleman would find out if he would institute such an inquiry into the matter as he (Mr. Jennings) had done. No doubt, large amounts of money had been paid of late years in the shape of pensions—an amount of money exceeding our own Pension List; but it was only for services rendered during the Civil War. [Mr. MUNDELLA: Hear, hear!] He was quite aware of the pensions spontaneously given to the soldiers, or their wives and children, who suffered in the Civil War; but that could have no sort of application to the point now before the House. There was no pension system whatever in the United States; but the people of that country had come to the conclusion that the wives and children of those who had lost their lives in maintaining the integrity of the country deserved some sort of reward. The United States, moreover, were in the singular position of having a Revenue much greater than they knew what to do with, and, therefore, they had decided that those who fought in the Civil War should have pensions for themselves, and for their wives and children when they were dead. That was the only instance of pensions being paid in the United States. And from the President down to the humblest Civil servant, no man received a pension of one penny. No one could suppose that the people of this country would go on much longer paying extraordinary high salaries accompanied by pensions. What he demanded was that we should either pay lower salaries with pensions, or the present rate of salaries without pensions. It had been suggested, and he thought it was a very reasonable suggestion, that 10 per cent should be deducted from all salaries, in order to form a pension fund, and that the Government should add 10 per cent to that. He believed that something of that sort would have to be done. He did not suppose that anyone, either in the House or out of it, could believe that in these days, when everything was being turned topsy-turvy, the people of this country would be content to pay twice or thrice the fair market value of labour, and in the end be required to support in idleness the innumerable horde of Tite Barnacles who now infest the State. He begged to second the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, steps should be forthwith taken to give effect to the Report of the Select Committee on Perpetual Pensions; and that, considering the large and increasing annual charge upon the Country for general pensions and non-effective services, it is desirable to adopt measures for the thorough revision of the entire pension system,"—(Mr. Brad-laugh,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

MR. C. HALL (Cambridgeshire, Chesterton)

said, he did not propose to follow his hon. Friend in the interesting speech he had just delivered. He wished rather to refer to the first matter brought forward by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) in moving his Resolution—namely, the annual payment by the Commissioners of the Treasury to the Duchy of Cornwall. There seemed to be some doubt and misapprehension on the part of the hon. Member for Northampton; but the matter was an exceedingly simple one, and it had been most clearly explained to the Select Committee by Sir Reginald Welby in his evidence. His (Mr. C. Hall's) only apology for addressing the House upon the matter now, was the desire he felt to correct a doubt which appeared to prevail in the mind of the hon. Member for Northampton; as a matter of fact the payment in question was not a pension at all. The facts were as follows: By an Act of Parliament, or, rather, under a Charter of Edward III., there were granted to the first Duke of Corn wall certain tin duties, post groats, and white rent. By the Charter they were made payable to the Duke of Corn wall, and it was expressly stated that they were never to be severed from, but were to be part and parcel of the possessions of the Duchy of Cornwall. In the first year of the reign of Her Majesty it was decided to abolish the tin duties, owing to the fact that tin was no longer converted into coin, and one of the first acts of Her Majesty's Government was to decide that those ditties should be abolished and a payment made in lieu thereof. The Lords Commissioners of the Treasury were empowered to ascertain the average annual value of those duties during the last 10 years, after deducting the expenses of collection, and on that being ascertained the Commissioners were to pay out of the Consolidated Fund to Her Majesty—or whoever was then in possession of the Duchy of Cornwall—the average annual amount so ascertained, year by year. That was the way in which the matter stood then, and the amount was arrived at after careful consideration by the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury for the time being. The amount then fixed had been correctly stated by the hon. Member for Northampton, and was ascertained to be on the post groats a sum of £620 per annum. The Lords Commissioners then issued a Treasury Minute stating that his late Majesty William IV. had announced his intention of not pressing for payment of this £620.


said, the words were that His Majesty expressed his intention of abolishing post groats, tin duties, and white rent front the 5th of April, 1841. It further stated that His Majesty was pleased to confirm that intention; and therefore that the Lords' Commissioners were of opinion that it was no longer necessary to provide for this sum of £620 beyond the 5th of April, and that the compensation would be terminated after this date.


