HC Deb 08 August 1896 vol 44 cc234-8

13. "That a sum, not exceeding £109,784 (including a Supplementary sum of £6,000), be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897, for the Salaries and expenses of the British Museum, including the amount required for the Natural History Museum."


called attention to the position of the officials in the Museum. He said that the gentlemen holding offices there had memorialised the trustees asking that their position might be improved, and that the right hon. Member for the University of London, who was unavoidably absent, heartily sympathised with these officials in the demands which they made. They complained that, although they belonged to an office which was brought into line by an Order in Council of 1890, following upon the Parliamentary Commission of 1888, with other first-class public offices, the first-class officials of the Museum were only paid about two-thirds of the salaries paid in other great Departments. It should be borne in mind that these gentlemen entered the service somewhat later in age than did those who went into Government offices. They were seldom under 25 years of age; nearly all of them were University men; they possessed high qualifications, and had to pass examinations in out-of-the-way subjects like Oriental languages. Therefore, having special knowledge, they ought to be treated rather better, certainly not worse, than gentlemen in other Departments of the State. But what were the facts? At the age of 25, a clerk in the second class began on a salary of £120, rising by annual increments of £10 until it reached £240. He was, therefore, 37 years old before he received £240. In the next class, on promotion, a clerk got £250, increasing annually by £15 up to £150. The average official was 52 years of age when he obtained that sum. A very lucky man might be promoted to a junior keepership, in which case he would get £500, rising by sums of £20. Let them contrast the position of these men with the position of clerks in the Local Government Board, or in the Exchequer and Audit Department. In the Local Government Board a gentleman began his career at £200, rising by annual increments of £15 to £350. When he was promoted to the next class he received £400, rising by sums of £20 to £600. In the Exchequer and Audit Office a clerk began at £200 a year, rising by increments of £15 to £400. On promotion to the second class he received £420, rising by increments of £20 to £600; and in the class above he received £620, rising by increments of £20 to £750. So a gentleman of 37, instead of getting only £240, as at the British Museum, would get £440 in the Local Government Board and £420 in the Exchequer and Audit Office. In the second (1888) Report of the Commission, the recommendation was that the scale of pay at the Museum should be, for second-class assistants £200, rising by instalments of £20 to £500; in the first class £600, rising by increments of £25 to £800; and for the class above, £850, rising by increments of £50 to £1,000. That Report was signed by the present Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, Sir M. W. Ridley, and Lords Lingen and Basing. It had, however, remained a dead letter. It was sometimes said that the Museum was a patronage office, and that the salaries ought, therefore, not to be high; but it was no more a patronage office than the Foreign Office. At least three men were nominated for every vacancy, and they were probationers for two years. No first-class man who applied for a nomination ever failed to get one, and in the Museum there were no plums or pickings, such as private secretaryships. In consequence of the insignificant pay, it not infrequently happened that nominees withdrew when they became acquainted with the facts, and a considerable number of the best men left the Museum because they were not adequately remunerated. There was general discontent in the office, the officials' very moderate amount of bread being sweetened—or, rather, unsweetened—by a sense of injustice.


contended that the grievance mentioned by his hon. Friend did not exist, because, if there was one department in the public service where posts were eagerly competed for it was the British Museum. There were always a number of candidates for the vacancies that occurred. The work in the British Museum was agreeable work, which led to promotion in other directions. The head of the National Portrait Gallery, for example, had recently been appointed from the Museum. His hon. Friend assumed that all the officials of the British Museum were doing the same kind of work as the principal division clerks in other departments, and that they had entered the service under the same rules and regulations as those clerks. The hon. Member was in error. He had been comparing the salaries of officials who only worked six hours a day with the salaries of clerks in other departments where the hours of work were seven. Then he was comparing the case of the Museum clerks with the case of officials in other departments, who had all entered the service after competition under Civil Service rules. The appointments in the British Museum were in the hands of the trustees, and the candidates were not bound to pass the examinations arranged by the Civil Service Commissioners. They were, in fact, in a separate department. In all the other departments the principal division was small in proportion to the lower divisions. In the British Museum the opposite was the case. Some of these gentlemen, who were receiving comparatively high salaries, were doing work very little more important than that done in the lower divisions. No doubt they had offered to work for seven hours, but if the present number of hours could be increased, the staff being kept at its present strength, it followed that it ought to be reduced under the six hours arrangement. Applications of this kind had come from the British Museum at intervals since 1892, and the reply of the Treasury had invariably been that, if the Museum authorities would assimilate the arrangements affecting their staff to the ordinary arrangements in Government departments, and would sanction a reduction in their governing staff, the Treasury would consider the question of increasing the salaries. At present a great deal of clerical work was being done by highly paid officials. When the Museum should attempt to bring its arrangements into unison with the general rules of the Service, the Treasury would be ready to meet them. He wished to take this opportunity to explain that there had been no reduction this year in the Museum Vote, as some hon. Members had alleged. The unfortunate Treasury had been charged with cutting down the Votes for Science and Art and the British Museum. But what were the real facts? Hon. Members had compared the original Estimate of £22,000 for this year with the sum of £50,000 granted in 1895. The true comparison was with the original Estimate for 1895–96, which was £22,000 as now. The sum of £50,000, representing the total grants of 1895 for purchases, contained a supplementary sum of £28,000 granted in August last. Therefore the present Government had already granted an extra £28,000 for the Museum, and, as there was yet another supplementary Estimate of £6,000 for this year's purchases by that institution, they were in fact proposing to spend upon it £34,000 more than what he might call the normal £22,000 a year.


said the complaint was that as much money had not been spent in objects of art this year as last year.


said that the amount allowed was above the average of past years.


said that while there were experts attached to the Museum in every branch of scientific and antiquarian research, there was no one who knew the value of the extremely important documents in the Welsh language in the British Museum. It was most extraordinary, in his opinion, that, in an institution of that kind, such an important section of the United Kingdom should not be represented at all. He hoped that some improvement would be effected in that respect.

Resolution agreed to.

14. "That a sum not exceeding £7,286, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary, to defray the Charge, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897, for the Salaries and Expenses and Grant in Aid of the National Gallery."

15. "That a sum not exceeding £3,066, he granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897, for the Salaries and Expenses of the National Portrait Gallery."

Resolutions agreed to.

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