HC Deb 09 August 1898 vol 64 cc713-22

13. "That a sum, not exceeding £129,672, 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, 1899, for the Survey of the United Kingdom, and for minor services connected therewith."

Amendment proposed— To leave out '129,672,' and insert '£129,572.'"—(Sir Barrington Simeon.)


I beg to move the reduction of this Vote by £100, and I do so because I feel that the Government are making a great mistake which I feel will not contribute to their popularity, and which I am sure will not contribute to their credit. I think they are making a mistake which will cause a great injustice to a very hard-working class of people who were originally led to expect pensions when they left the service. Up to the year 1859 the ordnance survey was recognised as a part of the Civil Service, but the Commissioners made out by a decision of theirs on the 9th of September, 1870, that they were not deprived of this under the Superannuation Act. Sir Henry James, when he was Director General of the Ordnance Survey, made an unfortunate prophecy, because he prophesied that by 1880 the work of the Ordnance Survey Department would be finished. That date has been passed by 18 years, and so far from being finished, the work of the Ordnance Survey Depart- ment has increased, and no one at the present day would venture to prophecy when it would come to an end. If he did, he would say that it would be about the Day of Judgment when this work was finished. In the year when Sir Henry James prophesied the work would have to come to an end in 1880, the staff consisted of 876 clerks. It was increased in 1870 to 1,008, and in 1880 to 1,114. In 1890 a similar statement was made, and it was said that a large reduction would take place in the staff; instead of that the staff was increased to 1,503 in 1890, and to 1,609 in 1891. It is, therefore, useless to prophecy that the work will finish in any year. The Departmental Committee of 1872 said that the Department would have to be maintained as a permanent Department, and the work was increasing every year, and that is shown by the figures with regard to the sales of maps. In 1894–95 the sale of maps produced £14,903, in 1895–96 £15,497, and in 1896–97 it rose to £17,715. I do not think, after quoting those figures, that I need trouble the Committee as to whether the staff is permanent or not, but I must remind the House that in 1894 temporary civil servants, who had joined the service between September 29th, 1870, and January 4th, 1873, were placed on the permanent establishment. It was then said that the fact that it was no longer a pensionable Department was not known to the people who joined the service before September 29th, 1870, but many men have joined since then who had no idea whatever that they were not joining a pensionable Department, and a question was asked of Colonel South, a gentleman very high up in his day in the Ordnance Survey, as to how people were to know when joining the Department that it was not a pensionable one, and his answer was that as that statement was made in a Parliamentary Paper, anybody could obtain the information. Now, how are boys of 14 years of age to get the information? I do not know that even a son of a Member of this House would know how to obtain a Parliamentary Paper if his father did not tell him the way, and yet these poor boys who join this Department at the age of 14 are to be supposed to be able to obtain them for themselves, and that is the only information which is obtainable. Now, here the question of salary comes in, and I daresay my right honourable Friend will tell me that the scale upon which the salary was based is so high that it is not possible to give a pension as well. That is a matter of fact, and I should be very sorry to dispute a matter of fact. I am extremely sorry that the scale of salary is so high, because, if it is, it is arrived at on a strange inconsistent basis. The pay at which these clerks can arrive after 15 years' service is 30s. a week, and after 34 years' service 50s. a week. Now, it is very technical work, and has to be done to a great extent under artificial light, and after the clerks reach 45, a great many of them are unfitted for any further work at all. I do not think you can say that the scale upon which the salaries are based is a very generous one when it is remembered that they are men who have had expensive educations, and that they have to keep themselves neat and tidy, and have some position to support. It is absurd to say that the scale is not fixed upon a meagre and stingy basis. It is also fixed upon a very unjust basis, because these "temporary" civil servants do exactly the same work and get exactly the same salary as the civil servants, and it is only because they have the word "temporary" prefixed to civil servants that they are not in as good a position as the permanent staff. The permanent civil servants do the same work, and receive no more and no less for doing it, but because these unfortunate people have the word "temporary" attached to their qualifications they are turned out after 28 years' service, when they would otherwise retire upon a pension. I cannot understand what distinction is made between these two classes of the service. It is said that the wages have been increased since 1870, but it is impossible that they should not have been increased more or less, because every wage has been increased since that time, and the rate of wages everywhere is somewhat higher now than it was 28 years ago. It is equally higher in the case of the permanent staff as it is in the case of the temporary staff. And it must be remembered that the wages being higher now than in 1870 really has nothing at all to do with it, and as to the pay having been increased, in many cases, so far from having been increased, it has been reduced since that period, but of the 64 cases to which I have referred only 21 have received a salary of 10s. a day, and yet that sum was held out originally to the people as the sum which they would get. Returning to the Report, we find that the average pay of the staff is 4s. 3¾d. a day, whilst in another Report it is 7s. a day, so that we have the curious anomaly that while Sir Henry James' Report, in 1860 quotes an average payment, of 7s. a day, we have in the Report of Sir Charles Wilson in 1890, to prove that they are better paid than they were in 1860, the quotation of an average of 4s. a day. I have tried to effect an improvement in the position: of the temporary staff many times before, and possibly will have to draw my right honourable Friend's attention to the fact many times again, unless he now takes heart of grace and tries to do justice to these unfortunate people.


