HC Deb 06 May 1897 vol 48 cc1590-2
MR. S. WOODS (Essex, Walthamstow)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether clerks of the abstractor class receive less annual increment of salary than temporary boy copyists serving under them; and whether, having regard to the long service of these clerks and their low maximum salary, he can see his way to increase, their annual increment?


A boy copyist is a temporary and un-established employé, who under the present regulations cannot be appointed under 15 years of age or retained as such after 20. His ordinary pay is 14s. a week, rising by 1s. a week each year to a maximum of 18s. His increment is therefore £2 12s. a year. The old class of men abstractors, on the other hand, are permanent and established officers. As I have several times explained, they originally belonged to the class of men copyists which the Ridley Commission recommended should be abolished, but the Treasury in 1891 gave a number of them permanent employment on elementrry clerical work as abstractors, with a title to pension and other advantages, allowing them to commence at their existing rates of pay (as a rule between £90 and £100 a year) and to rise by annual increments of £2 10s. to a maximum of £150. It is the fact, therefore, that the boy copyists' increment, while it lasts, is 2s. a year more than the abstractor's; but it only lasts four years at most, whereas the abstractors' last more than 20 years as a rule, and the hon. Member will see that there is really no comparison possible between the two classes. The abstractor class has only been in existence six years, and therefore none of the clerks can be said to have had a "long service" as abstractors. Any previous service must have been temporary and unestablished in the capacity of copyist, and it is obvious that as abstractors the men are in a far better position than they could ever have attained as copyists. Their maximum salary of £150 was fixed in consideration of the rudimentary character of their work, and the same consideration debars the Government from increasing the annual increment.

MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, whether the Lords Commissioners recently received a petition from the abstractor clerks in the Civil Service asking for an increase of pay commensurate with the duties devolving on them; whether an abstractor, who had served many years and had a salary over £100 per annum, had to submit to a large reduction on becoming a permanent second-class clerk; and, will the Treasury do anything to remove the grievance complained of?


Several such petitions have been received, but I am of opinion that the abstractors' pay is sufficient for the work they have to do. Abstractors are survivors of the old copyist class, and the Ridley Commission contemplated that they should be swept away. Instead of this they were formed into a new class with increased pay, pension rights, and other advantages. It was not intended that they should have prospects of promotion to the second division, for which they have passed no adequate examination. By Order in Council an entrant to the second division must commence at a salary of £70, and the Treasury has no power to override the order. If, therefore, such an appointment is offered to an abstractor he must choose between his actual pay (but without prospects of advancement) and the lower commencing salary, but greatly improved prospects of the second division. It would neither be reasonable nor conducive to the harmonious working of a department to pay him a salary 50 per cent, higher than that of the junior second division clerks, who would have entered the second division at the same time or even before him, and would be working side by side with him at the same work.