MR. JAMES BAILEY (Newington, Walworth), rose to move the Second Reading of this Bill. He addressed the House for the first time, and he trusted hon. Members would extend to him that generous consideration which it had always shown to those addressing the House for the first time. He felt he was addressing the House on behalf of a very deserving body of public servants, whom the House, he felt sure, would take into its deep consideration. He had a knowledge of public officers extending over 20 years, and he could say, from his knowledge of these officers, how thoroughly they deserved what was being asked for them that day, and that their honesty, integrity and ability deserved the consideration of the House. Connected as he had been with parochial affairs for over 20 years, he could speak of the ability, honesty and true regard
for duty which animated these men. The Measure, fortunately, was quite outside Party, and absolutely non-contentious, and he was emboldened to think would be allowed to receive its Second Reading, which he now proposed. He would only beg that its good fortune might not suffer from his inexperience as a new Member of this House. He would now endeavour to give the House a brief outline of the Bill. Let him first notice the legislation which had already been passed in regard thereto. In the year 1864, the Legislature passed the Poor Law Officers' Superannuation Bill, which might be described in a word as a permissive Measure. It had been found that this could not be relied on by the officers interested being subject to the caprice of the Board of Guardians then in office, and in proof of this he would quote some few cases. One was the case of Mr. Sharman, the Master of the Ampthill Workhouse, who, after 25 years' service, was compelled by failing sight to give up his appointment, and although the Local Government Board strongly recommended that he should be properly treated, he had to go without superannuation, because his Guardians would not avail themselves of the Act of 1864. Another similar case was that of Mr. Jenkinson, who was for nearly 25 years relieving officer of the Grantham Union. His Board equally refused to recognise his claim to superannuation. He had to leave on account of ill-health, and it was difficult to see why they did not give him superannuation. They said that circumstances were different now to the time when he was appointed, because the price of corn had so fallen that it was not reasonable to burden the rates with superannuation. A more recent case, conveyed to him in a letter from Mr. Fisher, late Master of the Newmarket Union Workhouse, bearing date the 16th instant, was the following:—
Hon. SIR,—Kindly allow me to call your special attention to the peculiarly hard and cruel case of Mr. Chas. Fisher, the late master of the Newmarket Union Workhouse. He has nearly 30 years Poor Law service, in only two workhouses, the last 25 years at Newmarket, being compelled to resign through the mental incapacity of the matron, his wife, who after all those years became unable to efficiently perform the duties of matron. He was given an excellent testimonial, and told to apply for his pension at the end of five years; having now done so, but refused, no reason being assigned; nearly
the whole Board has changed; his services totally ignored, advantage being taken of the law, viz., the Poor Law Officers' Superannuation Permissive Bill.
He could quote other cases, but would not trespass on the time of the House to do so. Rather let him give the House what was the leading feature of the Bill. As a preliminary, let him state there were 30,000 Poor Law Officers in England and Wales, and after 30 years' working of the Act of 1864, the total superannuation amounted to only £30,000 per annum. This £30,000 was paid on salaries of £2,000,000, or 1½ per cent. Under this Bill, an average deduction from the salaries of 2½ per cent, would amount to £50,000 per annum. This would be voluntarily given up by the officers, to entitle them absolutely to the benefits created by this Measure. There would be no increase to the rates, and Boards of Guardians could dispense with the services of old and worn-out officers without inflicting hardship. The Bill had been approved both by Guardians and officers. Last year nearly 200 Boards of Guardians petitioned in its favour. The officers had unanimously accepted the principles of the Bill. In conclusion, he trusted the Bill would receive the favourable consideration of the House, and pass the Second Reading, and do justice to a deserving body of Her Majesty's subjects, 30,000 in number.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
seconded the Motion. He observed that this was a Measure whereby an important and meritorious body of public servants, numbering 30,000, sought by means of the great principle of self-help, to provide for their own superannuation. They sought by means of percentage deductions from their salaries to provide for their old age, and they were prepared to make this sacrifice, although they possessed an equitable statutory claim to superannuation under the Bill of 1864, whereby all of them might, and only 80 per cent. of them had, actually received superannuation. The Act of 1864 had been liberally interpreted throughout the country. The Poor Law Officers desired to make this sacrifice because they wished to eliminate the element of uncertainty which at present prevailed as regarded superannuation, which caused considerable