The question is, Amendment proposed, to leave out £129,672, in order to insert £129,572.


I had no idea that this Vote was to be taken to-night, fortunately for the House, as the subject is one in which I am greatly interested and should have prepared a somewhat long speech. I have had great pleasure in supporting the honourable Member opposite on every previous occasion, and we have succeeded in advancing the matter a considerable stage from the position in which it was two years ago. There is only one question to be considered, and that is whether the Ordnance Survey Department is within measurable distance of being wound up or a great reduction being made in the staff. I have looked into that question, and I find that there is not the slightest foundation for the statements made from time to time that the Ordnance Survey Department will be wound up—statements which my honourable Friend will admit up to the present time have been entirely false. We were told that the survey would be finished years ago, instead of which there is at the present a larger staff than there ever was before in my experience. I have received letters of complaint as to the maps. I am told that the six-inch maps, of which the greatest complaint is made, have been made a great number of years, that they are 50 years old. After the Debate in the House a short time ago—last Session—a little spurt was made at the Survey Office, and the three series of maps were produced, but as soon as the effect of the Debate had passed away the deadlock again occurred. There is also another great complaint that the larger scale maps have not been completed for the County of Mayo. I do not know what the experience of other Members of the House may be, but I judge from my own, and if other parts of the country are in the same condition as Mayo is, as shown upon the maps, the whole of the present staff of the Ordnance Survey Department will be dead and buried before the Ordnance Survey is reduced to a condition of being wound up. The duties with which the staff of the Ordnance Survey Department have to deal require great skill, and their pay is not at all proportionate to the qualification required, and it seems to me that there should be a higher wage. There is also the additional grievance that they are, to a certain extent, denied the higher walks of their profession. There is not the same opportunity for promotion in this branch as there is in other branches of the Service. I therefore trust that the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will during the Recess devote his attention to this deserving case.


There is a well-founded grievance against the Ordnance Survey, owing to which a great many honourable Members will vote for the reduction of this Vote unless a very strong reply is made to it. The Ordnance maps of this country are more and more tending to become the basis of all the maps that are used, and the names used upon them are established by usage; yet the names upon them are often incorrect and conceal the real names of the places to which they profess to refer. Anyone who has anything to do with the archæologieal proceedings of this country knows that it is to the benefit of the country that the maps should be correct as to the local names. It is impossible to delay the House with details, and all I can do to-day is to ask honourable Members to look at the maps of those particular districts with which they are familiar. I am not talking of the names of towns, or postal districts, or parishes; those are officially recognised names, and nothing can be done to alter them, but in the larger scale maps, where you get the small names upon which the whole archaeology depends, those small unimportant names are distorted and horrible confusion arises. It is that kind of blunder which suggests false derivations, and false circumstances are introduced in the ordnance survey maps. I have looked at the maps of the country, and in all of them I have discovered blunders of the grossest description. In one case, where a name appears three times in the space of a mile, it is spelled in three different ways, each of them suggesting a different derivation. I think, if the President of the Board of Agriculture will look into this matter, he will find that there is a great necessity for seeing that the names are more accurate.