said, he was quite aware of that, and was just going to read the Minute. The hon. Member, however, had saved him the trouble; but it had nothing to do with the argument. Any lawyer would hold that the Sovereign had no right whatever to surrender those duties beyond the time she was entitled to receive them herself. She could not surrender duties which belonged to any succeeding Duke of Cornwall, and directly there was a Duke of Cornwall—that was to say on the birth of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the surrender would cease to have effect. It was expressly enacted that Her Majesty should have no more power to surrender the money payable by the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury in lieu of the duties than she had to sur- render the duties themselves. The fifth section of the Act, which the hon. Member seemed to have overlooked, expressly enacted that.


asked, if the hon, and learned Gentleman would read the section of the Act which abolished the duties altogether?


said, he would do so if the hon. Member desired; but it really had nothing to do with the question. Although the duties were abolished the Act went on to say that a payment was to be made instead of duties, and Her Majesty had no more power to surrender that payment than she had to surrender the duties before the Act passed. That disposed of the legal part of the question. He now came to the other part, on which the hon. Member for Northampton based his complaint. As a matter of fact, the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, knowing the intention of William IV., and the expressed intention of Her Majesty, issued a Minute, which was in fact the fons et origo mali of the complaint of the hon. Member. That Minute stated that in future the sum of £620 would not be required to be paid. But shortly before the Prince of Wales was born, the officers of the Duchy pointed out to the Commissioners that Her Majesty had no power to surrender the rights of a future Duke of Cornwall. The Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, no doubt being well advised in the matter, came to the same conclusion, and upon the birth of the Duke of Cornwall directed the payment to be continued. He ventured to say that no other conclusion was possible.


said, that not only was there no evidence of that; but Sir Reginald Welby had stated in his evidence that there was no Minute of any kind after the year 1841.


said, the hon. Member was again a little premature. He was just going to state that there was no Minute to that effect; but there was a correspondence to that effect, of which evidence was given before the Select Committee. [Mr. BRADIAUGIT: No.] If the hon. Member would exhibit a little more patience, he would find that he was stating the facts quite correctly. He wished, however, to point out an inaccuracy of the hon. Member. The hon. Member had stated that King William IV. announced his intention of not pressing for this payment, because it was only £10 a-year. There was no evidence whatever to support that. The lease for that sum was given to a gentleman who had been a distinguished officer in the Duchy, and at the expiration of the lease, king William would become entitled to the £620 a-year in the same way as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was now, and the sum had been paid ever since. He believed he had dealt with the matter before the House. The sole complaint of the hon. Member for Northampton was that the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, when they received a communication from the Council of the Duchy, and determined that they must pay, having no alternative but to do so, forgot to issue a Minute recording the fact. This was no new matter. The hon. Member had called the attention of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) when it was in power, to the matter; he had brought it before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), who conferred on the subject with the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury. He ventured to say that the subject had been most carefully sifted by the present and late Government, and the result was as had been stated. The payment had been made for over 40 years without dispute or opposition; but there was one fact which came out in evidence, and it was that when the Government for the time being considered the question of the allowance to be made to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on his marriage, computations were made in which this amount of £620 a-year was taken into account as being part of the revenues of the Duchy, so that the country had not been the loser of one penny in this respect. He had thought it necessary to make these observations in order that the circumstances should be understood by the House. The hon. Member had, he ventured to say with all possible respect, discovered a mare's nest; and he regretted that he was so 10th to admit the fact after the conclusive evidence given before the Select Committee.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