discontent throughout the 1260 service, and which led to a certain number of cases of hardship. This Bill was opposed, probably by some Members on those Benches on principle. He was not ashamed to admit that his Radicalism was of a socialistic tendency. He was in favour of old age pensions, and he was delighted to observe that the hon. Member for Somerset, who did so much useful work in this House, had recently introduced a Measure whereby members of benevolent societies might become possessed of old age pensions. If the Bill was to be opposed on principle, and if he, on the contrary, upheld it, it was because he looked upon it as one of the greatest blots upon their present social state, that worthy and honest citizens who had, perhaps, done as much for the welfare of their country as those who were more fortunately circumstanced, found themselves in this position, that not infrequently a man who had led an honourable and honest life, who had contributed largely to the welfare of his country, found himself, through no fault of his own, in his declining years obliged to become a burden upon his nearest relatives or friends, or occupying the still more degrading position of coming upon the rates or even being constrained to enter within the walls of the workhouse, to be placed upon an. equality with the vagrant, the dissolute and the worthless. He would do everything in his power to prevent a citizen of this country being placed in that degraded position. Let those who opposed this Bill on principle carry their argument to a logical conclusion. They would not deny that in all civilised countries it had been found expedient in the interest of the State and the public to grant superannuation to public servants. There was a notable exception in the case of the United States, but would those who knew the United States contend that it gave to that country a better or more honest civil service than ours? Let them go one step further. If they left the men of our Army and Navy without provision for old age, they would never be able to man either without the blood tax of conscription. The sufferer would be the working man, who paid, directly or indirectly, out of all proportion to his means. He would be compelled to pay twice over, because human nature being 1261 what it was, some proportion of improvident people would come on the rates, and they would be taxed more heavily, from an Imperial and local point of view. If, therefore, there was no opposition to the principle of the Bill, he would ask the House to pass the Second Reading on the understanding that when the Bill went into Committee its promoters would readily accept any Amendment which they might be reasonably expected to. English and Welsh Poor Law Officers had for 10 years been working to secure the repeal of the Act of 1864, and to secure a better method of superannuation. The Bill was based on a scheme which both Front Benches acknowledged was desirable in the interests of the public service. It was based on the experience of large public bodies, such as the Municipalities of London and Liverpool, 30 years' experience of the old Metropolitan Board of Works, etc. It had been found that the deduction of a percentage of 2 or 3 per cent. from the salaries of the officials would, in all probability, cover every outlay as regarded superannuation, whereby the rates would be relieved of any extra tax thrown upon them in future. The English and Welsh officials were anxious to bring within the scope of the Bill the Irish and Scotch Members, but as there were no means of collating or collecting the opinions of the latter, they were obliged to leave them out. Of the 651 Boards of Guardians in this country, only six had expressed themselves against this Bill. More than 400 petitions had been presented in favour of it, and not one against it, and now that the Irish and Scotch officers came forward to be included in the Bill, an Amendment would be accepted including them. This Bill was in the interests of officers whose duty it was to watch over the interests of the most necessitous, to promote sanitary conditions which would ward off disease and death from the community, and tend to the general welfare of the people. It was most important to obtain for the purpose of these duties men of great ability, high character, and undoubted incorruptibility, and to provide them with a certain provision for old age was the surest method to obtain a constant supply of such men for the ranks of this 1262 body. By doing so they would lead to the continued competent administration of those laws on which, to his mind, in a great measure the progress and prosperity of the country depended.
§ MR. HORACE PLUNKETT (Dublin Co., S.)
said, he had opportunities of hearing wide expressions of opinion upon this Bill from Ireland, and he could say there was a very general desire on the part of Poor Law Officers in Ireland to lie included in, and have the advantage of, this Bill. It was quite true that, unfortunately, Poor Law Officers generally had not been organised in such a way as to take effective action. No doubt before the Bill went into Committee that defect would be removed. The Irish Poor Law medical officers had an association, and had expressed a desire to be included in the Bill. So he hoped those in charge of the Bill would consent to have ''Ireland'' struck out of the excluding clause, and in Committee allow any provisions to be inserted which would meet the requirements of the case.
