§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
I do not think we can make any progress with this Bill until the Government have given us some information with reference to the scope of its provisions. At the present time, as I understand it, certain classes of public servants, if removed from one service to another, can count the whole of the time in respect to superannuation. Now, I am not prepared to say that that is unreasonable or unfair. But the point upon which I want information is this: To what classes of public servants does the existing law apply? I would also like to ask to what class of servants are we to understand that the present Bill applies, and why are the Army and Navy to be exempted? I am only asking this for the sake of obtaining information on the subject. I have no desire to oppose the Bill. I wish to see certain grievances redressed. If we propose to extend to Civil Servants the same rights which others possess to superannuation, then I would submit that whether it be proper or improper in itself, it is extremely inconvenient to make such a charge on the Exchequer in such a Bill as this. I find the expression "public office" means "any office the money for which is paid out of a fund receiving a contribution from any of the public sources." That means that any county or borough fund, inasmuch as they receive a contribution out of the Imperial Funds, can, by the Treasury, be termed a public source; and thus it follows that a policeman who transfers from the north to the south 227 may include his former service for his pension here in London. Under the Act of 1859 he can only reckon one-half of such time. Therefore it seems to us there is a considerable chance that the House may, without knowing it, go much further in the direction of superannuation than it expects. I will put another case, which is sure to provoke some speech from the hon. Members who represent Ireland. As I read the Bill the effect will be that any person who has served Her Majesty in any part of the world will be able to go to Ireland, procure engagement as a policeman, and to count the whole of his services, in any part of the world, and in any department, for superannuation. Thus, before agreeing to the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman must not wonder if, under these conditions, we desire to know what we are doing. The information I want is this—to which class of public servants is it to relate? If he will tell us that it has got no general application, that it is merely to remedy some little grievance, I do not think there will be any objections to it. If, on the other hand, under cover of these innocent provisions, it is really an enlargement of the whole scope of our superannuation arrangements, so as to enable a large section of public servants to count time served in various parts of the world towards pension, then I submit that such a proposition should be fully explained to the Committee. In order to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of explanation I move to report Progress.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
It will only add to the irregularity to make that Motion. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will probably make his explanation; but it is impossible for him to make a speech on that Motion.
§ *THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Sir J. GORST,) Chatham
I thought when this Bill was read a second time that I had made what I supposed to be a lucid explanation of its contents. I can assure hon. Members that it does not tend to greatly increase the charge upon the taxpayers. The Bill may have very little effect—probably none—in that direction. It is a Bill to 228 remedy certain practical difficulties which have been found in regard to the Superannuation Acts; and among those who will benefit most are some of the poorer class of Civil Servants of the Crown. As to the question who are the particular persons under the Crown who may be transferred without losing right to pension, and who are those whose right to pension is lost by transfer from one place to another—I cannot undertake to exhaust those questions without consultation with my legal adviser, and without sufficient examination of the various Acts authorising the grant of pensions. If the hon. Member will be content with a general practical answer, I may say that the Departments in which these provisions are necessary are the Prisons Department and the Constabulary Department. I think when I have mentioned those Departments—there may be others—I have practically answered the question of the hon. Member. As to the necessity for this Bill I will mention one case, actually now before the Treasury. The man was a warder in Canterbury Prison from March, 1875, to April, 1878, his salary at that time being paid out of the county rates. He then became a warder in Wandsworth Prison from 1878 to February, 1886, his salary being paid out of the Parliamentary Grants. Prom February 1886 to March 1891 he was a turnkey in the Isle of Man, his salary, of course, being paid out of the Isle of Man revenue. This man, after serving the public for many years, is now reported unfit for duty on account of ill-health, but at present the Treasury is unable by law to give him any superannuation allowance whatever. I think even the hon. Member who has just addressed the House will agree that that kind of man ought, in his declining years, and when his health has failed, to have a pension out of the revenue of the different authorities under which he has served. This Bill will enable the Treasury to make rules for giving that kind of man a pension, and to allocate the amount to be paid out of various public funds. It will apply to every part of the United Kingdom. I hope the hon. Member is now satisfied that there is no latent conspiracy. Certainly no 229 Member of the Government will be benefited by it, and there is no intention to greatly add to the charges on the revenue. The Bill is really one to enable the Treasury to redress certain grievances which have sprung up.
MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid)
There was an idea below the Gangway that this Bill really aimed at benefiting certain high officials. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that this Bill will not benefit any Member of the Government. And I do not suppose it would, as a Member of the Government; but it certainly was thought that the Bill would benefit those who held office abroad—office under the Indian or Colonial Government—and that, while ostensibly aiming at the class of servants the right hon. Gentleman has named, it would really benefit the much wealthier class of public servants. Therefore, I wish to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman would be willing to put a clause in this Bill to render it absolutely impossible for anybody who has drawn a large salary in the Public Service to be at all benefited?
§ *SIR J. GORST
I do not think it would be possible to introduce such a clause—it would be very invidious to make distinctions. The principle of the Bill will, no doubt, apply alike to officers of the upper and the lower grades; but I do not know where the hon. Member draws the line of high salary. It would affect the case of a man who has been transferred between the Home and the Indian Services, and who might put together his Indian service with service in this country, and be pensioned on retirement in respect of his whole service.
§ *SIR J. GORST
If the hon. Member asks me conundrums of that kind, I can only give him an answer proverbially worthless. If the hon. Member really wants information on the subject, and will put a question on the Paper, we shall endeavour to give him an answer.
§ MR. KNOX
I think we have legitimate reason for allowing the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) to stand. We understand that by putting down a question on the Notice Paper we may discover when the 230 Bill has passed through the House what it is we have been engaged upon. I submit that is not a reasonable answer for a Minister in charge of a Bill to give to an hon. Member who asks a practical question as to the effect of the Bill.
§ *SIR J. GORST
I have answered the hon. Member, but it is impossible for me to state all the classes the Bill would embrace. It is a question for the Attorney General. My opinion would only be the answer of a lawyer without fee.
§ MR. KNOX
We expect the right hon. Gentleman not only to give the opinion of a lawyer upon the subject, but also to give us the effect of his official information as to what would be the result of this measure. There is another reason for reporting Progress. A Commission sat for some years and made an elaborate Report upon this among other subjects. On that Commission there were the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) and the hon. Member for the Stretford Division of Lancashire (Mr. Maclure). The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton has expressed his wish to be present during the consideration of this Bill, and it is unfortunate that the Bill should twice have come on when, in the ordinary course of business, it was unexpected. Inasmuch as none of the recommendations of the Commission have been literally carried out in this Bill, it is surely desirable that, when the measure comes on for discussion, there should be some Members of the Commission present who can give an opinion untrammelled by Governmental connection. I understand the Commission reported that no further grants should be given; no increase should be made in the superannuation allowances until provision had also been made for a five per cent. reduction from the salaries of officials. Until the one thing has been accomplished, I do not think we should do the other. It is, too, a strange thing that we are without any explanation as to whether the Bill affects Resident Magistrates in Ireland. We are told that this Bill chiefly concerns prison and constabulary officers. What we want to know is, does it affect the Irish Resident Magistrates?
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)
I should like to ask, Sir, if the hon. Member is in Order in discussing these various points?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The whole discussion is irregular, but I understand that the hon. Member intends to move to report Progress.
§ MR. KNOX
Well, Sir, I will just say that I object to proceeding with the consideration of this Bill until we have some further knowledge of what it consists. Above all things we desire to know if it is intended to benefit Resident Magistrates. No distinct answer has been given to us on this and other points, and I therefore move to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Knox.)
§ *(8.12.) SIR J. GORST
I think the present is not a favourable time for discussing the question, which is that of removing a great hardship to a very deserving class of public servants. I may say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) has no desire for further alteration in this Bill beyond an Amendment which I have agreed to move at the proper time. The Committee, I hope, will now enter upon a business-like discussion of the clauses. I should be out of Order if I were now to enter into discussion on the principle of the Bill. That is not a business we should discuss this evening, and I hope the Amendment will be withdrawn. Of course, any point might be discussed on the Third Reading or on the Report.