I may, perhaps, follow the hon. and learned Gentleman, who has disposed of the two most important charges made in the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton. But before I proceed to say anything on the question, let me at once admit that this is by no means a Party question. I have, therefore, no reason to complain of hon. Members on either side of the House, who endeavour to lessen the public burdens and to cure any defects which may have grown up in the past in the public administration. Both sides of the House and we ourselves on these Benches will cordially welcome any assistance which may tend to do justice to the public at large as well as to public servants. The hon. Member, in speaking of the subject of pensions, laid down the proposition that every Civil servant should make provision for himself. He was bound to admit that this principle was sound, and should be generally applied if possible. The justification for pensions can only be found in the public advantage and necessity. The question we have to consider is whether those who have accepted office and come into the enjoyment of pensions should be deprived of them. I apprehend that no one would desire that faith should be broken to anyone who is entitled as the result of past service to pensions or superannuations, or any payment out of the public funds. I agree that justice should be done without regard to Party partiality or interest. The hon. Member directed special attention to certain pensions paid out of the Consolidated Fund. It is not for me to defend these pensions. They have been established by Parliament, and must be presumed, therefore, to have been established on the ground of public policy. I can imagine that many pensioners have rendered great service in the past, and have arrived at high office and distinction by reason of their ability and devotion to the Public Service. I can imagine that these gentle-men, having been withdrawn from the ordinary occupations of life, have not bad the opportunity of increasing their private fortune or providing for the vicissitudes of affairs. I state this because I have had occasion to consider whether it was fair or right that certain applications should be entertained; and I have come to the conclusion that probably none are of greater consideration to the State than the men who have devoted themselves through a long life to the Public Service, having thereby deprived themselves of the opportunity of making a fortune adequate to their positions in life. The hon. Member is aware that a declaration is required from all public servants who accept pensions that they need such assistance to enable them to live in private life. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) made a serious indictment against the action of our forefathers. We are not here to defend that action, but we are here to maintain public faith, and with a qualification that due regard should be had to the just claims of the recipients of pensions, I can have no objection to the Motion. My hon. Friend, in the course of his interesting speech, spoke of persons who have no earthly claim to pensions; of incompetent men who have been pensioned, of persons pensioned simply because places were wanted for newcomers, who were intolerably incompetent. I have probably as great a knowledge of what is called the organization of the public offices as any man in this House. I have had the experience of 20 or 30 years. I have some experience, also, of business in private life, and I have found cases in which employers have felt themselves bound to make some provision for men who, after having served them faithfully for 10, 15, or 20 years, or perhaps longer, have become gradually less capable and less competent for the work required of them; and under these circumstances, if there were no positive fault, their employers have felt it to their interest and advantage not to leave them absolutely without means. I am riot urging anything which appears contrary to the public interest, nor do I desire to incur any charge which might be avoided with due regard to the public interest. How would you have the public served? Would you have them served by faithful servants who know that they have a certainty or by men who know that they may be used for a given time and then cast aside? I am aware from my own experience that one of the great reasons which induces competent men to enter the service of the State is the knowledge that they cannot be thrown aside, that they will make a career, and that not even the caprice of a superior officer can have the effect of determining that career unless some grave fault is committed. Undoubtedly that security has some great disadvantages. It has the disadvantage of a superannuation charge and of the comparative independence which an officer may have with regard to those under whom he serves; but it has great advantages, inasmuch as it gives the officer himself a motive for giving all his energies and devoting himself entirely to the service of the State, because he knows that he will be cared for in the long run. Another argument by which pensions can be justified is that we take young men into the public service just at the age when they would otherwise be able by entering into some business or profession to make a position in life for themselves. The Government are fully prepared to go with the hon. Member for Northampton in a desire to effect economy and to examine into the system under which these pensions and superannuations are given. I am prepared to go as far as we can with the hon. Member, but do not let us take a step which would deprive the Public Service of the best servants. Do not let us sacrifice efficiency for the sake of a temporary economy. My hon. Friend behind me made the very important statement that there were no pensions in the United States Civil Service; I believe that statement to be entirely accurate, but if there is one subject which more than any other attracts attention in the United States, it is that very condition of the Civil Service. Until recently, at all events, a Civil servant in the United States was liable to dismissal on a change in the Presidency. Well, I cannot think that the Public Service gains by that system, and I believe it has been admitted by some of the best men in the United States that a Civil Service founded on something like our own system would be a great advantage to their country, and would leave the Civil Service out of the area of public politics. I have also to remind the House again of one fact in connection with the present serious charges for superannuations. It is that this subject has been under the consideration of the House of Commons repeatedly for the last 30 or 40 years. In 1857 an Act was passed which abolished the contributions made by public servants themselves to the Superannuation Fund, on the ground that the abolition was a public advantage. The Resolution on which that Act was founded was carried in opposition to the Government of the day. [Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR: Lord Naas's Resolution.] The House of Commons at that time had the whole subject under consideration. I am not, however, by any means unwilling that the House of Commons should again review the conditions under which these allowances are made. I ask the House to assist the Government in a matter which is not a Party question at all, for I have no doubt that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are as anxious as I am myself that there should be economy and above all that there should be efficiency in the Public Service. I have, therefore, Sir, to suggest to the hen. Member for Northampton that in lieu of the words on the Paper he should move:— That in the opinion of this House steps should be forthwith taken to determine hereditary pensions and allowances with due regard to any just claims of the respective recipients and to economy in the public expenditure; and that, considering the large and increasing annual charge upon the country for general pensions and non-effective services, it is desirable to adopt measures for the thorough revision of the entire pension system. If the hon. Gentleman will adopt these words the Government will cordially accept them, and we will endeavour, as far as in us lies, to give effect to them.


