§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £743,200 be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the charges which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1710, for the salaries and expenses of the Inland Revenue Department."
§ Mr. PHILIP SNOWDEN
I should like to enter a strong protest against the way in which this Vote is treated by the Government year after year. In every Session of the present Parliament the Customs and Inland Revenue Vote has been set down for such an occasion as this, when 1483 it is known that the attendance of Members would be very small. The Customs and Inland Revenue Vote is, I think, in many respects the most important of all the Votes that come before the House. The Customs and Inland Revenue Department are responsible for the assessment and collection of something like one hundred and twenty millions of revenue every year, so that in a very real sense they are the Government of this country. I do not think that the Government in not affording us adequate time to discuss this Vote are treating the House with the courtesy to which it is entitled, and certainly I—
§ Mr. JOSEPH PEASE
The Vote was put clown, having been chosen from among all the subjects from which we invited the Opposition to select for this day. In accordance with the practice, I put it down at their request.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
That simply spreads the responsibility but does not alter the gravamen or seriousness of the complaint. I do not relegate my responsibility as a Member of this House to the Front Opposition Bench, and I think other parts of this House have quite as much right to have their convenience considered as the convenience of Members of the Front Opposition Bench. I desire first to call attention to the remuneration of Old Age Pensions Officers, but before doing so I am reminded by seeing the Secretary to the Treasury alone representing the Department which is under consideration this afternoon, and, as has already been intimated, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be present. While I do not grudge the right hon. Gentleman the extension in view of the hard work behind hill: and in front of him, I think the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot be present this afternoon is another very strong reason why this Vote should not have been put down for consideration to-clay, because, without any disrespect to the Secretary of the Treasury, there are matters likely to be raised in the course of this discussion which are not altogether within his province. I now proceed to deal with a question that has been before the House previously and on which we were given very little satisfaction. I refer to the remuneration, or, to use the official term, the gratuity which has been given to the Pensions Officers for the work they have 1484 done in bringing into force the Old Age Pensions Act. When the Excise Officers were appointed to do this work they were informed—
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The Board of Inland Revenue are the responsible authority for the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act, and they have had the disbursements of those gratuities.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The Board of Inland Revenue are not responsible for the Old Age Pensions officers. They are under Customs and Excise.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
In reply to what the Secretary of the Treasury says, seeing that the Customs and Inland Revenue Departments are at present in a somewhat chaotic condition—
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
It is only for the purpose of conveniencing the Committee that the two Votes are placed before the House. It is only the Inland Revenue Vote that is under discussion to-day. The Board of Customs and Excise are entirely separate and distinct from the Board of Inland Revenue.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
There is another matter that you will permit me to deal with as coming under the Votes now before the House. I refer to the action of the Board of Inland Revenue in having fined certain of their officers for alleged breaches of official regulations in connection with the carrying out of the Old Age Pensions Act work. I think I would be in order in referring to that matter.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am very sorry to interrupt any hon. Member who desires to introduce any subject, but I have to keep to the rules of order. If those officers are not under the Inland Revenue, the question cannot arise here.
§ Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted; and forty Members being found present—
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
We were arguing the point as to whether I was entitled to deal with the fines imposed on certain officers.