§ (8.14.) MR. STOREY
The right hon. Gentleman should be the last to complain, because when we were sitting here ready to take part in the Second Reading he got up and moved the Closure, and after a discussion of only 25 minutes the Bill was passed without the desired information having been obtained. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that we should go on with the clauses, and he says we can discuss the principle of the Bill on the Third Reading. He knows very well what little hope there is of getting the principle of a Bill discussed on the Third 232 Reading. Our only hope of getting to know what the scope of the Bill is, is in resisting Progress at the present time in a Parliamentary way.
§ *(8.17.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I rise to express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Sir J. Gorst) will answer the questions which have been put to him as to the scope of this Bill. If he will do so, I would recommend my hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment, and allow the Committee to discuss the clauses. We had no information on Monday night that the Bill affected only the lower class of Civil Servants in the Constabulary and Prison Departments. If that is the fact, will the right hon. Gentleman consent to words being inserted in the Bill limiting its provisions to the class of officials he has mentioned, and will he consent to report Progress so that he may give us information as to the meaning of the Bill and the amount of money involved? If he will do that, I am sure it will get over the difficulty. Although I have no desire to obstruct the Bill, I say frankly that I should not mind if it were stopped altogether, because it is a bad Bill, and opposed to the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
(8.20.) MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid)
I do not want to delay the progress of this Bill. On the other hand, if the Bill is what the right hon. Gentleman says he thinks it is, I shall be delighted to withdraw all opposition to it. We want to obtain from the right hon. Gentleman a positive statement as to the class of Civil Servants who would be benefited. That is all we want, and if we get that, I hope to be able to vote for the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says he cannot be expected to get up in his place and give, in an extempore way, a list of the persons who will benefit. We do not ask that he should, but he can give us the information to-morrow. Before letting this Bill go through unopposed, we want to know positively what class of public persons are going to benefit by it. If it is only to benefit humble persons who have served their country well, I should like to vote for it. The information which has been asked for might be given to-morrow, and I think if that 233 were done it would facilitate the progress of this Bill. There is no desire on the part of some of us to oppose the Bill if we were certain that there is no more harm in it than the right hon. Gentleman would lead us to believe.
§ (8.25.) MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)
I think the request made to the right hon. Gentleman to report Progress is a most reasonable one, although I do not agree with all the reasons alleged for doing so. For instance, I do not think we should report Progress simply because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Fowler) is not here. But, Mr. Courtney, there is one reason which is unanswerable, and that is that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister in charge of this Bill either cannot, or will not, explain its details. It seems to me that the question of my hon. Friend as to whether certain persons are, or are not, intended to be benefited by the Bill is a reasonable one, but the right hon. Gentleman refrains from answering it. I do not wish to speak disrespectfully of the right hon. Gentleman, but it seem to me that he has displayed considerable ignorance as to the provisions of the Bill. On the Second Reading he said categorically it would not affect the revenues of India. But I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there is a sub-section authorising a charge on the Indian Revenues.
§ *SIR J. GORST
This Bill does not touch a single rupee of the revenues of India unless the Secretary of State so determines.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
But it does if the Secretary of State decides that it shall. However, that is not the question. I think I have shown that the right hon. Gentleman has not exhibited to the Committee such an acquaintance with the details of the Bill as we ought to expect. I have listened to the discussion throughout, and I must say I have not heard any satisfactory statement from him as to whom this Bill is to apply to. I, therefore, think we should support the Motion to report Progress, so as to enable the right hon. Gentleman to furnish the information asked for.
§ (9.0.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I had the opportunity of hearing the remarks of the Secretary to the Treasury; and considering the strong action taken in connection with the Second Reading of the Bill, and the unsatisfactory answers the right hon. Gentleman has given on the subject during the Session, it is strange that he should have offered such an explanation of the Bill as he has given to-night. We want to get something explicit from the responsible Ministers of the Crown with regard to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said that this Bill may or may not affect the taxpayer. Our duty is to protect the taxpayer, and we ought to have some idea of how much will be spent under the Bill. Then the right hon. Gentleman said it would benefit the constabulary and prison servants. I know how it will affect them. There are many men of the Royal Irish Constabulary who made themselves obnoxious in Ireland—at Mitchelstown—and who were removed and put as warders in prisons in order that they may get an increased payment. I ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether this Bill will apply to such men as Cavanagh and Captain Segrave, and men of that ilk, or will it simply meet such cases as those mentioned by the Secretary to the Treasury, where a man has been removed from a post in one prison to a post in another? If it is intended to benefit the poor officials in gaols and the constabulary only, I withdraw all opposition; but if it will give certain Resident Magistrates in Ireland power to count service in India as well as in Ireland, or if—on the coming of Home Rule—they are removed to India, to count also the service in Ireland, it would be ridiculous. It will facilitate the passage of the Bill if the First Lord of the Treasury will say plainly and straightforwardly whether or not the Bill is intended only to benefit the class of persons mentioned by the Secretary to the Treasury? If it is to confer large salaries on men who have done very little to deserve them, I shall take every step I can to arrive at the real 235 truth; and I think it will save the time of the House, and you trouble, Mr. Courtney, if the right hon. Gentleman will tell us at once if these gentlemen are to be superannuated.
§ *(9.13.) MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
I will not again allude to the fact that the Secretary to the Treasury succeeded in curtailing the Second Reading stage of this Bill to a great extent by the Closure; but I desire to express the opinion that, though I think he would be the last person in any way to endeavour to deceive the Committee, he approached this Bill not only on the Second Reading stage, but to-day, in a perfunctory manner, and that, from many things which dropped from the right hon. Gentleman, he did not grasp the magnitude of the task he has taken in hand. He plainly told this Committee to-night that he did not know the financial effect of this Bill, with regard to the amounts, less or more, which would be demanded either from the taxpayers of this country, or the over-taxed people of India, in support of the operations of the Bill. Now, it appears to me that there is nothing more absolutely important than that this House should, especially in Committee on Bills which involve the passing of large sums of money, convince Her Majesty's Government that they are determined that the Government shall at all events take the trouble to make a fair estimate of some sort as to the financial outcome of a Bill before they bring it to the Committee stage.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The Bill is now in the Committee stage, and the hon. Member is making observations on the Second Reading.
§ *MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
I am only endeavouring to reply to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury. He stated from that Bench that he did not know; that he only believed and thought—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
That was an irregular discussion which was permitted as a matter of favour. It was quite out of Order, and to continue that discussion on a Motion to report Progress would be out of order.
§ *MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
But I will say this—the whole method in which he has approached this Bill shows that he has not studied it or even read it. He told us—I suppose you will not allow me to dilate upon this point, but you will allow me to mention it—he told us to-day that in his opinion it would not affect the Revenue of India at all. I shall be prepared to prove upon Amendments which I have down on the Paper that the Revenue of India will positively and must necessarily be affected thereby. I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government have taken the trouble to look into the magnitude of the amounts at stake in this matter; but I may say that about five and a half millions of money per year are affected, or may be affected, by the operations of this Bill; and I want to ask the Government if they themselves can allege that they have already either taken the House sufficiently into their confidence upon the Second Reading, or that they have taken the Committee sufficiently into their confidence on the present occasion to enable the Motion for reporting Progress to be withdrawn?
§ (9.15.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I think an apology is due from me to the Secretary to the Treasury that I was not here earlier. But I did not think that the Bill would have been brought on at this time. I was not aware that such rapid progress had been made with the Scotch Bill. With reference to this Bill, I am not going to discuss it as if it were in the Second Reading stage, but I very much regret that I had not an opportunity of discussing it on the Second Reading stage. I may state in one sentence the attitude which I feel towards this Bill. I was associated with the Royal Commission on the Civil Service for many years, and we went very fully into this question of superannuations, and we presented a Report relating to the subject quite as thick as the book in my hand. For several years I have been pressing the Government to take some action upon our recommendations. I do not attribute any blame to the Government. Perhaps the course they have taken may be owing to the exigencies of business, 237 but they have brought in no Bill dealing with the whole scheme dealt with by the Royal Commission. My objection to this Bill is that it is merely a sectional Bill dealing with a very grave question. I have not heard what the Secretary to the Treasury said, but he certainly met me very frankly and fairly on more than one point which I shall mention when the time comes. I do not know what specific reasons he has for bringing on this Bill. They may be very good reasons; I do not say they are not, because I know nothing at all about them. But my objection to this Bill is that it is dealing in a very minute manner with a very great question. It is too late now for me to raise that question. The Second Reading stage was the proper time for raising that question. I was prepared to call attention to the enormous amount of money—two millions per annum—now paid for Civil Service pensions, in addition to what we are paying for the Army and Navy. However, that is no reason why we should not get into Committee on the Bill, and let the subject proceed; and I would ask my hon. Friend to withdraw his Motion.
