HC Deb 12 May 1892 vol 4 cc722-6
MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in order to show the cases to which the Superannuation Acts Amendment (No. 2) Bill would apply, he will lay upon the Table a Memorandum showing the estimated number of persons in each of the various branches of the Civil Services who will be affected by the Bill, and the estimated financial burden arising in consequence? I also beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to how many of the seventy persons whose names are given in Return, No. 107, Session 1892, as holding the post of Resident Magistrates (Ireland), is the Superannuation Acts Amendment (No. 2) Bill expected to apply; what would be the consequent increase of financial burden on the public; and what is the reason for thus augmenting the emolument attached to the office of Resident Magistrate in Ireland?


The hon. Member for Rushcliffe has two questions upon the Paper, one addressed to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the other to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Both questions relate to a Bill about which there was some controversy the other night. The hon. Member asks if we will lay upon the Table a Memorandum showing the estimated number of persons in each of the various branches of the Civil Services who would be affected by the Bill, and the estimated financial burden arising in consequence. Both the Secretary to the Treasury and myself have been endeavouring to ascertain from the various Departments concerned what will be the number of persons affected by the Bill; but I do not think it will be possible to lay the Return asked for on the Table for this reason. One of the Departments to which the Bill will apply is the Post Office, in which there are no fewer than 10,000 officials. It would be necessary, in such a case as this, to trace the public career of each of those officers before the Government could make out whether or not they had previously served in another branch of the Public Service; and whether the service in the other branch made it necessary to pass this Bill, in order to give them continuous service. I think the hon. Member will see that it is not therefore possible to give the particulars asked for. But some kind of estimate can be made of the number of persons in the superior branches of the Civil Service who will be affected by this Bill, and my information is that it is in the highest degree improbable the number will exceed 50, in all probability it will be less than that. I have consulted the best authorities in the Treasury as to the amount of financial burden, and I am sure that there is no probability—I had almost said possibility—of the sum exceeding £2,000 in any one year. This is, as far as the officials—those most conversant with the question of valuation—can judge. I may say that I have made special inquiries with regard to the number of Resident Magistrates in Ireland who will be affected by the Bill. The Bill only applies to those Resident Magistrates who have previous continuous service in the Constabulary, and it does not apply to any Resident Magistrate who has previously served in India or abroad, because in those cases the service is not continuous. The number of Resident Magistrates now in the service of the Irish Government who have continuous service as Resident Magistrates, with previous service in the Constabulary, is 22, and in many of these cases the change only means a few years' additional service. I have not made out what the financial burden on the public of this particular class of officials will be, but the burden will be slight, and there will be no difficulty in giving it if the House or the hon. Member desires it. In the last paragraph of the second question, the hon. Member asks, "What is the reason for thus augmenting the emolument attached to the office of Resident Magistrate in Ireland?" I should like to point out to the hon. Member that this Bill is not intended to increase the emoluments of anyone, but simply to carry out the deliberate intentions of Parliament as expressed in the original Superannuation Act of 1859, as repeated in every subsequent Act, and which was continuously administered by the Treasury until the Auditor General discovered a technical flaw in the Bill—namely, that persons serving under certain Acts were excluded from the benefits that they expected would accrue from their service. And as illustrating the necessity for the Bill, and the difficulty of finding out to whom it would apply, I may state that only the other day a Sheriff Substitute in Scotland was appointed Solicitor to the Inland Revenue. Neither this gentleman, the Inland Revenue, nor the Treasury knew that by taking a new appointment he forfeited all his claim to pension as a Sheriff in Scotland, and this is an illustration of all the cases that come under this Bill. I should not be in order if I argued the merits of the Bill, but I would point out that it would be impossible for any Government in any circumstances not to allow these gentlemen, when their period of service ended, to obtain the pension to which they are equitably entitled. This Bill is the simplest method of remedying an obvious injustice, and it is with that object the Government has brought it forward.


I should like to ask that the House should be furnished in some shape with a definite Memorandum as to the number of persons affected and the financial burden involved. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to remind him that on 5th May the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that this would be a simple matter of £5,000. In these circumstances, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us some Memorandum embodying more or less what he has told us this afternoon?

MR. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)

Before the right hon. Gentleman answers the question, I should like to ask him if we are to understand that the 50 cases which he said would probably be the maximum number of superior officers who will benefit under this Bill includes all the Anglo-Indian officers?


I think the hon. Member is labouring under a mistake. A gentleman who serves in India and earns his pension in India, and comes home and looks out for employment here, is not affected by this Bill, because his service is not continuous. It is only the man who passes straight from the Indian service to the English service without a break that obtains any benefit under it.

MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

I should like to ask, in view of the fact that the Royal Commission sat for two or three years and investigated the whole of the pension system, and this alleged difficulty was never brought under the notice of the Commissioners and investigated, whether the right hon. Gentleman would consent to refer the subject to a Select Committee, in order that the question which has arisen may be thoroughly investigated?


I have not the slightest objection to the whole question being investigated by a Select Committee if such an inquiry does not mean undue delay. On the contrary, I shall be glad to have the question investigated. With regard to the historical point put to me, I think—I am not certain—that this point has been raised by the Auditor General since the Royal Commission sat.

MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

The right hon. Gentleman said just now that this Bill referred to persons who have continuous service. I cannot find any reference to that in the Bill.

MR. CRAIG (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

I should like to ask whether in the 50 superior officers of the Civil Service the right hon. Gentleman included any officers of the Uncovenanted Service in India, and whether he is aware that three of those gentlemen might take the whole £2,000 mentioned.


I have to say that undoubtedly the Bill is intended to apply, and does apply, only to continuous service, and there is no objection to adding words to make that perfectly clear. With regard to the question put by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, it is perfectly obvious that if you choose to consider a series of cases where a man is raised from a small employment to a large one, the £2,000 might conceivably be exhausted; but the same anomaly would occur in the English service. I believe, however, from the investigations I have been able to make, that the cases of continuous service in which Englishmen have been transferred to India are not less numerous than the cases in which Indian officials have been transferred to England, so that the probability is that the English Treasury will not be the loser.


May I ask whether amongst those who are to benefit under this Bill are included the 30,000 discharged soldiers who, according to the statement of the Postmaster General, may soon hope to be employed at the Post Office?


No, Sir.