1485 I understood we were now discussing the Inland Revenue Vote. The fining of those officers is, I submit, with respect, one distinctly within the Vote now under consideration. In reply to a question which I addressed to a Minister I was told that those fines had been imposed by the Board of Inland Revenue under certain authority over them of the Board of Inland Revenue.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Perhaps I may explain that in 1908 the Pensions Officers were under the Board of Inland Revenue and the Excise, which was one joint Department. On 1st April, 1707, the Excise, under which the Pensions Officers acted, was transferred to the Board of Customs and taken away from the Board of Inland Revenue. The Pensions Officers are now under the Board of Customs and Excise for all purposes, and they cannot be discussed in Estimates which deal only with the Inland Revenue.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I think the last part of his speech is a matter for the Chairman of the Committee to decide. Even if the Joint Board was formed, did the Joint Board take over responsibility for past misdeeds?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I submit you cannot discuss in the Estimates of the present year what took place on the Estimates of last year.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The question does arise, probably, on the Excise Vote, and the hon. Member must raise it under that Vote or else under the Old Age Pensions Vote. These officers being transferred from No. 2 Vote to No. 1, any question arising as regards them must be dealt with on No. 1 Vote or on the Old Age Pensions Vote. I should have thought under the Old Age Pensions Vote.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
May I ask for your ruling, Mr. Emmott? The hon. Member says that on a Vote for the forthcoming year the action of a Department on any matter which had arisen in the previous year cannot be discussed. Is it the case that any action, which was undoubtedly purely a matter for the Board of Inland Revenue in the past year, cannot be discussed on this Vote?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I submit that any action, which has taken place in the past year, cannot be put down for discussion on this Vote, if the officers concerned or Department concerned have been transferred to another Department. On the 1486 Customs and Excise Votes I shall have no objection to the hon. Member criticising the action of officers who are now transferred from the Inland Revenue to the Customs and Excise Department.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The hon. Member is now raising a new point. My point is that the hon. Member said a little while ago that we cannot discuss the past action of these Pensions Officers on this Vote. I want your ruling on that point, Mr. Emmott, if I may have it?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think I must have a more concrete case put before me. I certainly do not lay down any such general ruling as that which the hon. Member for Blackburn has attributed to the Secretary to the Treasury. But from what the Secretary to the Treasury now says, these officers who were under the Inland Revenue Department are now under the Customs and Excise Department, and, therefore, the matter does not apply to the Inland Revenue Department.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
My point is that these officers were not under the Customs and Excise Department at the time that these actions were committed. The Board of Inland Revenue alone having responsibility for what was done on that occasion, I want to indict the Board of Inland Revenue for art action which was entirely their own.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member wants to indict the Board of Inland Revenue for matters for which they are responsible, I think it would be better to hear his case before coming to any further decision.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I venture to submit that this is a matter for which the present Board of Inland Revenue are alone responsible. The matter very simply put is this. In the latter part of last year the Board of Inland Revenue inflicted fines of £10 on certain Pensions Officers for an alleged breach of what they said was a general order of the Department prohibiting the servants of the Department giving any informaion to the public. The matter arose in this wise. A Service newspaper in the latter part of September—to be precise 26th September—issued a notice inviting Pensions Officers to send in the number of claims which had been made in their respective districts. Something like ten of these Pensions Officers responded to the request, and sent in to the newspaper simply the number of claims received, 1487 without any particulars whatever. The very same day that this notice appeared in "The Civilian" newspaper—it having evidently come to the knowledge of the Board of Inland Revenue—a special circular was issued, and it bore the same date as toe date of the newspaper in which the request was made. This circular drew the attention of Pensions Officers to the general order of the Board of Inland Revenue prohibiting them from giving any information to the public which might be acquired in the course of their official duties. It must have been at least four or five days before the Pensions Officers had been made aware of this circular letter, because it had, in the first instance, to go to the collectors of Inland Revenue and then to the supervisors, and then to the officers, and, in the meantime, the Pensions Officers had actually given the information to the newspaper, and it appeared in the following issue of the paper, and at once the Board of Inland Revenue, exercising what I am told is their legal right, inflicted a penalty of £10 on each of these officers. In reply to questions I put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few weeks back, he stated that these officers had communicated this information to the Press, and that they had been expressly prohibited from so doing.