§ (9.18.) MR. KNOX
I can only express my regret that I cannot accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman and take the course which he has recommended. If any of our Amendments had been accepted by the right hon. Gentleman who has charge of the Bill, if he had given us any quid fro quo, we might, perhaps, be in a more accommodating frame of mind. But not only has he not accepted any of our Amendments, but he has carefully abstained from explaining the nature of the provisions of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not really know what was the object of bringing in this sectional Bill. I still suspect that the real object of this Bill is to give some extra advantage to certain gentlemen now serving as Resident Magistrates in Ireland. The Government have carefully abstained from giving a plain answer to a straight question—whether or not this Bill affects certain gentlemen now serving in Ireland as Resident Magistrates? I hope the Resident Magistrates 238 and Divisional Commissioners will get no assistance from this House, and that we shall proceed no further with this Bill, about which we still know nothing. It may be that this is an innocent Bill; but if it is an innocent Bill it ought to be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to have either presented a Paper showing in black and white how many Civil servants would be affected by it, or to have given a definite answer upon the subject. The only explanation which we have of the proposals of this Bill is the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that so far as he knows there will be no charge thrown on the revenue by this Bill. Now if that is the case, what is the use of the Bill at all? In pressing this Motion I wish to make it clear that I do not act from any wish to obstruct legitimate business; and it would be very much better that we should proceed with the Bills that relate to the poor law schools in Ireland, or some other simple Bills which we can understand, and leave this Bill which nobody seems to understand for investigation on some subsequent occasion.
§ (9.21.) MR. STOREY
From what I had been told by the Secretary to the Treasury I was under the impression that this Bill was an innocent Bill, and that it did not involve any additional large amount of money to be charged against the English Exchequer. Since I went out of this room I have got information which makes me gravely doubt whether or not I was not too simple in accepting that view of the situation, and whether, on the contrary, this is not a Bill which may cause a very serious charge upon the Exchequer. I must say I freely endorse the opinions which have been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman on our Front Bench, who has been at the Treasury too, and I hope he will support me when I say that in his time no Bill was carried through which involved an additional charge on the Treasury without the Minister furnishing to the House something like an authoritative statement as to what the amount of that charge would be. I now ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Is there going to be an extra charge by this Bill, and, if so, what is the amount of 239 that charge; and is it not his bounden duty to communicate that information to the House before we proceed further with this Bill? I will give an illustration. By the rule contemplated by this Bill an Indian Uncovenanted Civil servant, on leaving India and taking up an English appointment afterwards, say at fifty years of age at a salary of £1,500 per annum, and holding that appointment for five years, would he or would he not be entitled to count for pension, not simply on the Indian scale, but on the English scale, because the Bill says in the second sub-section that he shall be entitled to his pension as if his whole service had been in the public office from which he ultimately retires? On the Indian Service scale he would be entitled to a pension of £475 a year; but on the English scale he would be entitled to £1,000 a year. I want to know from the Government whether that is the case or not; because if it is, it seems to me that this is a distinct attempt, without giving the House full information, very largely to increase the already bloated amount we expend on pensions to Civil Servants. If that be correct—and I must say I have reason to know that it is correct—I would submit that this multiplied by the number of persons involved constitutes a great additional charge upon the Exchequer here and in India. India, however, is in this condition that she cannot be charged, and, therefore, I am mainly concerned with this country. I venture to impress upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer this fact, that we have a right to know what this additional charge will probably be. Our fear is that under cover of this new proposal there is going to be a great extension of the system of pensions; and as guardians of the public purse we have a right to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer has he gone into the matter? Is the amount large or small? If it is small, let him tell us the amount; and if it is small we shall be delivered from further discussion.
(9.29.) MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
There is no one who has listened to this discussion but would arrive at the conclusion that a case has been 240 irresistibly made out for the Motion which was originally made in order that the House might be given further information regarding the real meaning of this Bill. The question was whether or not this Bill would apply to the highly-salaried servants of India and in our Colonies on returning to this country and continuing in the Public Service. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury made the extraordinary admission that he could not give us any information on that point, and said that if we wanted any particulars, we ought to address a question to him later on. I do not think that that is exactly the position which anyone in charge of a Bill of such great importance should take up. Either the right hon. Gentleman understands the Bill or he does not. If he does, he ought to answer the question. If the Bill does not apply to highly-salaried officials, no further opposition will be made to the Bill, but it will be allowed to pass at once. I, therefore, hope we shall now have a declaration on behalf of the Government as to what is the real meaning of the Bill.
§ *(9.32.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I hope that when the Financial Secretary comes back from his dinner he will be able to give us some information on the two questions which I put to him—namely, whether, in the first place, he would not consent to report Progress, so that he could give us information as to the meaning of the Bill and the amount of money involved; and, in the second place, whether, if, as he stated, the Bill only applies to constabulary and prison officials, he would consent to words being introduced limiting the operation of the Bill to those two classes? I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will condescend to answer these questions. If the Bill applies only to servants with small salaries, I shall willingly see it pass, because, until we do away with pensions altogether, the working men and small-salaried officials should be pensioned as well as the more highly paid officials.
§ *SIR J. GORST
I am very reluctant to make another speech on this question, 241 especially as it seems that all I say is twisted by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite. ("No!") I never said, as the hon. Member for Peterborough stated, that the Bill would only apply to prison officials and constabulary officers.
§ *(9.33.) SIR J. GORST
I am very sorry that I failed to make myself intelligible to the hon. Member. What I did say was that the officers who lost their rights of pension by transference from one office to another were principally constabulary and prison officers; that they, therefore, were the officers who will benefit chiefly—I guarded myself by saying "chiefly"—from the provisions of the Bill. With regard to the question which the hon. Member has asked as to the number of persons who will be benefited by this Bill, it would not be possible to state categorically the number, for that remains to futurity. In fact, next year officers may be transferred from the constabulary to the prison service, and from the prison service to some other service. I really do not think I deserve the censure so freely passed upon me by hon. Members opposite, that I have been concealing some great conspiracy under this very simple Bill.
§ *SIR J. GORST
What I did say was that the Bill had been brought in in consequence of the practical difficulties experienced in awarding pensions, and I gave the Committee a concrete instance of those difficulties. The number of persons will certainly be small. The charge upon the Public Revenue, if there be any charge, will certainly be insignificant.