said, he gladly assented to the proposed change, and he did so the more readily because the words suggested by the right hon. Gentleman were precisely the same as he had himself placed on the Order Book of the House when he first moved in the matter. He would ask the indulgence of the House to explain one statement of the Attorney General for the Duchy (Mr. C. Hall), whom he was afraid he had too often interrupted. There was no Correspondence whatever which showed that the Treasury had considered and decided on the continuance of the £630 14s. 2d. There was a protest by the Duchy, and nothing more. In the examination of Sir Reginald Welby before the Select Committee, Question 420, the Chairman asked— You assumed from that, in your former answer, that there was a subsequent decision of the Treasury, which might not be recorded upon the Minute Book, that the payment ought to be continued? Sir Reginald Welby answered— I have got no evidence to put before the Committee in confirmation of such an opinion. It is difficult for me to suppose that the payment would have been continued without some instruction. At the same time, I wish the Committee particularly to understand that I have got no evidence whatever to offer in support of this opinion. This clearly showed the accuracy of the statement he had made to the House.

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

I am somewhat unwilling to interpose, but the question is one of great importance, and there are a few words which I think it is necessary for me to say about it in consequence of a portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings), although with regard to the general tenour of that speech I thought it was a valuable addition to this debate. I am extremely glad that the Government have taken a prudent course in accepting the substance of this Motion, and I agree in thinking that the modification which the right hon. Gentleman has made in the terms of the Motion is in the nature of an improvement. I feel that the Government in accepting such a Motion have undertaken very considerable responsibility, for there is no question of promising to give consideration in the sense in which naturally and necessarily such promises are often made. It is quite evident, considering the vastness of the subject and the extent and divergence of its branches, the Government will have to consider, first, how far provision has already been made in the Commission already sitting as to some portion of the subject; and, secondly, what course should be taken to promote a practical handling to promote a careful examination of other branches of the question. Undoubtedly I for one, and the Mover and Seconder of the Motion also, will expect that some practical course should be adopted. The question is perhaps a wider one than most Members of the House are aware of. While the attention is attracted by a great mass of figures which express the burden of the country in connection with the necessarily very large and extended Civil Service, there are many branches of the subject which require distinct and separate examination. I may now criticize that portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Stockport in which he found it necessary to refer in some detail to the delicate and difficult questions relating to the administration of the annual grant of £1,200 a-year at the disposal of the First Lord of the Treasury. In the first place let me say, having had the administration of it for 11 years, and having known something of its administration by others, I can venture to assure the hon. Member that he is under an entire misapprehension in supposing that the grant, so far as I know, has ever been distributed with reference to political considerations. I venture to state that with very great confidence. Undoubtedly a case did happen many years ago—nearly 50 years ago—on which grave criticism might be made from that point of view; but it is entirely out of date, and I will not revive it by mentioning names, though it is obvious that the reception that event met with became the best security against any similiar abuse. The hon. Member also seemed to imagine that poverty was the main qualification for the receipt of these pensions. That, I think, is not the case. The terms are laid down with great care in an Act of Parliament of 1837. As I read the Act, and as it has always been read, distinction is the necessary element, and poverty, if it intervened at all, is a secondary element. It is an element which will not dispense with the element of distinction. There are pensions upon the Civil List of the Queen which are available for poverty, but that is not the case here. The £1,200 at the disposal of the First Lord of the Treasury must be distributed on the ground of distinguished service, though no doubt it would not be entirely decent to give or to accept such a grant in cases where a large income was enjoyed. I will now mention one or two cases to which the hon. Member referred, and for which I myself am responsible. I will only say with regard to these cases, and with regard to the Civil List generally, having been responsible for a long time for two of the most difficult and the nicest branches of the pension system—namely, the Civil List, pensions for distinguished merit, and pensions for distinguished service, that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to appear before a Committee and give an account of every single act I have performed in this respect. I was not surprised at the observations of the hon. Member, and I make no complaint at all with regard to them. They were not conceived any more than is any Party speech in a Party spirit; they were observations perfectly fair for the hon. Member to make; but at the same time I cannot accept their justice. The hon. Member commented adversely on a pension