§ MR. J. W. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)
, in moving the rejection of the Bill, said, he objected to the Measure simply and solely in the interests of local self-government. If Boards of Guardians were to be compelled to pension their officials with money which the House would not provide but which came out of the local rates, with considerably more justice the House, seeing that it provided a large portion of the funds for education, might compel School Board managers to pension all their teachers, who were equally as deserving a class as assistant overseers and rate collectors. He doubted whether the House had power to compel local authorities, over whom the House had no immediate control, to pension officials, over whom the House had no influence, out of money the House was not called upon to provide, and over the existence of which that House had no controlling voice whatever. From the point of view of local self-government, this Bill was a high-handed proceeding, and was bound to weaken the development of that spirit of local self-government in the country, which it had been the wise and legitimate aim of legislation, passed 1263 in this House in recent years, to develop. Personally, he was strongly of opinion that local authorities at the present moment possessed far too little power over their officials, and he spoke as one who had taken some share in local self-government in the country. He ventured to say that if any private firm in this country endeavoured to carry on their business with a higher authority, such as the Local Government Board, exercising controlling power over the appointment and dismissal of their servants, that that private firm would lie in the Bankruptcy Court in six months. Yet this Bill proposed to further curtail the limited powers the local authorities already possessed. If such a Bill as this were to be entertained, then it was useless to pass such Measures as the Local Government Act, 1894; it was useless by one Act to give to men in country districts powers to manage local affairs and then to take it away by another. As things now stood boards of guardians possessed ample powers to pension their servants if they deemed it wise to do so. He objected that this Bill would make it compulsory upon them to do so whether they thought it wise or not. Under the existing Act Poor Law Officers possessed an equitable claim to a superannuation allowance after ten years' service, provided that the guardians, in the exercise of their discretion, chose to recognise the claim; and for the last thirty years the majority of the boards had recognised the claims of their officials. It was true that in some cases allowances had been withheld. This Bill was asked for in order to do away with uncertainty; and it was just because he did not wish to do away with it that he opposed the Bill. To do away with it was to deprive the guardians of all discretionary power. This was an arbitary interference with local authorities, and, in order to enter his protest against it, he moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
seconded the rejection of the Bill, and said that the whole question of pensions and of superannuation was in an unsatisfactory condition. The time had arrived when, both for local authorities and for the House itself, some guiding 1264 principle should be laid down by a Committee or a Commission, on which equal justice could be done to all classes of officials. The Bill attempted to do a bad thing in a piecemeal sort of way. In England there were two currents at work. Fairly paid officials combined and organised to obtain privileges and pensions; on the other hand, local authorities and large sections of the community demanded that privileges and pensions should be done away with altogether. The worst way to get old age pensions for all was to give privileges and pensions to a few. An artisan before a board of guardians seeking relief would be asked why he had not laid up against a rainy day; and he would, perhaps, be offered the house at the instance of clerks and officers who were organised to pass this Bill. As to its being merely a form of self-help, its object was to enable officers to help themselves at the public expense. Let the theory be applied to them that was applied to a workman seeking relief. The Bill was based on the principle, "To him that hath shall be given." These men had easy work, free from anxiety, and why should we do more for them than for our soldiers and sailors? The law already gave to chaplains, clerks and labour masters what was denied to assistant foremen, engineers, surveyors, and others. Already Poor Law Officers enjoyed privileges which were denied to others, for they could not be suspended or dismissed by boards of guardians, and most of them lived upon the premises and had rations for themselves and their families, and generally were well treated. In 1894 there were 133 officers, whose salaries had been, over £14,000, and with rations, etc., £20,000, receiving £8,285 in superannuation allowances; and there were, according to the same Report, 133 who had resigned under constraint, and who under this Bill would probably have been in receipt of pensions for inefficient services. Between 1857 and 1892 the cost of in and out pauperism in London had risen from £542,000 to £938,000, and the cost of rations, salaries, &c., for officers had risen from £82,000 to £528,000, or 6½ times. He contended that those figures indicated that Poor Law Officers, generally speaking, 1265 were in a better position to provide for their own superannuation and their own pensions, except in those exceptional cases where they were not provided for under the Act of 1864; and in those cases Poor Law Officers must do whatever citizens were compelled to do—he must run the risks of accidents, of misfortunes which befell people of every station of life. Boards of Guardians were, to his knowledge, generous to their officers to a fault—indeed, in many cases to the point of positive abuse in the way of squandering public money, and he thought the wise and discretionary power which they possessed in regard to pensions under the Voluntary Act of 1864 ought to be left to them. The House had no right to pass a Bill of this kind, which struck at the very root of our local administration. If pensions and superannuations were to be granted on just and equitable terms to all officers who served the State, let it be done in such a way that all competent officers should be allowed pensions and superannuations under uniform conditions. The hon. Member for West Newington had said that the granting of pensions led to trustier and more capable service on the part of the men pensioned. That he disputed; it frequently led to the retention of the very worst men. He had intimate experience of the local government of London. The County Council, a body which employed nearly 6,000 officers and men, had abolished pensions and superannuations altogether; and he ventured to say that in regard to efficiency and honesty arid excellence of work done no comparision could be instituted between the officers of the London County Council without pensions, and the officers that had been employed under the late Metropolitan Board of Works with its pension scheme.