§ *SIR J. GORST
It is impossible to make either a calculation or an estimate. Hon. Members may take my declaration as an officer of the Government that the charge will be infinitesimal, that it will not be a great one, and that it will not figure in the Chancellor 242 of the Exchequer's Budget, or as an important item in the Expenditure of this or any other year. I am very sorry for the way in which this Bill has been received, because it affects the interests of many of the poorer servants of the Crown; and the idea of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite that the Bill is proposed in the interest of highly-paid and highly-salaried public servants is a pure imagination, and has no foundation in reality. If the Committee would consent to go on with the Bill and consider the clauses, we should, I believe, soon arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
§ (9.37.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I have not intervened in this Debate before, and I should be very sorry to impute to the right hon. Gentleman any underhand motives. I think he has given us a clear statement, and I am perfectly willing myself to accept his declaration as an officer of the Government. But in matters of this kind I think we are entitled—I cannot say to doubt the word of a Minister, but, having regard to the natural jealousy with which Members of the House of Commons are bound to look upon suggested legislation respecting pensions and superannuations, to ask that everything connected with the proposal shall be placed in the clearest form before the House and the country. We should have not merely the declaration of a Minister of the Crown on that side of the House; but we should have embodied in the Bill all the material necessary for enabling us to form our own judgment as to whether the proposed legislation is useful or not. I want to put this point before the right hon. Gentleman, and I think he will see that it is a reasonable suggestion. He will observe that the Bill in its title, and also in other parts, refers to a series of Acts extending from the years 1834 to 1887. I have taken the trouble to count up in the archives of the Legislature the number of those Acts, and I find there are no less than 243 21 Superannuation Acts which have been passed during the years I have named. Those Acts apply to all classes of military and civil servants employed in the service of this country. The right hon. Gentleman has just said, in answer to a friend of mine on this side of the House, that there are two classes, principally, of servants of the country who will be affected by this Bill—prison officials and constabulary officers—but he did not, as I understood him, exclude in his remarks the possibility of this Bill, when it passes into law, applying also to other classes and categories of public servants. If I have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, I desire an explicit statement from him as to whether we are to understand that he does exclude from the operation of this Bill all other classes except those I have named.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
The right hon. Gentleman says "No." We have a right to look at it from this point of view—that it does affect the different classes of public servants who are dealt with by these 21 Acts passed between 1834 and 1887. Everybody knows perfectly well the difficulty of wading through a long series of Acts of Parliament, piecing them together, seeing how they work one with another, and what the effect of any proposed legislation is as regards all these previous Acts. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, as he has not given us any Memorandum to this Bill explicitly stating what the effect of this proposal will be, whether he would not consent to give us a Schedule enumerating all these different Acts, and stating in what particular this new proposal will affect the different classes dealt with by those Acts, so that we may have clearly before us the exact relations of this new proposal to all these previous Acts? I understand we are now discussing a Motion that you do report Progress; and I think the suggestion I have made, and the argument I have used, is weighty in this behalf, as showing the desirability of reporting Progress now, in order that the right hon. Gentleman, before we resume the Debate, may give us the 244 further information which will enable us to deal fairly and justly with this Bill. I am quite sure that there is no desire on the part of Members on this side of the House to deal unfairly or unjustly with this proposal, more especially as the right hon. Gentleman tells us it is mainly intended to affect and improve the position of a class of public servants who, I am perfectly certain and know, are highly deserving of our most favourable consideration. But we have a right to know what other classes are likely to be benefited besides those mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman; and considering the mass of material contained in those 21 Acts of Parliament, we ought to know where we are and what will be the effect of this proposal as regards the provisions of all those other Acts. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Leader of the House whether it is not perfectly reasonable to accept now the Motion to report Progress, in order that we may resume our consideration of the Bill with the additional information which I am certain we are entitled to?
§ (9.44.) SIR W. PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)
I would press upon the Government the real necessity of acceding to the wishes of my hon. Friends who are pressing them in this manner. The fact is we have already devoted two hours to the discussion of the Motion for reporting Progress, and we are not making any advance in the Business of the House, and I do not think we shall make any advance. I think the claim made upon the Government is very reasonable. I voted for the Closure and for the Second Reading of the Bill, and I have not the least desire to stand in its way; but it is quite clear there is a doubt on this side of the House—which may be founded rightly or wrongly—as to the scope of the measure, and we do deserve from the Government Benches a full account of that scope. If in another few days the responsible Minister will give us a Memorandum or make a statement which would show exactly what are the real facts so far as this Bill is concerned—how far it will go—then all opposition will cease.
§ *(9.46.) SIR J. GORST
May I say one word more? My only objection to report Progress now is that if Progress were reported further procedure with this Bill would be endangered. I am most anxious, for the sake of the classes whom I have indicated, that this Bill should become law. Hon. Members accept the principle of the Bill. It is contained in the first clause, and is simply that a man who has served the State in one particular Department shall not forfeit all right to a pension which may have accrued to him by his service in that Department by reason of his being transferred in the interest of the public from one Department to another. Do hon. Members below the Gangway who are jealous of the rights of the taxpayers of this country say that, if a public servant is transferred from one Department to another, he ought to forfeit his pension by reason of that transfer? That principle will chiefly be operative in the case of prison officials. I will not commit myself to saying that it may not be operative in the case of other public servants; but, if so, it is right that it should be.
§ *SIR J. GORST
It will increase it, for, at the present moment, they are not entitled to any superannuation at all. I understand that exception is taken to the Bill on account of the clause which says that their superannuation shall be determined by the last office from which they retire. All I can say is, that that is the principle of superannuation now, and is not a novel principle inserted in this Bill. When an officer who has been transferred from Department to Department and from post to post finally retires from the Public Service, his superannuation is calculated upon the last office which he has held. That is the present principle, and I do not think hon. Gentlemen have a right to ask me in this Bill to introduce a novel principle in the superannuation of public servants. If it is to be introduced, it should be done 246 in a general Act, amending the plan of superannuation in this country. It ought not to be introduced as regards only the officers affected by this Bill. Why are they to be made the subjects of a novel principle which is not to be applied to the others? All that this Bill lays down is that persons transferred from certain excepted Departments to other Departments should not be in a worse position than other servants of the State. I do not see any reason why such an exception should exist.
§ (9.52.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
It seems to me that the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was absolutely contrary to the first part. The rule upon which pensions are granted is that if a man has given his whole time to the service of the State it would reckon for his pension, so that when a man is transferred from the Customs or the Excise to another Department there is no grievance. But in the latter part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman asked whether it was fair that men who had served in certain excepted portions of the Service should lose their time of service when transferred. I quite agree that there is a hardship in the case of prison servants who have not, strictly speaking, been in the Public Service. But that is not the only case which this Bill meets. It meets that case and a great many more. The right hon. Gentleman said that Resident Magistrates would come under the rule. For my own part, I deny that there is any class of public servants in regard to which the most improper rule as to professional qualifications has been more lavishly put in force than in the case of these gentlemen. I understood from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the present Government have abolished the plan of a qualifying number of years. If this Bill is intended to cover this class, I think that the hon. Member for Sunderland is quite right in his action. If it is confined to the constabulary and prison officials, I have nothing to say, except to ask that the Rules should be laid on the Table of the House, and that the House should have a veto. But if this Bill is to be 247 a reconstruction of the Pension Rules, then I contend that the right hon. Gentleman has no right to deal with such a question piecemeal. I will ask the Government, considering the feeling of the Committee and their desire for further knowledge, to re-consider this Bill and re-introduce it in a shape which would allow hon. Members to give it every assistance, which would be done if it dealt with prison and constabulary officials and minor public servants who have been at a disadvantage without dealing with the whole Indian Service.
§ (9.56.) MR. CRAIG (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
We have not had one word of reply from the Government in regard to the Indian question. The practical effect of this Bill will be that a man who has left one branch of the Service and is entitled to a pension of £475 would, by his subsequent service, find himself entitled to a pension of £1,000, and that chiefly in respect of his earlier service; and this is an illustration with which the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt. The right hon. Gentleman cannot expect us to answer conundrums, especially legal conundrums. I am not putting this case as a conundrum—it is a concrete case. A man who has been in the Indian Service at a high salary entitling him to a low pension will, under this Bill, practically have his pension doubled.
§ *SIR J. GORST
The case which has been put could not happen under this Bill. It has been said that a retired Indian Civil servant would have an increase made in the pension payable to him out of the Revenues of India.
§ *SIR J. GORST
The Indian Civil servant would not be entitled to have his Indian pension increased out of the Revenues of either India or England. There is a proviso that the Secretary of State in Council shall determine the amount to be paid from the Revenues of India, and we have no power to increase a pension regulated by the India Acts.
§ (10.3.) MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)
I cannot quite reconcile the statements just made by the right hon. Gentleman with the terms of the 248 Bill, which are that the superannuation is be the same as if the whole service had been in the office last held. Consequently, if the Indian Service entitle a man to a pension of £375 and the Home Service scale to £1,000 for the whole period of service, the difference would have been made up out of the English Exchequer. We do not want to know more than the class for which this Bill is required. If the right hon. Gentleman can point out to us that this class, in comparison with the whole, is insignificant, I think the opposition will soon cease, and that we shall join with him in removing any chance of injustice.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
I think the House will see that the right hon. Gentleman has, by his explanation of the purposes of this Bill, added another reason why we should report Progress. It is absolutely clear that under subsection 1 of Section 1 the pension to which a man is to be entitled after ten years' service is to be a calculation upon the pension which he would be entitled to if the whole of his service had been rendered in the office he held at the time of receiving the pension. The right hon. Gentleman says "No," but if the English language means what we understand it to mean, he really has not mastered the 1st Subsection of the Bill. Moreover, if that is so, we are going directly in the teeth of the Commissioners. They reported that in cases of this kind the pension should be granted upon the average salary which had been received by the public servant during the last ten years of his service. I really think abundant reasons have been given why you should leave the Chair, and why the Government should be allowed further time in order to master the details of the Bill.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
The Secretary to the Treasury demurs to the proposal to report Progress as a new principle. It seems to me we are, however, proceeding upon a very new principle when in the Committee stage of a Bill, which was passed through its Second Reading stage by means of the Closure after half-an-hour's Debate, we find that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill is obviously unacquainted with its 249 provisions, its scope, and its effect. He told the Committee frankly that he was unable to say what would be the additional charge upon the taxpayer. I should have thought that the fact that the Bill will throw an additional tax on the ratepayer was reason for not starting the Bill in the Committee stage of the House. I desire to point out that in the title of this Bill we are informed that certain Departments are to be dealt with which are not included in the Superannuation Act. There are several of such Departments in this country and abroad, notably in India. The servants in these Departments are receiving high salaries, purposely so fixed in order to cover superannuation. If they are to be included it means that you embrace those who have already been receiving the equivalent of superannuation. The right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with that point. In distinction to the title of the Bill, the last words of 2nd section of the 1st clause says—The officer in question is to be treated as if the whole of his service had been in the public office from which he ultimately retires.