The responsibility of the Treasury in this matter is limited to the question of pensions. The honourable Member has raised this subject so often, so fearlessly and so persistently, that I am sorry not to look at it from the same point of view. I hope the honourable Member does not think, if we are going to make a mistake in this matter, that we are going to make it without full consideration of the subject. We have had the fullest representation of the civil assistants, who came up to the Treasury, and we discussed the matter very fully, and I have been most anxious to meet, as far as possible, the claims of men who are, I admit, a great credit to the service, if I could see my way to do so. The pensions ceased in 1870, and until 1894 this question of giving pensions to the whole of the temporary staff was never raised. What was raised was this: that although it was true that notice was given by Sir Henry James, the then Director General of the Ordnance Survey Department, that all those entering the service after 1870 would enter a non-pensionable service, it was maintained that the notice given was not adequate, and that it did1 not reach those who entered the service between 1870 and 1874. It was said that those who had entered between those dates had had no notice of the change of the policy of the Department, that, therefore, it was only right to assume that it might be supposed by those men who so entered that they had entered a pensionable service, and it was contended that they should be treated as if they had entered before notice was given, before 1870. That question was fought for a long time by the Treasury, and the Treasury only conceded it in 1894. I myself think it was only right that they should be treated as if they had entered the service before 1870. But the announcement was made publicly and clearly to everybody in 1874, that everybody entering after that date was entering a service in which he would not be- able to qualify for a pension. They had clear, proper, and full notice. The question now is put upon a very different basis. It is said that, as a matter of fact, many of the men have now been serving for a long time, and the general opinion is that the service will become a permanent one, because, at the time when the pensions were abolished it was said that the service could not last more than 10 or 15 years, whereas it is pointed out, as a matter of fact, that the service has been a permanent one. It has lasted longer than that period; it has lasted up to the, present time, and is likely to continue. Therefore, these gentlemen say that the service ought to be made a pensionable service. Now, that is an argument which I sweep away as one to which I attach very little importance, because I think it is fully met by the fact that up to 1870 there were pensions. What is the position of the service at the present moment? No doubt there are a great number of men in the service at the present time who have served for some 20 years or more, and who are not entitled to a pension—that is to say, the whole of the men who have joined the service in and since 1874. It is said by those men that they have served for so long a time, and therefore ought to be entitled to a pension. There are, of course, a great number of people who have served in other Departments 15 or 16 years, who are entitled to a pension, but they did not become entitled to a pension because they had served that number of years. These men entered under certain conditions, and their salary was fixed upon a basis that they should not become entitled to a pension, and I do not think they ought to come here now and say they are entitled. Then comes the further argument: they say, this service will go on so long that there is every prospect of its becoming permanent, and therefore we ought to retain it on a pensionable basis. Thus we see the whole question is reduced to a very fine point indeed, which is this: Is it going to become a permanent service or not? In one sense it will become so, but the staff at the present moment is 1,600, and I am assured by the Director General that in a dozen years the staff will be reduced to 900. That being so, you will make 900 the pensionable service. I was quite ready to do this, recognising the fact that these men had worked for this number of years. I was quite ready to meet their views as far as I possibly could, but the answer made to me on my inquiry into the matter was, that even with regard to the 900 men who would probably remain on after 10 years, their duties were so interchangeable with the remaining 600 or 700 that it would be utterly impossible to put one's hand on the 900 now, and for the Director General to say "These are the men that I shall retain at the end of 10 years." The whole of the men are performing duties which are so interchangeable that it is absolutely impossible to do so. If that is so, it is obvious that there are no men you can put your finger upon and say, "These are the men we ought to pension." It amounts to this, in fact, that although for certain purposes the service will become permanent, one-half of the work which is done at the present moment will cease in 10 years from now, and half the staff will disappear. Now, the argument of the honourable Member for Mayo, so far as it goes, is perfectly fair. He says that the Director General has said the same thing ever since 1870, but that the work has constantly increased. The answer to that is obvious, and is that the service has been taken up on a much greater scale for the purpose of revising and keeping up the maps. It will be a permanent service in 10 years from now, but on a reduced basis. Therefore, carefully as I have gone into the whole matter, I cannot properly see my way to suggest that these 900 men who may remain should be treated as pensionable servants of the State, for the reason I have given, but although the Treasury cannot deal directly with the question of salaries, I am anxious that these men should receive consideration. If the Board of Agriculture is satisfied that any of these men are entitled to higher salaries, and in some oases I admit the evidence points in that direction, I will undertake that their cases shall be considered very carefully.


Complaints have been made of the backward condition of the Irish survey, but any delay is not due to any lack of energy in carrying out the work, but to the fact that there is an immense amount of detail arising in the course of the undertaking in regard to many of the small holdings. I assure honourable Members that there will be no unnecessary delay, and that there was every desire on the part of the Ordnance Survey Department to complete the work as rapidly as possible. An extra sum of £2,000 is to be spent this year, and we will do our best to bring the survey up to date. With regard to the complaint of the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, as to the accuracy of the names, in many places the names have been so very much corrupted that there was the greatest possible difficulty in our ascertaining what was the correct name. Our desire is to produce the most accurate map, and we will endeavour to improve the system if that were possible.


I undertake to give oases in which this question of the corruption of the name could not possibly arise.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn, and Resolution agreed to.

14. "That a sum, not exceeding £136,978, 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, 1899, for the Erection, Repairs, and Maintenance of Public Buildings in Ireland, for the Maintenance of certain Parks and Public Works, and for Drainage Works on the River Shannon."

15. "That a sum, not exceeding £22,207, 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, 1899, for Payments under 'The Tramways and Public Companies (Ireland) Act, 1883,' the Light Railways (Ireland) Acts, 1889 and 1893, and 'The Railways (Ireland) Act, 1896.'"

16. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £25,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for Expenditure in respect of Diplomatic and Consular Buildings."

Agreed to.

Forward to