HC Deb 09 March 1900 vol 80 cc508-12

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. J. W. Lowther (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]

Motion made and Question proposed, "That it is expedient to amend the law relating to the number of the Staff of the General Board of Commissioners in Lunacy for Scotland, and to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of their salaries, and of the expenses of the Board, and the remuneration of the Chairman and Commissioners.—(The Lord Advocate.)

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

Would the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate kindly give us some explanation of this resolution.


explained that the Bill on which the resolution would be founded was purely formal. Unfortunately, in the Lunacy Act passed some time ago the salary of the clerk of the Lunacy Board in Scotland was fixed, and a provision was made that only one clerk should be appointed. As the Department grew it was discovered that that arrangement was absolutely unworkable, and the present Bill was necessary to put the staffing of the office on the ordinary footing, so that such clerks as were necessary might be appointed with the sanction of the Treasury.


understood that the object of the Bill was to remove the limitation imposed by the statute. On comparing the figures he found that the salaries paid to the Scotch officials were proportionate to those paid in England. Had that not been so the Scotch Members would have been the first to raise the question. But there was a statutory qualification in England not applicable to Scotland, and he hoped that the Lord Advocate would see that the men appointed by the commissioners should have the same statutory qualifications as were required in England. In regard to the other officials who were on the staff at the present moment, he said they were already provided for in the Estimates, and statutory authority was not required for making payments to them. There was no need whatever for an Act of Parliament for the purpose of introducing an increase of staff of a clerical nature. What was proposed, as he understood, was that one commissioner, who was unpaid, should get some pay now. In Scotland there were two commissioners and two deputy commissioners, while in England they had only six commissioners altogether. He had complaints from Scotland to the effect that when they wished a matter inquired into in connection with an asylum the commissioners sent down to the superintendent of the asylum to report. The commissioners did not go down themselves, and the result was that while they had a large staff they had not the work properly done. If a board required to get legal advice on a matter there was no need whatever for paying unpaid commissioners to give that advice. They all knew quite well that the salaries of the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland were given for the purpose of advising the different Departments in matters of law. With four commissioners already paid and on the Estimates there was no need whatever in the case of Scotland of increasing the staff of commissioners. So far as this would be a matter of taking money out of the Imperial purse he had nothing to say, but he did object to giving the money to persons not qualified for the position. If they were going to increase the salary they should make it statutory that the qualifications of the men should be sufficient for the future.

MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

remarked that in regard to this matter the information was very scanty indeed, and he wished to know if any vacancy was contemplated. He thought the House was entitled to know. It did savour to him very much like a job, and he for one would not be satisfied unless they got more information about the proposal. As the Member for Mid Lanark had said, if the officer referred to had some status they might vote a large salary. He considered that they were entitled to know the age of this gentleman, and also the ages of the clerks whose salaries it was intended to raise. The Lord Advocate was paid £5,000 a year, and the Solicitor General £3,000 a year, to give legal advice, and if they considered that their salaries were not sufficient, then let them come and ask a rise of salary. They had no right to arrange for these unpaid commissioners obtaining fees. He should ask the Scottish Office to follow the example of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury a few years ago, to cut off all these allowances. He thought the sooner they were abolished the better.


said the office referred to was a very hard worked one. The gentleman who held the position had been a most valuable public servant. He was qualified by a very long course of public service, and the Lord Advocate ventured to say that the gentleman had done more work in one year than the hon. Member the Member for Ross had done ever since he had been in that House. He thought the Treasury might fairly be trusted to do what was proper in this matter. This was merely carrying into effect an arrangement that had been made by the Treasury. It was not possible to give any more explanation than he had given. If the Treasury came to the conclusion that these gentlemen were underpaid, the only reason for not paying them properly was this statutory restriction. In regard to the legal commissioners, he said that while it was the duty of the law officers of the Crown to advise the public Departments, the work of the Lunacy Department had so increased on account of the increase in the number of lunatics themselves that the Crown Office had had a great deal to do, and it was felt that they could not be expected to sacrifice so much of their time as they had been doing without a certain amount of remuneration.


said the hon. and learned Member had not answered his question as to the age of the secretary and chief clerk. He should like to know if they were on the eve of retiring on a pension. If these gentlemen are well advanced in years and about to take their pensions, has it been arranged that they are to get a larger salary in order that they may receive a larger pension?


was surprised that the Lord Advocate should think those commissioners were in any sense overworked. In England they had six commissioners, and in Scotland there were two commissioners and two deputy commissioners, and everybody know that the deputy commissioners did more work than the higher paid men. There was no proportion in the matter at all. He could not for the life of him see how for the amount of work it was at all necessary that they should have more commissioners. There were in Scotland at the present moment more than a half of the staff they had in England, and yet they had only a seventh part of the insanity in Scotland. He did not think that the Lord Advocate had made out a case. Apparently all that could be said was that the Scotch Office and the Secretary to the Treasury had agreed between them that the money should be forthcoming, and why should anybody have anything to say against it.


remarked that if the Scotch Members objected amongst themselves it might be that there was a strong case against the increase. He observed that the Lord Advocate and the Treasury had agreed. Now, that was very suspicious. He would expect to see them in bitter disagreement. The Lord Advocate had given no reasons that he could comprehend for the creation of the new offices.


said it was not the creation of new offices.


Did I misapprehend, then, when I understood that the unpaid commissioners were to be paid?


said it was proposed to give them remuneration.


said this quibble was worthy of a Scotch advocate. It was not to be salary, but it was to be remuneration! It was the creation of new charges on the people, and these new charges were to be paid in the name of remuneration among gentlemen who at present did not get any remuneration. Surely they could go on without remuneration. The number of lunatics had not so enormously increased. He certainly thought that a better case required to be made out. He had been looking in vain for Scotch Members to rise on this side of the House in support of the Lord Advocate, for when salaries were being considered there ought to be more Members present to support the proposal.


I did not think it would be my unfortunate fate to have to explain to the Hon. Member for King's Lynn such terms as "salary" and "remuneration." I do not wish to quibble about words, but what I said was that they were "fees," or "remuneration," and not salary. As hon. Members know, a fee is a thing to be given according as the Treasury may determine where a person has performed exceptional service or not. A salary is a fixed payment. I should have thought that there was a substantial distinction between the two terms.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.

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