§ MR. BURNS
said, the Fire Brigade men had their pensions under the statute by which they were created, but outside the firemen, no officers of the County Council were pensioned; and he thought that what was good enough for the London County Council ought to be good enough for boards of guardians. The Bill pre-supposed the permanence of pauperism, with its army of officialism. This Bill made for the consolidation of a defect of 1266 our social system that was best regarded as temporary and transitional. It was because the Bill pandered to the lowest elements in the constituencies; because it afforded an illustration of the way in which candidates during elections promised everything, above and below, to their constituents—[laughter]—because it was brought in under pressure from men who were well able to provide for themselves in their old age out of their own resources, and who ought to be satisfied with the voluntary and discretionary powers conferred on boards of guardians by the Act of 1864 in regard to the granting of pensions to Poor Law Officers. Because it sought to fetter the hands of local authorities, and was calculated to open the way to nepotism and jobbery, and was another bribe to the bureaucracy, he thoroughly opposed the Bill. [Cheers.]
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
said that the hon. Member for the Harborough Division, in moving the rejection of the Bill, was flying in the face of two-thirds of the local authorities, whom he professed to defend. The fact that 400 out of the 600 Boards of Guardians had petitioned in favour of the Bill was a sufficient answer to the statement that the attack on the Bill was in the interest of local self-government. [" Hear, hear! "] His hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, in his eloquent speech, had pointed out that, according to the Local Government Board Return of last year, 133 Poor Law Officers had been pensioned, and the same number dismissed; and had jumped to the conclusion that the officers dismissed would, under the Bill, have been equally eligible for pensions as the others.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER
said, that would not be the case under the Bill. The majority of the men dismissed were new hands; and, until a man had been 10 years in the service of a Poor Law Board, he would not be eligible under the Bill for a pension. His hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, had also drawn an unpleasant picture of the way 1267 in which poor applicants for relief were spoken to by Boards of Guardians as to their want of thrift and their neglect in providing for their old age. But two wrongs did not make a right. The unfeeling conduct of some Boards of Guardians was no reason against the introduction of a legitimate Measure for the relief of a well-deserving class of public servants. His hon. Friend the Member for the Harborough Division had declared that he was in favour of Old Age Pensions, but that he did not care for the advance in the direction of Old Age Pensions made by the Bill. But, surely, that objection was as ridiculous as the objection of a man who, wanting to go to Edinburgh, refused to be carried as far as York. He had had the honour of introducing the first Bill dealing with Old Age Pensions; and it was because he regarded this Bill as a step in the direction of securing that all who served the State in a public capacity, and in a private capacity also, should be placed above want in their old age, that he supported it.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER
said that, if his hon. Friend introduced a Bill with that object, he would support it. He believed that this Bill would largely add to the efficiency of the public service of the country. While at the Local Government Board his attention was called to many deserving cases of public officials who suffered great hardship on account of the permissive character of the existing law. There was the case of the Clerk to a Board of Guardians, who was really incapable through infirmity to discharge his duties, and who employed a clerk of his own to do his work because he could not afford to lose the salary of the office. It was not desirable that men should be retained in offices from which they would long have been discharged, if there were any provision for their superannuation. The advantage of the Bill was that it was based, in the first place, on the principles of self-help. The officers themselves would contribute largely to the funds necessary for the superannuation, and he believed that the burden on the rates would be less than it had been under the permissive Act of 1864. It was matter for regret that the Poor Law service of 1268 this country had failed to attract men of the best class. There was even some difficulty in obtaining the best men to serve as Poor Law Guardians; and yet no function was more honourable than that of looking after the poor. In old days the prisons were managed by some of the worst specimens of humanity, but now the position of governor of a prison was one which any gentleman might hold. Why should the position of the master of a great workhouse be less honourable? He wanted to see men of high culture and benevolent spirit controlling the great Poor Law Institutions, and administering the Poor Law with grace, kindness and Christian sympathy. To secure this class of men it was necessary to offer them the same advantages as other civil servants with respect to the future. The certainty assured by such a Bill as this was one of the greatest incentives to efficient administration done in the best spirit. The Bill would add a great attraction to the Poor Law service, and he should heartily support it.