§ SIR J. GORST
That is not so. The expression "public office" means an office the service of which qualifies for grant of superannuation allowance.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the Resident Magistrates in Ireland come in. At every turn we are confronted with new difficulties and new contradictions. All we ask is that the the Government should be allowed time to inform themselves as to the effect of the provisions of their own Bill.
The Committee has to-night constituted itself into a sort of mutual information bureau, but instead of receiving, we have been giving more than has been accorded us. The information we have received from the Government is that the Resident Magistrates in Ireland come under the scope of this Bill, and apparently that is the only fact the right hon. Gentleman has not himself contradicted later. In return we have given him three pieces of information. We have told him that by his Bill the Army and Navy were excluded. He denied it, 250 and we proved it to him by his own Bill. Then we told him that certain people who had served in India were included. He denied it, and we proved it. Lastly, we told him, and proved the statement by the Bill, that the pensions under this Bill were to be based upon the last office that the office-holder enjoyed. In return he has only given us the fact that the Irish Resident Magistrates are included. Thus the mutual instruction bureau has been conducted under unequal conditions. I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to tell us what additional charge this Bill would throw upon the taxpayer, and I should also like some gentleman connected with the Government of India to tell us what Indian officers will be benefited by this Bill. For my part, I do not believe that any Government, much less the present one, would spend an evening in an effort to benefit possibly half-a-dozen Custom or Excise officers. Has the Government any friends or relatives to benefit by this Bill? Let the right hon. Gentleman out with it and make a clean breast of the matter; let the Government delay the Bill and give the Committee a schedule of the persons whom the Bill would benefit. Present opposition will only be met by such a course. If that is not done, most people will believe the Bill is a job, and is not intended to benefit the Excise officers of whom the right hon. Gentleman has spoken of so pathetically and innocently.
§ *SIR J. GORST
Without one tittle of evidence the hon. Member for Mid Lanark has accused Her Majesty's Government of dishonesty or some ulterior motive in bringing forward this Bill.
§ *SIR J. GORST
The hon. Member says, "Out with it." I have already stated more than once an instance of the way in which the Bill will operate. A warder who started in Canterbury Prison under the Prison Authority of the County of Kent served in that capacity from March, 1875, to April, 1878, having his salary, paid during that time out of the Kent County rates. He was then transferred as a warder to Wandsworth Prison, where 251 he served from April, 1878, to February, 1886, his salary being then paid out of a Parliamentary grant. From Wandsworth Prison he was transferred to the Isle of Man, where he served from February, 1886, to March, 1891, his salary during that time being paid from the revenues of the Isle of Man. That man is not a member of the Government, nor a rich and wealthy scion of the aristocracy, but he has served the country well from 1875 to 1891. He is now in ill-health, and cannot continue his employment, and I say that that man is entitled to a pension or some retiring allowance. According to the existing law, through some mistake or misapprehension apparently, on the part of the Legislature, the man, by reason of the peculiar circumstances of his case, was not entitled to a sixpence on retiring from work, and the Treasury are unable to award him anything whatever. But I bring a Bill before the House of Commons which will enable the Treasury to award that man a pension; and how is it received by hon. Members who arrogate to themselves the title of Liberals? For nearly three hours it has been opposed by all sorts of objections. They have endeavoured to obstruct it, and so prevent this poor man from obtaining the pension he so justly deserves. Mr. Courtney, this is the man for whom I want a pension.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
There is no dispute on this side of the House in regard to the merits of the case which the right hon. Gentleman has brought before the Committee, but it is ridiculous to cite that case as the only one which the Bill is intended to benefit. What this side of the House wishes to know is: What are the other cases? I believe this is a subterfuge, under cover of which it is intended that others than the prison officials mentioned should derive benefit from the Bill. If the Government will restrict the Bill to that class of cases of which the right hon. Gentleman has given an example, it will be passed at once. But if the Bill is meant to apply to other cases, tell us what those other cases are, and, if you do not know, report 252 Progress and ascertain. Now, I will give hon. Members an instance of the extent of the ignorance—or, perhaps, an attempt to mislead—of the right hon. Gentleman. It was pointed out on this side of the House that the retiring allowance would be in accordance with the salary received by a person at the time of his retirement. The Secretary to the Treasury said, "Nothing of the kind." But the Bill says the retiring allowance is to be according to the salary received in the office from which a man retires. I think we are entitled to know whether the right hon, Gentleman's view of the words relating to this question is correct. The right hon. Gentleman obviously does not understand the Bill of which he has charge, and I think we should report Progress in order that the Secretary to the Treasury, or some other Member of the Government should inform himself of the scope of the Bill and tell us plainly what it is.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
Perhaps the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman, especially the First Lord, who has lately become sensible of the responsibilities of office, will be of opinion that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Gorst) is one that is not likely to tend to the despatch of business in this House, or to smooth the passage of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has lost the imperturbability, the logical powers, which distinguished him at the India Office, and won for him the admiration of everybody except his own superiors. The animated speech of the right hon. Gentleman exhibited the maximum of bad temper and then sank to the low water mark of argumentative power. An attempt has been made to justify this Bill by reference to one pathetic case. But, Sir, what relation is there between the case of this humble prison warder and a Bill which traverses the whole round of the British Empire? I say it is the duty of Government in submitting Bills of this description which involve fresh burdens on the Public Purse, to submit them in a plain form, so that we who 253 have to vote away the money may know to what liability we consent. But this Bill is not frank and straightforward. It is a Bill which proposes to filch money from the Public Purse by stealth. I have no objection to a Bill in which the case of the Kent warder or the case of any other deserving public servant is dealt with, if its objects are frankly and plainly stated, but I do object to a Bill which only exposes to this House a small part of its meaning, and which may be used by-and-by to give exaggerated pensions to persons whose claims this House would not be willing to recognise. Why, Mr. Courtney, the mere fact which has been extracted, that this Bill applies to Resident Magistrates in Ireland, stamps it at once as a Bill of extremely contentious character. We are on the eve of an appeal to the people on the subject of Government in Ireland. We hope soon to decrease the number of these Resident Magistrates, and reduce their salaries, and I ask, Is it tolerable that we should pass a Bill which will entitle the Government to retire these persons upon excessive and inequitable pensions, just at a moment when we might be able to dispose of them on terms more equitable to the people? Under this Bill Colonel Caddell could be dealt with. That person was a Resident Magistrate who distinguished himself by trampling on public rights and by reckless violence in Ireland. For that service against the people he was promoted to an office giving him £800 a year. One effect of this Bill, if passed, would be that the pension of that gentleman, instead of being calculated on his salary as Resident Magistrate, would be calculated on the £800 a year. Why, Sir, I stigmatise such a transaction as that as a fraud. For my own part, I am disposed to regard with the most jealous scrutiny the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. He is liberal enough with the Consolidated Fund or any other fund for Resident Magistrates and persons of that class.
§ MR. SEXTON
Well, Sir, I gladly leave it. It is a principle that hardly bears discussion. I quite agree with you that the less we say about it the better. But I would suggest, before we proceed further with the Bill, that the right hon. Gentleman, with a view of informing himself, as well as informing the House, as to the scope of the Bill, should see that a Memorandum is affixed to the Bill stating to what class of public officials it would refer, what increase it would make in their pensions, and what burden would be involved on the Public Purse.