of £250 granted when I was Prime Minister to Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte. I do not think poor mortals ought to be proud of anything they do, but if I were proud of any pension I ever gave it would be of that one, because it was a pension in every point of view most eminently excellent and requisite. It so happens that it was made the subject of pointed comment in this House at the time. I made a lengthened statement in answer, and I do not think I ever had the pleasure and satisfaction of sitting down after making a statement amid more universal cheering. Prince Lucien Bonaparte is a person who has rendered enormous service to literature at his own expense when he was a comparatively opulent man. But the ruin of the French Empire in 1870 entirely altered the position of Prince Lucien and wholly cut off his literary pursuits. He was not responsible for the French Empire or its ruin, but the circumstances made it desirable—and it was no dishonour to him—that he should receive an honourable notice of this kind. There was this additional reason for the pension. One of the rules—a very good one—which are generally observed in the distribution of this £1,200 is not to give to the popular branch of literature. The popular branch of literature pays itself; but the services of Prince Lucien Bonaparte, in connection with which he incurred a large expenditure, were in the department of philology, an extremely difficult subject, but one very necessary to be explored. At the same time it is one which addresses itself to a very competent but extremely narrow public; indeed any book published hardly ever pays its expenses. Prince Lucien was a naturalized subject of the Crown, and in every point of view he was one of the fittest, if not the fittest, recipient of this grant. The hon. Member also referred to a pension of £100 a-year to Mr. Mongredien. I cannot recollect if that pension was granted by me or not; but at least it was not a very large one. The hon. Gentleman also dwelt upon a case in which I was responsible for granting a pension of £500 a-year—I admit a very large sum under this grant—to the widow of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. I am glad hero to be able to illustrate what I have said to the effect that these grants were not made with reference to political predilections. This is seen by the fact that Prince Lucien Bonaparte voted against the Liberal candidate in the borough of Chelsea, where he has a house, while the distinguished nobleman, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, was a well-known Conservative, who sat for between 30 and 40 years on the other side of this House, or of the House of Lords. Whether a pension of £500 could properly be given to the widow of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe is, I think, a matter which may well attract the notice, or even the animadversion, of the hon. Member, and I should be happy to lay fully before a Committee the considerations which influenced me in it. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, while he lived, enjoyed an income from a diplomatic pension and there was no case for making any application on his account. But when he died that pension expired. He had never been a wealthy man. All his life he had devoted himself to the Public Service, and the services which he rendered in Constantinople were undoubtedly of the highest order. I admit that there may be differences of opinion as to these services—that is to say, as to the policy on which his acts were founded, and as to the justice of the sanguine expectations which he entertained in common with Lord Palmerston and some other able men as to the capacity of the Turkish Empire for what is sometimes called regeneration. Although I myself have never been a sanguine believer in the regeneration, there is no doubt whatever that many things were done in the time of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, when he was Ambassador in Turkey, which were of the nature of great and substantial reforms. If the hon. Member wishes to know the height to which Lord Stratford ascended as a diplomatist, and the place he occupied in the estimation of the great majority of people at that period, let him consult the history of Mr. Kinglake, and there he will find the great and eminent services rendered by. Lord Stratford at Constantinople set out with a splendour I cannot rival. Lord Stratford, as I have said, was not a wealthy man, and I believe it is a well-known fact—there is no disgrace in it—that his private means and economies disappeared in consequence of the repudiation by the Turkish Empire of its debts. Believing in the Turk, and in Turkish regeneration, he had given that strongest of all evidence of his belief when he invested in their funds—and unquestionably it became a matter for consideration whether, so far as the public were concerned, Lady Stratford was to remain without provision. I believe that all the Members whom I address would, in the circumstances in which I then stood, have done just as I did with respect to the Motion before the House. I will not dilate upon the reasons which lead me to support it. They are very strong indeed. I have pointed to the fact that I do not think it possible that it can be treated as a mere abstract Motion. I consider it a Motion intended and likely to lead to practical results, and I thank the Government for having accepted it in that sense. And the evident intention of the Government is to give effect to the views of the mover of the Amendment, which was so ably seconded by the hon. Member opposite, and to place this matter upon a footing which shall be above Party considerations. In these circumstances I trust that in the few hours which this debate has occupied, a fair amount of public business has been transacted.