§ MR. E. H. LLEWELLYN (Somerset, N.)
said that the object of the Bill was to put on a satisfactory basis the superannuation scheme which already existed. The Act of 1864 had beyond doubt been administered in a very unsatisfactory way. Its great flaw was its uncertainty. The great part of the money provided by this Bill would come out of the pockets of the officers themselves. Ireland, it had been stated, would consider its inclusion in the Bill a hardship, but Ireland, as a matter of fact, asked to be included in the Bill, and he believed that the promoters would have no objection to extend it to Scotland as well if it were generally desired. The principle of pensions and superannuations had already been conceded under the Act of 1864, though that Act was permissive and otherwise unsatisfactory. A large number of Boards of Guardians had petitioned in favour of the Bill, and on the Board with which he was associated he had never heard any objection to the terms under which the officers asked for the advantages of the Bill. The sum which would be subscribed by the officers towards the superannuation funds was much larger than he had at first supposed. Of course, if the whole of the officers liable to super- 1269 annuation became chargeable at once, there could be no doubt that the fund to be raised from the rates would be more than had been anticipated. But that was not likely. It was calculated that of those who subscribed not 20 per cent. would come on the superannuation fund at all. The figures as to the subscriptions of the officers had not been arrived at haphazard. Of course, it was impossible to get any actuarial advice upon this, because the statistics with regard to the value of these appointments in salaries and emoluments were beyond the power of any actuary to get at, but the scheme was founded on the experience obtained from other schemes. The Municipal Officers' Association, the Metropolitan Board of Works, after 30 years' experience, found that 1½ per cent. would pay all their superannuation allowances. The Corporation of London deducted 2½ per cent., and they returned the payments in case of deaths. The Police Superannuation Fund required 2½ per cent., and granted a more liberal rate of remuneration than the Bill did. Birmingham paid £28,600 a year in salaries and emoluments; they would receive at once £715 a year, or a net gain of over £400 a year. The parish of Kensington paid £572 a year on salaries of the value of £16,000 or 3½ per cent.; St. Pancras £718 on salaries and emoluments of £30,000; Fulham, out of £12,000 in salaries and emoluments paid £380 in superannuation. Taking nine parishes and unions, paying salaries and emoluments to the amount of £156,000, the general result was that superannuation allowances were granted to the amount of £3,748 or exactly 2½ per cent. No doubt under the Bill, an increased number of officers would become chargeable, but the rate of subscription would be sufficient to meet anything like an ordinary call, and it was practically impossible that all these officers could become chargeable at once. Under the present system, officers were sometimes afraid to apply for superannuation lest they should be refused. He had known them hold office long after they were unfit for it, simply because they were afraid to ask to be superannuated, having heard, perhaps, that their case was not likely to receive favourable consideration. He had known cases where 1270 officers had been refused after long and meritorious service simply because their application had gone before a board without experience, or which had been re turned pledged to economy. This was exceedingly hard. The present uncertainty would be removed by the Bill; certainly would be regarded as the greatest boon which these deserving officers could obtain under it. He believed examination would show that the fears expressed by hon. Gentlemen on the other side with regard to the Bill were unfounded; although he admitted it would require some amendment in Committee. The Poor Law Officers were practically unanimous in support of the Bill. What they asked was praiseworthy to themselves, and by passing it the House would do an act of justice to a class of officers who were of the greatest possible value to the public good.
§ MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
said, he had been in considerable doubt as to what his attitude towards to the Bill ought to be, but the statement made by the hon. Member for West Newington that he and his Friends would be prepared in Committee to give favourable consideration to all reasonable Amendments made his way clearer, and in these circumstances he proposed to vote for the Second Reading. He felt that the working of the voluntary Act of 1864 had not been satisfactory, and it was also a material circumstance that the Poor Law Officers themselves now came forward and offered to make out of their salaries a very substantial contribution to effect a settlement of this long-vexed question. At the same time, having considered the Bill with some care, he thought great exception might be taken to certain parts of it. In the first place, its supporters had not been quite frank and ingenuous in the statement of their case. In the memorandum he found this statement—Under the provisions of the Act of 1864, Poor Law Officers at present possess an equitable statutory claim.That was altogether a misleading statement, and he was surprised that the supporters of the Bill, in penning the Memorandum, did not make the House understand that it was not all Poor Law 1271 Officers who had this equitable claim, but only those officers who devote their whole time to the service of the local authority. That made a substantial difference. Then there were registrars and rate collectors, and so far as his experience went these very seldom devoted their whole time to the service of the guardians. Such men were usually appointed late in life, and after ten years' service they might run away with one-third of their salaries. Under such circumstances he thought the pension list would be seriously increased. He desired to emphasise the difference between the two classes— those who gave their whole time to the service of the guardians and those who gave a part only. Were they going to put those who had an equitable claim under the present law on an equality with those who had not an equitable claim? He thought they were entitled to call on those who had no equitable claim to make some contribution equivalent to the equitable claim, but no provision of that kind was made in the Bill. They ought to contribute a larger percentage of their salaries than was required