§ *(10.36.) MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)
If this Bill referred only to cases of gentlemen who in the service of the country have gradually risen from one branch to another, whether in the Isle of Man, in England, or Ireland, we should be glad to facilitate its passing. But we find that the Bill does not only deal with cases of that kind, but under its provisions a man may be moved about from one branch to another, merely in order to increase his pension.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! That is not pertinent to the Question before the House, which is to report Progress.
§ *MR. WEBB
I bow, Sir, to your decision, but I think enough has been revealed in the course of this discussion to show, not only that the country should have a little time to discuss this Bill, but also that the Government should have a little time to study it in order that they may properly understand it. I think the Debate ought to be put off for a few days, so that the country, through the newspapers, may be informed of the character of the measure.
§ (10.37.) MR. H. H. FOWLER
I will appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury whether, in the interests of Public Business, he will not now accede to this Motion? It must be apparent to him that it would be impossible to get through this Bill to-night. There is a very wide field now open, which the House will, without doubt, explore, and I think it would very much promote both the carrying on of the business of the House, and the ultimate 255 passing of this Bill, if the First Lord of the Treasury would now allow this Motion to pass, and undertake that a Memorandum shall be placed on the Paper stating what the effect of this Bill is really intended to be. And I repeat the offer that I made an hour and a half ago, that if the Bill is confined to those persons whom the Secretary to the Treasury has described, we will offer every facility for the passing of the Bill. But if, on the other hand, it is found to re-open the whole question of superannuation, or in any way to traverse the recommendations of the Committee on this subject, we shall be obliged to offer to it a most uncompromising opposition.
§ (10.39.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
With respect to the appeal made to me by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. H. Fowler), I do not pretend to believe that the present humour of the House is such as to encourage the hope of speedy progress with legislation; but I do not think that in itself is a sufficient reason for adjourning the discussion, which I may mention has now been going on for nearly three hours. The right hon. Gentleman says, and says I think truly, that if this Bill is to traverse the recommendations of the Commission of which he was so important a Member, we ought not to press it on the House. But it is a Bill, as the Secretary to the Treasury (Sir J. Gorst) has more than once told the House, small in its scope, small in the number of persons it directly affects, and small in the amount of financial burden which it can by any possibility throw upon the Public Purse. What it really does is to deal with two or three exceptional classes of pensions which have not been brought as yet into line with the general pension scheme. Under existing arrangements a public officer who might be eminently suited for some post in another branch of the Civil Service in which pensions were given under a different scheme is put in this dilemma—either he must refuse the new post, because he would lose pension thereby, or he must take the new post at a great sacrifice of pension. That limits the choice of the Government, which is a misfortune, and it 256 inflicts hardship on individuals, which is also a misfortune. That is a state of things which we ask the House to remedy. The Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) brought before the Committee the case of some imaginary Civil servant in India who is to be brought home after serving a long time in India and placed in a position of considerable emolument in the English Civil Service. Under certain circumstances, that man might receive a greater pension than he would probably be considered to be entitled to; but, of course, he would not receive a pension in the new place in respect of the service of his old place if his old place had no pension. But we can easily set to work to imagine cases in which people are suddenly advanced from low to very high salaries, and in which the amount of their pension seems excessive in comparison with the general average of their pay over the whole period of their service. I quite grant that that is the case, but that is not a peculiarity of the Bill. It is, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, an established principle of the British Civil Service, and one which, on the whole, I do not think it would be wise for us to alter. It may occasionally produce abnormal pensions, but such cases are rare, and if they take place at all they can only take place in cases of exceptional merit, and in those cases I think the House would not grudge the larger pension which promotion gave to the official of merit. Further, that larger pension would not be given under this Bill, but under the general pension scheme of the country. I have been asked to say in the Memorandum which has been spoken of whether this Bill applies to Resident Magistrates. Certainly it does, just the same as it applies to every other Civil servant—just so much and no more—and I do not think hon. Gentlemen would desire to exclude them from their just rights in the way of pension, which are considered just with respect to the rest of the Civil Service of which the Resident Magistrates are an integral part. It would be in the highest degree impossible to say to any branch of the Civil Service, "You, and you only shall not be affected by the Bill." But the 257 fact that Resident Magistrates are covered by this Bill when they are transferred to other offices is not, so far as I can see, any reason why this Bill should not pass, and I would point out that the only way in which Resident Magistrates can be affected by this Bill is when they are transferred to some other place which at present has not a similar pension scheme, or is not in line with the general pension scheme of the country. I do not know who contemplates the promotion of Resident Magistrates, and I maintain that this is not a sufficient reason for stopping the discussion of this Bill, which is intended to remedy a great, though not a very wide-spread, injustice, and to enable the Government to have a fair field of selection in the transfer of Civil Servants who have deserved promotion by the services they have rendered. There is no desire on the part of the Government to traverse the Report of the Commission to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, and I earnestly press upon the House not to go further with this Motion, but to proceed to the discussion of the Bill.
§ *(10.47.) MR. MORTON
Several appeals have been made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give us information as to the estimated charge this Bill will make upon the taxpayers of the country. He has not answered that appeal; but I hope he will do so, because we have a right to insist on having that information. I would also make an appeal to the Leader of the House. He said just now that if this Bill was in any way affected by the recommendations of the Royal Commission of which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Fowler) was a Member, it ought not to pass. I say undoubtedly it is largely affected by that Report. One of the recommendations of that Commission is that from all future pensions there shall be a deduction of five per cent. towards a Pension Fund. There is no such proposal in the Bill, and there are other recommendations of that Commission which receive no attention in this measure. Under all the circumstances, I think the right hon. Gentleman would save time if he allowed us to report Progress with a view to the preparation 258 of the Memorandum which has been asked for. But if the Government will not consent to that, I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the guardian of the Public Purse, will tell us now what is the estimated charge that this Bill, if it is passed, will make upon the funds.
§ *(10.50.) MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
We must all acknowledge, I am sure, the difference in manner and tone between the First Lord of the Treasury and the Secretary of the same Department. If the First Lord of the Treasury desires to facilitate the progress of this measure, he would do well first to curb the temper of the Secretary to the Treasury. I certainly hardly remember during the few years I have had a seat in this House such an exhibition as we have had from the Secretary to the Treasury. The First Lord of the Treasury has to a certain extent minimised the operation of the Bill; but the divergence between his language and that of the Secretary to the Treasury adds great force to the demand from this side that the Government itself should have further time to inform itself about the Bill. Members of such great Parliamentary experience as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) and the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) have made the reasonable demand that we should have in black and white a Memorandum as to the scope and effect of the Bill, and the financial burden it will lay on the taxpayers. Surely that is a demand the Government cannot for a moment deny. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, in the interests of the great office he holds, have had some idea conveyed to him as to the financial scope of the Bill; and if that be so, why should he not communicate it to the House? The mere fact—admitted under pressure — that Irish Resident Magistrates will have a right to come under the Bill, lends additional force to our arguments. In 1888 I occupied more than an hour of the time of the House with detailed accounts of the doings of these gentlemen, and I stand to everything I said then, yet the taxpayers are to be saddled with 259 a large sum for the superannuation of gentlemen who have been exercising their functions in such an unsatisfactory manner during the past few years. We, who have devoted some time and attention to the government of Ireland in the last five or six years, will feel it our duty to scrutinise closely, and to strenuously oppose, if necessary, a Bill which proposes to alter the financial position of the Resident Magistrates in Ireland. I hope the First Lord of the Treasury will see his way to say that we shall have the Memorandum asked for.
§ (10.53.) MR. BIRRELL (Fife, W.)