asked leave to withdraw his original Amendment in order to bring it up in an amended form.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, steps should be forthwith taken to determine the hereditary pensions and allowances, with due regard to the just claims of the respective recipients, and to economy in the public service, and that, considering the large and increasing annual charge upon the country for general pensions and non-effective services, it is desirable to adopt measures for the thorough revision of the entire pension system;"—(Mr. Bradlaugh,)

Question proposed "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY (Lancashire, N., Blackpool)

said, as Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, and as one greatly interested in the reform of the system of pensions in the Civil Service, he desired to say, in behalf of the Committee, that the action of the Government in accepting the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had materially tended to assist them in their labours. He was glad that the system of pensions was to be made the subject of inquiry. The hon. Member for Northampton had quoted some evidence given before the Committee of which he (Sir Matthew White Ridley) was Chairman, to the effect that, whatever might be thought of the pension system, it was high time that it was inquired into, not only from the point of view of the expense to the country, but also from the point of view that it did not conduce to the extent intended to the efficiency of the Public Service. He was not entitled on that occasion to express any particular opinions which he might entertain; but he might express his belief that there was not one of his Colleagues on the Commission who did not feel the importance of the inquiry on which they were engaged, and who did not expect, before many weeks had elapsed, the Committee would be able to present their Report to the House. The reform suggested in the course of the debate would be, of course, of material assistance to the Committee, who had already taken evidence on the subject. Evidence had been taken since the Report had been issued; but he pointed out that the more the subject was gone into the more difficult it appeared to present a scheme which would have a chance of lasting for several years; the great difficulty being that so many years must elapse before the scheme to be proposed could come into operation. He, therefore, asked for the indulgence of the House if the Committee were not able to present their Report as quickly as many would desire. He rejoiced that the limited Report they had been able to present had received what he conceived to be substantial approval, and trusted that before much more time had elapsed the Committee would be able to present a successful scheme to the House.

MR. A. E. GATHORNE-HARDY (Sussex, East Grinstead)

said, he rose to protest against the remarks made by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) with regard to a very distinguished gentleman—Sir J. B. Maule—whose pension of £500 the hon. Member had adverted to. Sir J. B. Maule had, for a great number of years, been a distinguished Member of the Party opposite; he had served on the Commission which inquired into the Jamaica outrages; he had served as an unpaid member of the Municipal Commission for four years, and, to his personal knowlege, declined the high position of Chief Justice of India, because he preferred to carry on his professional practice. Sir J. B. Maule had been likewise selected at a salary of £3,000 a-year to discharge the office of Public Prosecutor. The operation of that office had not been satisfactory; but he ventured to say that whatever failure there might have been it could not be laid on the shoulders of this gentleman. It had been thought desirable, in the interest of the Public Service, that the appointment should lapse, or rather be transferred to the Solicitor to the Treasury, who was made Director of Public Prosecutions. For the loss of his office, Sir J. B. Maule had received the very small pension of £500 per annum. As a political opponent of this gentleman, he felt bound to make these remarks in reply to the statement of the hon. Member for Stockport, and he regretted that some personal matters had been introduced into the discussion which had, in some degree, obscured the main question on which he thought there was no difference of opinion in that House.

Question put, and negatived.

Words added. Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, steps should be forthwith taken to determine the hereditary pensions and allowances, with due regard to the just claims of the respective recipients and to economy in the public service, and that, considering the large and increasing annual charge upon the Country for general pensions and non-effective services, it is desirable to adopt measures for the thorough revision of the entire pension system.