in the cases of men who had equitable claims. Clause 4 enabled officers to aggregate their terms of service under different Boards of Guardians, however short the service in each case; but the Police Act, 1890, provided that no service under a separate authority should be reckoned unless it continued for at least three years. He thought they ought to consider this point. There was this further peculiarity in the Bill, that the whole of the pension was to be provided by the Board of Guardians under whom the officer last served, so that they would have this anomaly, that a man who served 20 years under one board and five years under another board would have his pension provided by the board under which he last served for the smaller period. ["Hear, hear!"] That differed from the Police Act, 1890, which provided that a proportionate part of the pension should be provided by each of the local authorities under which the officer served. No doubt it might be said that there would be a balance in these matters, that in some cases boards would have to pay pensions for services not rendered, whereas in other cases they would receive services for which they would not have to pay pensions. This 1272 system would, however, seriously retard the facility for transfer as it exists at present. Boards of Guardians would be very chary of taking into their service a gentleman who came from another board shortly to be qualified for a pension, which they would have to pay. It was for the Poor Law Officers themselves to consider whether this provision would not materially interfere with the facility of transfer and promotion.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. HENKY CHAPLIN,) Lincolnshire, Sleaford
said, the Government shared entirely in the sympathetic views expressed by the hon. Member for Ilkeston; but, on the other hand, he was surprised at the heat displayed by the Member for Battersea and the observations which fell from him. The case seemed to him to be exceedingly simple. Under the existing law every Poor Law Officer, under certain conditions, might receive a pension from the local authority under the sanction of the Local Government Board, and those conditions were that he must have served a certain time, that he was incapacitated by infirmity or old age, that he gave his whole time to the service of the board—but he had no legal right to compel the giving of a pension, that being entirely at the discretion of the local authorities. It was not alleged that the local authorities had behaved otherwise than generously in the matter, but sometimes cases arose where pensions were refused, and here the grievance was felt. Sometimes guardians were changed, and they did not know of the good services rendered in former days by the man who had become old. Again, officers were debarred from any pension if they held any other office, of whatever kind, however trivial. That was a grievance which was particularly felt by medical officers. That was the existing law, which the Bill proposed to alter in this way—that pensions in the future were to be claimable of right for all officers who were appointed in the future and all existing officers who chose to avail themselves of the new Measure. No assent of the Local Government Board would be required, and it would not be necessary for the officers to give their whole time to the service. There was another condition—contributions were required from the officers. That being so, it appeared to him that there 1273 should be very little difference among them as to the advantages and benefits of the Bill, and, so far as he had been able to gather the sense of the House, they were, with a few exceptions, unanimously in favour of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] He attached considerable importance to the suggestion of his hon. Friend as to the obtaining of the services of a higher class of officers, and clearly that would be promoted by this Bill. As to some of the objections raised, he referred those who resisted the Bill to Clause 7, which carefully guarded the discretion of the authorities in the case of any officer who had misconducted himself and rendered himself liable to forego his claim. As to the suggestion that the Bill should be extended to Ireland, probably there would be no objection. The Government, therefore, would support the Second Reading of the Bill, which they hoped would become law with as little delay as possible. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER after the usual interval,
§ COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)
said, that he had very few-observations to make with regard to the Measure that was before the House. In the first place he might say that the principle upon which it was based, had his most hearty support. He trusted that in due time, and when an opportunity occurred, attention would be given to the case of Scotland in relation to the subject of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment, had taken objection to the Measure on the ground that it would take certain powers out of the hands of the local authorities, but in his view that objection had been fully met. The argument put forward by the hon. Gentleman, who had seconded the Amendment, was that no provision ought to be made for the superannuation of the Poor Law officials mentioned in the Bill, until provision could be made for the superannuation of officials all over the country, but the result of the House accepting such a view would be that the hard working class of officials for whose benefit the Measure had been introduced, would never be provided for. Nearly every hon. Member was in favour of the Bill being read a second 1274 time, and therefore lie should give it his cordial support.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
said, that whatever view the representatives of Scotland might take as to the desirability of some Measure of this kind in relation to Scotland being introduced, it ought not to be allowed to interfere in any way with this proposal to provide for the superannuation of public servants in England. It had been suggested that the provisions of this Measure should be extended to Scotland, but he could not give an absolutely unhesitating approval of that proposal, because owing to the fact that this Bill, when drafted, applied solely to England, there had been no opportunity for the rating authorities in Scotland to consider the subject in relation to that country. One of the main arguments in favour of the Bill was that its principle had met with the approval of the rating authorities in England, but as he had said, the rating authorities of Scotland had not had the Bill under their consideration. He might remind hon. Members that the last deliberate expression of Scotch opinion on this subject, when a proposal was put forward before the Committee of 1894 to give superannuation allowances entirely out of the rates, the proposal was negatived by a large majority independently altogether of Party lines. It was a question whether in Scotland the principle of superannuation ought to go beyond certain well known officials. Whilst to that extent he was favourable to the proposal in regard to the Scotch Poor Law officials, he desired to reserve his criticism until some proposal with respect to Scotland was actually before the House.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.),