I confess that I am sorry I am here tonight, for, after losing my dinner and my temper, and listening to the whole of the Debate, all I know about the Bill is that it is very different from what was suggested on the Second Reading. There is a well-known say-in of Dr. Johnson, who, when he was asked the meaning of a particular couplet in Pope, said he did not know what it meant, except that it was meant to give pain to some body. I only know that this Bill is to give pleasure to somebody, and who that somebody is we ought to know before we proceed further. I think an indignity has been put upon the Resident Magistrates by putting them at the tail of the Bill after all the other humbler Civil servants. Their names were not even mentioned on the Second Reading, and could it have been reasonably supposed by any fair-minded man that the Bill would benefit anyone except a humble class of Civil Servants? We find that this class of persons, to which natural objection is taken, are to be benefited; and I hope the House will, in justice to itself and to teach Ministers of the Crown that the best way to get measures through the House is to make a clean breast of it and tell Members what their object is, insist on its right to ask you, Sir, to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ *(10.55.) MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
I only rise to point out the extraordinary self-contradiction in the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury. He told us, as an apology for the present position of the Government 260 in this Debate, that there were only two or three exceptional classes of pensioners which would be dealt with by the Bill, and then within three minutes afterwards he said—I believe I give his own words—that the Bill would include "Resident Magistrates and all classes of public servants." That is only another instance of what we have before observed with regard to the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues—namely, that they, practically speaking, come before the House and the Committee knowing nothing of the effect of their own Bills. The Secretary to the Treasury gave us what he called a concrete instance. I will, from the First Lord's mouth, give a concrete instance to show the absurdity of saying that this Bill is only to provide for one or two exceptional classes. I ask if that be the object of the Bill, why is the vast class of the pensioned officers of the Government of India brought in? They are drawing in pensions at present to the amount of no less than £3,300,000 a year, and are now without the benefit of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman knew that all these public servants would benefit by it, and yet he had the audacity to say that the Bill would only benefit two or three exceptional classes, and he does not give one word of explanation as to why the pensioners from India, already drawing over three millions sterling, have been obviously unnecessarily brought into the Bill.
§ (11.0.) MR. MACNEILL (Donegal, S)
I rise to support the Motion to report Progress, in order that there may be, in the interval between this and the next Sitting of the Committee, a Memorandum supplied to show us explicitly what public servants are to be benefited by the Bill, and in what manner. At length we have before us the Bill to protect the Resident Magistrates; this is the veiled, but real, intention of the Bill, and the Memorandum would show how many of them are to benefit. Eighteen months ago it came to my knowledge, from practically official sources, that the right hon. Gentleman, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland, had given an 261 undertaking to the Resident Magistrates to provide for them before his Government went out of office. The moment I heard that I gave the right hon. Gentleman ample opportunity of contradicting it if it were true—everyone who has had five or six years' experience of question and answer with the right hon. Gentleman will know that that is not an Irish bull, but is absolutely true. I wrote to the Daily News instantly, making the allegation, and also wrote a second letter, and they have not been contradicted from that day to this. But on the eve of the death of this Parliament comes this Bill, the true intention of which is to provide for the Resident Magistrates. The Memorandum asked for would show that no less than two-thirds of these 73 gentlemen have been in the Civil Service in India or elsewhere. Now that I have the right hon. Gentleman face to face, perhaps he will say whether or not I slandered him in saying in the Daily News that he was determined to protect the Resident Magistrates, and that we were as resolutely determined to oppose him?
§ *(11.4.) SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
I do not intend to prolong the discussion beyond a moment or two; but I do urge on the First Lord of the Treasury—as to whom much has been said by my hon. Friend who has spoken from below the Gangway, and who certainly has shown, on the assumption of greater responsibility, wider and greater consideration to arguments addressed to him than when holding a former and less responsible position than that which he now occupies—to accept the Motion to report Progress. I think enough has been disclosed in this discussion to make it apparent that if the House had realised what were the real nature and scope of this Bill the arguments advanced against the Second Reading would have been different from those which were actually adduced, and we should not have had that Closure which a good many Members of this House now regret. Appeals have been made, none of which have been answered by those who have spoken from the Government 262 Benches. It has been asked what are the classes which it is intended to benefit by this Bill? I cannot suppose that my right hon. Friend whose name is upon the back of this Bill, the Secretary to the Treasury, and those who have instructed him, had not in their minds, definitely and clearly, not the case of the gentleman who occupies the position of a warder in some part of Kent or the Isle of Man—because that case has been obviously got up for the purposes of this discussion. I cannot but suppose that my right hon. Friend and those who have instructed him—or who have informed him, if he objects to the word "instructed"—are thoroughly aware of the classes whom it is intended should be benefited by this Bill. What are these classes? Let it be fully and frankly stated by my right hon. Friend what these classes are. By the language which he has used, it would be made to appear that this was an extremely narrow application of the pension scheme, and that this proposal was only to apply to a little branch of the Civil Service. I think it cannot be supposed that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whom more than one appeal has been made in this matter, has put his name or caused his name to be put on the back of this Bill without having submitted to him some Memorandum as to what the proposed increased cost of this measure would be to the taxation of the country, if it were passed. He has been appealed to to give these particulars, and he has not responded to the appeal. Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury said this Bill did not contravene any of the recommendations of the Committee that sat in 1888. While I am not going to discuss the merits of the Bill as a whole on a Motion to report Progress, I may say that I think the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in that respect. Sub-section 2 of Clause 1 in distinct terms provides that—The allowance or gratuity of superannuation to any person is to be such as might be granted to him if his whole service had been in the public office from which he ultimately retires.263 The recommendation of the Committee is this—We think, on the whole, the case would be met by fixing the pension in proportion to the average salary for the last ten years.It has been suggested—I do not know with what truth—that this is only an attempt on the part of the Government to put their Irish house in order, and to provide for the case of the Removable Magistrates. Let me put a case. A man begins with a salary of £300 a year. He shows what I will call extreme zeal in his office, and he is promoted to an appointment worth £600; and ultimately he is promoted to a position worth £1,000 a year. He has got that position only a year ago; and yet, under this Bill, he would be entitled to have a superannuation allowance, not upon the average service or salary of the last ten years, but on the last salary—namely, the maximum salary of £1,000 a year. I do submit, on the whole, that this is a case in which the right hon. Gentleman would be wise to yield to a demand which I submit is reasonable under the circumstances of the case, and let us know more about the history of this Bill, its real object, and its probable cost to the country before we proceed further with it.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
As my right hon. Friend has already stated to the House, it would be perfectly impossible to arrive at any such estimate, as these are exceptional cases. There are But a few cases which have come under the notice of the Treasury, such as the case suggested by my right hon. Friend, so few indeed that a very few thousand pounds would meet the whole of them. The hon. Member spoke as if a whole body were going to be affected by this Bill; but there will only be isolated men—a few men in a very large body, who might possibly be affected. The whole object of this Bill is to insure that transfer from one Department to another, where the pension arrangements are different, shall not inflict loss upon a man so transferred, so that he shall not lose his pension to which he would otherwise be entitled. That would apply to all 264 branches of the Civil Service, but will mainly apply to the cases pointed out by my right hon. Friend, and these are the most numerous cases. So far as I can make out, hon. Members opposite have got hold of a bogey. I can assure hon. Members that really the whole question is a small one, that it applies only to single individuals who are in a special position, and that there is no intention whatever to change by this Bill the general pension arrangements of this country. As regards the argument which has been submitted by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, and who says that Sub-section 2, Clause 1, runs counter to the recommendation of the Royal Commission which has done such great service, I would point this out to the Committee. If the recommendation of the Royal Commission is carried out—namely, that it is the average salary of the last ten years, and not of the last three years, which should be allowed to count for pension, then that must apply to the whole of the Civil Service, and not only to those transferred from one branch of the Service to another. But this proposal does not run counter to the general recommendation of the Committee; it is only a remedy for the particular grievance of those transferred from one place to another. I do not see—and I think hon. Members will agree with me—why in the case of a transfer the same number of years should not apply as would apply in a case where no transfer has taken place. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton that I have done my utmost, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury has done his utmost, to carry out the spirit and the views of the Royal Commission. If we considered that this Bill ran counter to the recommendations of that Commission, we should not have introduced this Bill, or given our sanction to it. All we wish to do by this Bill is to put a man who has been transferred in the same position as a man who has served continuously in one branch of the public service, and to remove that public grievance that you cannot transfer a man unless you make him sacrifice his pension, and therefore that you cannot promote 265 a man whom you otherwise wish to promote in the interest of the public service, but must either limit your choice, or accept the other alternative of inflicting an injustice on a man who has served for a certain number of years. I assure the Committee that I have now stated frankly and in a straightforward way that the object of this Bill is simply to put men who have been transferred to a Department where different pension arrangements exist, as far as we could, under the same rule as those who have served continuously under one Department.