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Do I understand the hon. Member to say that the Inland Revenue Department inflicted these fines?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Then I think the matter ought really to be discussed now, because otherwise objection might be taken, if it is brought up on another Vote, that the officials of the other Department were not responsible for the action complained of.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Thank, you, Mr. Emmott. In reply to a supplementary question, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the offences had been committed after the attention of the Pensions Officers had been specially drawn to the prohibition, and I followed that up with a further supplementary question, asking if he was perfectly sure he was correct in that statement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he was not perfectly sure, and he asked me to put a further question. I thought I would bring it up now. The Board of Inland Revenue issued that circular, dated 1488 26th September, but they did not issue the general order prohibiting this information to the Press until 22nd December It draws the attention of Pensions Officers to paragraph 57 of the Board's general instructions to supervisors and others, which lays down that:—They are not to communicate to the public Press any information derived titan official sources without the sanction of the Board.I quite agree that that is a very important rule, and I should be the very last man in the world to defend any intentional breach of a rule of that character. But these officers, in communicating this information, certainly did so innocently, and they did not think it was information which was not public property. Information, it was found, was given at ten stations altogether. Of course, the Board of inland Revenue had no difficulty in finding that Pensions Officers were stationed at each of those towns, and they were fined £10 each. At that time the Local Government Board and the Post Office were giving similar information to the Press—much more detailed information—and the heads of these Departments have never called their officials to book at all. Here I have a quotation from the "Eastern Daily Press" of 2nd January, in which the most detailed information, some afforded by an official of the Local Government Board, is given as to the pensions which had been paid to old people in the Eastern counties. The "Newcastle Chronicle" of the same date gives the exact number of the pensions granted in that city.
Now these Pensions Officers, out of salaries which are not large, have been fined £10. What makes this all the more ungracious is that this piece of despotism was inflicted at. a time when these men were working night and day in order to establish the Old Age Pensions Act upon a successful foundation. They have from those benches opposite been highly complimented on the way they have discharged that work. Repeated appeals have been made to the Board of Inland Revenue to remit these fines altogether or to reduce them. It is not only the officers directly concerned who feel very deeply aggrieved by the action of the Board of Inland Revenue, but it has caused deep and widespread indignation throughout the whole of the Revenue service. They come here in the hope of getting that justice which is denied them by the Parliamentary and Permanent Heads of the Department. That is all I want to say about that matter.
1489 There is another matter. It has reference to the issue of an Order in October last by the Board of Inland Revenue altering the conditions under which officers of the Inland Revenue may be called upon to retire from the service, Up to October 10th the superannuation of the Revenue officials had been governed by the Order issued on 18th June, 1877. That Order was not a long one. To make my point clear I would crave the indulgence of the Committee while I read a few sentences from it. The Order is signed by the then Secretary of the Board of Inland Revenue. It alludes to the Board having for some time had under consideration the policy of adopting some general regulation for retirement.
But I need not read that about the desirability of calling upon officers to retire at an early age. The point I wish to call the special attention of the Committee to is this:—That if the officer is called upon to retire at an earlier age he must have completed 40 years' service in order to entitle him to the full two-thirds of his salary as superannuation.That is repeated twice in the Order of June, 1877.
The purpose of that is this: that they are to be allowed to complete 40 years of service in order to get the full forty-sixtieths of their salary as pension. They must have the maximum salary of their class in order that they may get the maximum pension. These are the two points which I want the Committee to keep in mind, because they are both violated by the Order of last October and by the practice of the Board since that time. On 10th October last a very short Order was issued, signed by the Secretary of the Board of Inland Revenue. It reads this way:—The Board give notice that after the close of the current financial year, Excise officers of all ranks will he required to retire at the age of 61.That is to say, the age has been reduced from 65 to 61. Nothing is said in that Order about completing 40 years' service, and about reaching a maximum of salary.