wished to express his hearty and entire concurrence in the proposals of the Bill. He was glad that those in charge of the Measure were agreed that its provisions should be extended to Ireland. He was sorry to hear the hon. Member for Battersea object to the Bill on the ground that the House, ought not to do something for somebody because it did not do everything for everybody. The Poor Law Guardians in Ireland were strongly in favour of the Bill, and some of them had 1275 unanimously passed resolutions in support of the proposals it contained. For instance, the Report of the Special Committee of the Belfast Board of Guardians appointed to consider the the Circular forwarded by the Irish Medical Association respecting the granting of pensions to Poor Law Officers when no longer fit to work, contained the following recommendation:—That the Board of Guardians, upon the consideration of the provisions of the Union Officers' Superannuation Bill now before Parliament, is of opinion that its principle is equitable, and its provisions practical; and that it would be desirable that the Measure should be extended to Ireland, in order that a permanent settlement of the Superannuation Question may be thereby arrived at.We are of opinion, also, that the Bill should be amended so that, in the event of an Officer dying in the service, his next-of-kin surviving him may be entitled to the moneys contributed by such Officer under this Act.That recommendation was subsequently unanimously approved and adopted by the Board of Guardians. In these circumstances he could say that the proposal to extend the operation of this Bill to Ireland would meet with the hearty concurrence of Ulster.
§ MR. J. A. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
regretted that no expression of opinion with regard to this Bill had fallen from the Irish Nationalist Representatives. The proposal to extend this Bill to Ireland appeared to have received the approval of all sections in Ulster. Probably, however, the Irish Nationalist Members might be willing that their previous speeches on Bills introduced for the purpose of providing pensions for Irish Poor Law Officers should be referred to. The Unionist Members from Ireland had expressed their opinion very strongly, and the Nationalist Members by their silence had given their consent. If no Nationalist Member rose to object to the inclusion of Ireland in the Bill, then he should assume that they gave a hearty assent to it, and that it was only their natural modesty which prevented them from speaking. The House might, therefore, take it that the Members from Ireland were unanimous for once in a strong desire to have this Bill extended to Ireland.
§ LORD ALWYNE COMPTON (Beds, Biggleswade)
wished to say that in his 1276 humble judgment this Bill seemed to afford a fair measure of relief to a class of men who were eminently deserving of the consideration of the House. Something had been said with regard to pensions. That he admitted at once was a very delicate subject, but, so far from creating pensions, this Bill merely repealed the Act under which, in existing circumstances, Poor Law Officers might obtain relief. It would also remove the elements of uncertainty which existed at the present time, and in return for the certainty of superannuation, these officers would accept a considerable reduction in their salaries and emoluments. He sincerely hoped that the Bill would pass into law, as it was to his mind an act of justice, and if carried through would merely give a measure of relief to those who were deserving of it.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
thought that the principle of the Bill was both sound and equitable. In many respects it was drawn upon the lines of the Superannuation Act of 1869, which had operated so justly in the case of Civil servants generally. Though there were some matters of detail which might be fairly discussed in Committee, such as the question whether officers whose whole time was not given up should be entitled to pensions. In most of the County Acts there was a provision that only officers who gave their whole time should be eligible for pensions. He knew that the medical profession in Ireland was much interested in that portion of the Bill which related to medical officers. Some of the most influential members of the profession had been agitating for years to get a Measure of this sort. For these reasons, and on the assurance given on behalf of the Government and the promoters of the Bill that no opposition would be offered in Committee to extending the Act to Ireland, he should most certainly vote for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. PRYCE-JONES (Montgomery Boroughs)
admitted, with the hon. Member for Battersea, that he would have preferred that the principle of superannuation and old-age pensions should extend to the working classes, but, unfortunately, this Bill only dealt with a higher grade in society, and he did not think that because they were 1277 unable at present to benefit the whole of the working classes of the country, they should deny their support to one very worthy class of the community. If the hon. Member would bring forward a practicable and workable scheme to enable the working classes to avail themselves of the principle of superannuation, he felt confident that hon. Members on his side of the House would give such a scheme the fullest consideration. He ventured to ask the hon. Member to think twice before he blocked progress towards old-age pensions by supporting the Amendment before the House. He supported the Bill because he believed that, by supporting the application of the principle to an inner circle like this, in course of a little time the circle would be enlarged so as to include the working classes, and, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, he had no hesitation in giving his support to the Measure.