§ (11.15.) MR. STOREY
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has explained that this is a small Bill. If I thought that this was a small Bill I should withdraw the Motion which I made some time ago. But I think one is entitled to make this remark—if the Bill is a small Bill and touches the interests of so few and so poor persons, I think it is a remarkable fact that a Government which is so greatly in arrear with its public work, and has important Bills which it is yearning to bring before the country, should absolutely force this little peddling Bill on the House. I must say that the draft on my credulity which the Secretary to the Treasury made was large; but in that respect the Chancellor of the Exchequer has exceeded him. I must say that I am very well content with the discussion that has taken place, and I think I have a good right to be, because we have been enabled to show that there is much more in this Bill than the Secretary to the Treasury would have us believe. I do not know what the views of my hon. Friend may be; but, for my own part, I should be very well content now to go to a Division.
§ (11.19.) MR. JAMES ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
I think the real difficulty of this evening has arisen out of this point—that we had not a Second Reading Debate on this Bill. When the hon. Member for Peterborough distinctly drew the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton should 266 have an opportunity of discussing this Bill—in spite of that, he went with what I consider indecent haste and rushed through the Second Reading by means of the Closure. He immediately went and put down the Bill for next day. He got the Speaker out of the Chair by the ordinary Rules of the House, and proceeded to thrust the whole of this Bill down our throats, without our having any opportunity of putting down Amendments or discussing it in any particulars whatever. What is the scope of the Bill so far as we have heard? We have listened with attention to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has told us just now that there are only a few isolated cases that are covered by this Bill. If only a few isolated cases are to be covered by this Bill, as he wishes us to believe, these isolated cases can be put clearly and definitely before the House; and we should not be asked to vote for a Bill with general provisions, such as this Bill contains, if there are only a few isolated cases, as the right hon. Gentleman insinuates. But I take it that the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer shows the necessity of your reporting Progress more thoroughly than any argument urged from our side. He has told us that there is a very small scope indeed to this Bill, and that it will affect only a few isolated cases. We ought to give him the opportunity which he must require of laying before the House the necessary information with regard to those few isolated cases. We read this Bill, so far as it is placed in our hands, to have very wide and very far-reaching conditions contained within it. If we are wrong, then let us have full information with regard to it before we are asked to discuss any clause in it, so that we may know exactly where we are. If we are right, then we have justified our position. But I do not think, so far as the Debate has gone, anything has been said from the Ministerial Benches to show us that if we pass this Bill as it is at present we shall not be pledging this House to very far-reaching propositions indeed, and we shall not really know what we have done towards pledging the taxpayers of this country. I want to know 267 —for I cannot find it in the scope of this Bill—what class of Civil Servants is included in it. I want to know whether it brings them all in, or whether those who are of the industrial classes in the service of the Government are covered, and will have an opportunity of reaping any benefit under it as well as those who have had the benefit of holding office in high places and high favour, and with high salaries. The whole of the clauses are a set of general propositions which may be applied just as the Government of the day cares to apply them, and which may be ignored just as the Government of the day cares to ignore them. And I think we should be neglecting our duty as the guardians of the Public Purse if we allowed a Bill of this description to pass through the House until we have been supplied with all the necessary information to enable us to understand the measure. What is the course of the Government? To attempt, as they have done, without any information whatever, to pass this Bill. There was no real information in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we are expected to swallow this Bill without any information. I think the best thing the Government can do is to give way to the evident opinion of Members on this side of the House. At present the Government do not seem to care to give us that information. The Chancellor of the Exchequer chided Members on this side of the House for believing that there was a large sum of money involved in this Bill. He said it was only a question of a few thousands of pounds. Then, I say we ought to know where those few thousands of pounds are to go to, and to know whether we are committing ourselves to anything else. If it is only a question of a few thousands of pounds, it can easily be set out in a Memorandum, which can be prepared in the next few days, and then we can enter upon the Committee stage of this Bill with a clear mind, knowing exactly where we are going to. I ask the First Lord of the Treasury to give us this information which we desire. I am sure as Leader of the House he would be facilitating very much the progress of the measure in which he 268 seems, or his Government seem to be deeply concerned. He must expect us to feel rather sore with regard to this Bill, and to resent the way in which the Second Reading was got. I know if he were sitting on this side he would be one of the first Members to resent the way in which this Bill has been thrust upon the House, and he must give us credit for holding the same sentiments. I do not know whether he intends to listen to the rational request of the Members on this side, and to the very strong reference which has been made with regard to the Report of the Commission of 1883. It has been pointed out over and over again that this Bill goes contrary to the Report of that Commission. I ask him distinctly and clearly whether he intends that we shall fight this Bill to the bitter end? If he will not listen to our request, then he must be prepared that on every Amendment we move to this Bill we shall fight with determination and as long as we possibly can, because we do not know to what we are being committed. I am not going into the question as to whether this Bill has been put down to stop legislation. I am astounded at the proceedings of the Government not with regard to this Bill, but with regard to other Bills. They say they have a large programme—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The hon. Member has made a very rambling speech wholly disconnected with the Bill.
§ MR. JAMES ROWLANDS
I am very sorry if I have been rambling. I will refer to the Bill directly. I want information before I go into Committee on this Bill with regard to how far the country is pledged under it. I read Section 2 of Clause 1 and I say its scope is of such a character that we have no information before the House enabling us to vote upon it. That information should have been given in the Second Reading of the Bill, and we have a right to ask for it now. I ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether we are to have more definite information than we have had with regard to this clause. I have tried to base my criticism upon the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I particularly took 269 his sentences to reply to. I did not invent sentences of my own. It was his remark and not mine about the few thousand pounds; it was his remark and not mine that only a few persons were concerned under the scope of the Bill.
§ (11.30.) Mr. A. J. BALFOUR rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ (11.33.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 170; Noes 112.—(Div. List, No. 106.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ (11.45.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 171.—(Div. List, No. 107.)
§ (11.52.) DR. TANNER
As one of the Members who opposed this Bill at the previous stage, I cannot but be gratified at this magnificent exposé of the hand of the Government. If anything can add to the scathing rebuke the Government have received this evening, it will be the Amendment I have to move. I propose to change the words "one month" in the first clause, as the period after the passing of the Act when the Treasury may make their regulations, to "twelve months." With most indecent haste the Government have endeavoured to press forward this Bill. The Debate on the Second Reading was closured when we had had the Bill before us for only half-an-hour, and now in Committee the first proposition we come to is that the Bill shall take effect in one month from its passing. With this haste we at once suspect some sinister design, and possibly this is that the period shall cover the time before a Dissolution of Parliament, so that the Government may be enabled to make provision for their protégés, their 270 "sisters, their cousins, and their aunts," at the shortest possible notice. So, with good reason for it, I, with the greatest pleasure, move this Amendment to provide that twelve months shall elapse before action maybe taken under the Bill. In the first drafting of my Amendment, I put down a period of "six" months; but going more carefully through the Bill in the brief time at our disposal, I found that in the second clause, in dealing with the extension of the Rules to Indian employments, I had to put down a period of twelve months, and, to be logical in the carrying out of my view, I must move to make the period in this clause twelve months also. My desire is, that the Bill shall not come into force until the present Government shall be out of office, and will be unable to make use of the Bill for the payment of their employees for past services rendered. I mean, particularly, those Removable Magistrates in Ireland who have acted as gaolers to some of us—men promoted from other Departments to carry out the duties of the office thrust upon them. I desire that these creatures of the present Administration shall not have this payment until another Government shall have come into power, and shall have the opportunity of investigating the merits or demerits of the claimants. I am not going to talk out my own Amendment—I shall stand to my guns. I have found out the Government in a trick, trying to carry a job; and I want them to understand that, bowing to your ruling, Mr. Courtney, I shall do my utmost in what I consider my duty to show up the nefarious plot hatched by the Government, to drag forth to light all the hidden works of darkness which have been concealed under the studied utterances of the Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The more we probe these utterances with Amendments such as these, the more jobbery will be revealed, and the House will discover and condemn this last action of unjust stewardship before its authors are finally dismissed by the constituencies.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'one month' stand part of the Clause."
§ (12.0.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I have an Amendment to propose before that. I put it in writing before the Clerk at the Table. It is practically the same Amendment, but—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
No Amendment has reached me. The hon. and gallant Member should have interposed before. He has allowed his hon. Colleague to make his speech and Motion, and the Question before the Committee now is, "That 'one month' stand part of the Clause."
§ It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.