The Board of Inland Revenue began to put the October Order into practice, and began to call upon officers who had completed 61 years of age to take their superannuation papers at once. That has inflicted a very great hardship in a great number of cases. The hon. Member the Secretary for the Treasury asked me a few moments back for the date of the question I put to the Chancellor of the 1490 Exchequer. I want to call his attention to a reply that he himself gave on 5th April. The matter was raised by one of the hon. Members who sits amongst the Irish Members. The Secretary of the Treasury on that occasion said:—Forty Inland Revenue officers and supervisors were retired on the 1st instant before they had completed 40 years' service. Only four of these officers had on that date served as much as 39 years and eight months, and none had served 39 years and nine months. In axing the actual retirement dates the Boards of Inland Revenue and Customs have allowed extensions not exceeding three months beyond 1st April in the case of officers 61 and over on that date, or beyond their sixty-first birthday, in the case of officers reaching 6l after the 1st April, in all cases where such extension would enable an officer to count either another year's service or another increment for pension.That—and the information from the supplementary questions I put—means this, that supposing an officer has completed 39 7–12th years' service, according to this he would be permitted to continue, whatever the age reached, for the necessary period in order to qualify for the maximum pension. I do not blame the hon. Gentleman for the information he gave the House, and which he was supplied with by the officials, but the main facts of the case, as he stated, are not correct. They are altogether at variance with the actual facts. I have here a mass of papers, but I can assure the hon. Member I am not going to read them. But I have here a reply from the Secretary of the cases where officers had to take their superannuation papers and whore they have lost from three to nine months' service. Here is an officer with 39 8–12ths years' service, another with 39 5–12ths, another 39 9–12ths, another 38 6–12ths, and so on, and in some of these eases the pensions should have run to £6 or £7 a year more. These refer to one district alone. I have a list for places in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
This is a matter which is exciting a good deal of dissatisfaction through the Inland Revenue service at the present time. I am asking, and I think it is a. very reasonable request, that officers should be allowed to complete their 40 years of service. These officers entered the service on the distinct understanding that they should be allowed to complete 40 years of service. I have read the Order of 1877. in which it is specially laid down that they are not to be superannuated unless they have conformed to the conditions, namely, that they have completed 40 years of service and reached the maximum salary. I want to appeal therefore to the hon. Gentleman that the present practice of the Board of Customs and Excise in regard to this matter should be changed, 1491 and that those old men should be allowed to complete their years of service. Some of them are by no means old. I have letters here written in a fine, bold handwriting, in which they complain, and rightly complain, of being called upon to retire and accept their superannuation at a time when they are as vigorous and as clear-headed as ever they were in their lives. Therefore, unless there are very strong reasons, such as mental or physical decline and decay, I think it would be not only a good but a just thing if the Commissioners of Customs and Excise enabled these men to complete their 40 years of service. I think it is a very serious matter. These are the only two matters I wish to raise, though I have very grave doubts whether another opportunity will be given again this Session for raising these and similar matters. There is perhaps one other point upon which I should be in order in bringing to the attention of the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary. When speaking upon this Vote 12 months ago I dealt at considerable length with the question of salaries. For the past 25 years no change has ever taken place in the scale of salaries of officers of Inland Revenue, and during a great part of that time a very vigorous agitation has been going on for revision; a, similar agitation has been going on in the Customs service. I quite recognise that now that the two services are going to be amalgamated it will be impossible that there should be any piecemeal revision of salaries, but the point which I wish to bring forward is this: There is a Committee sitting, I understand, to consider the question whether the two Departments should not be amalgamated, and that Committee must of necessity take into consideration the question of salaries. The Customs and the Excise, I understand, are for the future to be interchangeable. The two services are going to be fused for all practical purposes. and therefore it would be quite impossible to maintain the disparity in the different salaries of different officers formerly attached to the Customs and those attached to the Excise.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Order, order. Surely that question does not arise. The question of Excise officers arises on Vote No. 1. The difficulty arises from the matter being in a transition stage, and will probably not recur.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I bow to your ruling, Sir, and I shall confine myself to the two points which I have already brought forward, and upon which I wish to ask the Financial Secretary to give me a reply. These points are the fining of the Pensions Officers and compulsory retirements of officers who have not completed their 40 years of service. I hope in regard to both of these matters the hon. Gentleman will be able to give me a satisfactory answer, and I hope that if he can he will do something to bring a little more contentment to the service, which at the present time is seething with discontent and dissatisfaction.