§ MR. WILLIAM LECKY (Dublin University)
said that, as representing the largest medical constituency in Ireland, he wished to echo the words which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Tyrone, about Poor Law medical officers in that country, and to say what keen gratification this Bill would give to a considerable number of his constituents. He had had the privilege of talking to some of the first doctors in Ireland on the subject, and they told him that their profession was practically unanimous about the evil of the present system. One effect of it was that the best medical students refused to go into Poor Law business; another and still worse effect was that there were a great many cases in which men having nothing to fall back on remained in their position as Poor Law doctors when they were far too old and infirm for the work. This was a great medical question, but it was also pre-eminently a poor man's question. Probably the best thing legislation could do for the poor was to give them, as for as possible, the same chances of health and life as the rich. If they raised the standard of the poor man's doctors they would have contributed very materially to that end.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
supported the scheme, because 1278 in the first place it was self-supporting, and secondly, because it would keep out of the public service those who were not fit to work. With regard to the application of the Bill to Scotland, they had now got a Bill before them, and he was sure that the ingenuity of his hon. Friend the Solicitor General for Scotland and others would be quite equal to the task of making it applicable to Scotland.
§ MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said, he was fully in sympathy with the Bill, and contended that there was no part of Scotland where it was more needed than in the West Highlands.
§ MR. J. H. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
thought that teachers in elementary schools had the first claim to consideration in respect of pensions.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member would not be in order in discussing the case of teachers.
§ MR. YOXALL
explained that he was about to say that he supported the Bill. He hoped that in time a system of pensions would be established for all servants of the State, and that the system would gradually be extended so as to apply to the servants of great companies and firms.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, that the proposed extension of the Measure to Scotland was not a matter to be settled offhand, because Scotland was not in the same position as England with respect to this subject. An equitable claim existed in England and was recognised in the case of 80 per cent, of the officers to whom the Bill related. No similar claim, however, existed in Scotland, and in the case of that country, this Bill would introduce a practically new principle. A very strong case had been made out for passing a Bill of this kind for England, but the question had not been submitted to Scotland in any form. A good many representations with regard to Scotland had no doubt been made to hon. Members, but as far as he could ascertain, all those representations had come from officers under the Parish Councils, and he had not heard that any Parish Council had as yet, itself expressed any opinion on the subject. They had been told that 400 out of 600 Boards of Guardians in England had declared themselves to be in favour 1279 of this Measure. Well, they ought to wait to hear what the opinion of the Parish Councils in Scotland was. The change extending the Bill to Scotland could only be made while the Measure was in Committee, and he trusted that in the interval which must elapse before the matter could be taken in hand the Scotch Parish Councils would consider the question carefully, and that hon. Members from Scotland would send copies of the Bill to their constituents. He hoped that those hon. Members would not commit themselves to an acceptance of the proposed extension of the Bill to Scotland before the Bill had been considered locally.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD ( Mr. T. W. RUSSELL,) Tyrone, S.
trusted the House would not forget that this was an English Bill, and that England was entitled to it even if Scotland or Ireland did not desire it. If, when the Bill had been further considered, Scottish or Irish opinion should warrant its extension the promoters of the Measure would not oppose such extension. Ireland, he might observe, was in precisely the same position as England in regard to this matter, for the Boards of Guardians had a permissive power to grant retiring allowances, and in many cases they were granted, whilst in others they were withheld.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
observed that the promoters of the Bill assumed that the scheme was going to pay for itself. In regard to Scotland, however, hon. Members would not be satisfied with an assumption of that kind, and would require proof that the scheme was solvent. There ought to be a close investigation into the actuarial solvency of the scheme, and as it might be difficult in Grand Committee to conduct an investigation of that kind, he suggested that the question should be referred to a Select Committee.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill read 2a.1280
§ Motion made, "That the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Law, and Courts of Justice, and Legal Procedure."
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
said, that after the speeches which had been made, it was obvious that the Standing Committee ought to be reinforced by an addition of English, Scotch and Irish Members.
§ MR. C. B. RENSHAW (Renfrew, W.)
hoped that four or five weeks would be allowed to elapse before the Bill was considered in Committee, in order that the opinion of Scotland might be ascertained.
§ Motion agreed to.