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
I desire as an old Civil servant to support one part of the subject which has been brought forward by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden). I followed your ruling, Mr. Emmott, with great care, and I understand I am in order in discussing superannuation and compulsory retirement before the 40 years' service is completed. I had a letter this morning from one of my own constituents—an officer who entered the service in August, 1869, and was compulsorily retired in April, 1909, and therefore was only four months short of having completed his full 40 years of service.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Is this a question of an Excise officer or an Inland Revenue officer If it is a question of an Inland Revenue officer it is in order on this Vote, but if it is a question of an Excise officer that arises on Vote 1, it is, therefore, out of order on this Vote.
Mr. F. A. N. NEWDEGATE
With regard to the question of compulsory retirement of officers, I desire to say that in the Constituency which I represent there is a very strong feeling in regard to this practice and about the order which has been issued making those officers retire before they have completed their 40 years of service. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) has said, and, as I think, perfectly accurately, with all due deference to the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary for the Treasury, that in 1877 the retirement age of the service was reduced to 62 years, conditionally that the officials had completed 40 years' service and that the maximum salary of their class had been reached. In 1908 the Board of Inland 1493 Revenue compelled the officials to retire at 61, because of these previous conditions. The result is that these men when they are compelled to retire are full of work and thoroughly well able to do their duty. They are only paid upon their completed service, calculated, as I Understand, at one-sixtieth of their last year's salary over a period of 40 years; that is to say, if they serve 40 years they get forty-sixtieths of the last year's salary. Let me take a concrete case. An official with a salary of £400 a year loses for life, if he has not completed the full 40 years, the sum of £6 13s. 4d. per annum, which is a matter of very considerable importance to those officers. In a few cases in which three months only require to run to complete the 40 years' service, the officers were allowed to serve the extra three months in order to get the full pension, but in one case, in which I was informed that three months and three weeks was required, the officer was not allowed, and, therefore, three months' and three weeks' less service of 40 years to this man meant that he lost for life £6 13s 4d. per annum. I venture to say that that is a hardship, and I hope the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will see that it is redressed. I assure him that a very important and influential deputation waited upon me the other day—and I am quite sure other hon. Members have had similar deputations—to report their grievances. I do not know whether I am in order in mentioning it, but there is a very strong feeling about the subsistence allowance not being adequate. By recent legislation officers are only allowed money for their food if they are eight hours away from home. Of course that goes very hard upon officers in country districts, and this same deputation represented to me that it would be only fair and just that the eight hours should be reduced to five hours. Very often an officer has to be away from home for a period of five hours, and surely he cannot be expected to go without food for that time, and in country districts it is often impossible for him to get home to his own house in order to procure refreshment. I venture to bring this fact to the attention of the hon. Gentleman. I believe I would not be in order in mentioning the very great hardships and grievances the Pensions Officers consider they are suffering under in not having been adequately remunerated for the hard work in which they were engaged when bringing the Old Age Pensions scheme into operation.
I regret that I am not able to bring this question before the Committee, but at some future stage I will try to do so. I can assure the Government there is a strong feeling that these officers have not been adequately remunerated for the immense amount of service they put in to bring into operation the one asset of the present Government.
§ Mr. F. W. VERNEY
I should like to know under what authority these fines have been imposed. I know cases where the officers had not the remotest idea that they were transgressing any rules, and what I want to know is under what authority have those fines of £10 been imposed, and whether they are fines by way of a reduction of salary7 I hope the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will give this question a well-considered reply. I am certain it is a matter which has aroused a great deal of public interest, and it should be considered as a public matter and not in any sense as a Departmental secret. I cannot conceive anything which could be more harmless than to give to the public this information, and it is necessary that it should be given correctly by those officials who know the facts. I am sure the present Government would' be the last Government in the world to wish to conceal facts from the knowledge of the public, and even if this rule does exist, I hope it may in the near future either be relaxed or abolished, because this is a matter upon which it is important that the public should be continually informed as to the correct figures.
§ Sir H. J. S. COTTON
I wish to associate myself with the appeal which has been made to the Government by my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Snowden). Some of my Constituents are members of the Inland Revenue Department, and they have appealed to me on this question as an old member of the Civil Service. I think they were amply justified in assuming that their complaint would receive sympathetic consideration. I think this fine of £10 for communicating statistical information of general interest to the public is singularly harsh, and in the whole course of my experience as a Civil servant I can recall no parallel case. I can conceive of no turpitude or any impropriety in the action of those officials. Although I am as great a stickler for official rules and official subordination as any hon.
1495 Member of "this House, I fully recognise that harsh procedure of this kind is bound to create a disaffected service, because it is resented by all the officials in that particular Department. I can assure the hon. Member who represents the Government that there is a very strong feeling on this subject and much discontent, and for my part I must say that this feeling has my complete sympathy.
§ Mr. A. LEVY LEVER
I rise with great diffidence to press for more money from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I feel that even a Chancellor of the Exchequer who is pledged to economy and retrenchment would refrain from doing an injustice to any Department of the Civil Service. The Inland Revenue officers have a very great grievance, and the particular point I especially refer to is the one which has been raised by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden). There is another reason why I approach this subject with diffidence, and it is because I deplore that any question of the remuneration of civil servants should enter the political arena and be discussed across the floor of the House of Commons. I hope the time is not far distant when these matters of pay, status, and treatment of civil servants will be referred to a Committee, who will be able to deal with them in an unbiassed and independent manner. The grievances of the Inland Revenue officers are so pronounced and so well founded that I have no hesitation in adding my voice to the appeal which has been -made to the Financial Secretary to the 'Treasury, and I do so because I feel that if this state of unrest is allowed to continue it must mean a less efficient, less vigorous, and less energetic execution of the duties of these officers, which must militate in the long run against the interests of the National Exchequer. The question which the hon. Member for Blackburn has raised is one upon which I should have liked to have brought forward fresh proof in testimony of what he has said. I have had a great many letters sent to me, on this subject, but not being aware that the question was coming forward to-day I have not brought them with me, and consequently I am not able to put my hands upon them at this moment. There is no disguising the fact that retirement at the age of 61 instead of 62 is causing a very great hardship, because some officers are unable to complete 40 years' service, 1496 with the result that the full superannuation grant will not be earned. In many cases this means a dislocation of their domestic arrangements, because their small means are not such as would allow them to make adequate provision for the future. I think civil servants ought to be able to look to the terms and conditions upon which they joined the service being faithfully carried out just as would be the case in any other sphere of life, and I appeal to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to take these facts into his serious consideration, and to refer to the Committee appointed to inquire into the amalgamation of the Customs and Excise Departments this question of the pay and remuneration of these officers.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. C. E. Hobhouse)
, who was indistinctly heard in the Gallery, was understood to say: The hon. Gentleman who initiated this debate will forgive me if I say that it was a pity that he did not give me notice of his intention to raise this question. As I have pointed out before to the Committee, the control of the Excise officers has been transferred to the Customs Department, and it is impossible at a very short notice—I think not more than 40 minutes—to get into touch with the Customs Department, which is not under discussion, and with those officials who have now the custody of the papers which relate to this Debate, and access to which will alone enable me off-hand to give a full and complete explanation of all the circumstances connected with the matters to which the hon. Gentleman has called the attention of the Committee. But I should like to draw the particular attention of the Committee to a question to which the hon. Gentleman has made reference. On 24th February last a question was put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by an Irish Member—I think by an hon. Gentleman who represented one of the Divisions of Dublin. The hon. Gentleman in his remarks indicated, and I think he desired the Committee to understand, that the officers did impart to the newspapers certain information at a time previous to attention having been drawn by the Department to the fact that the figures should be considered confidential. That is not in accordance with the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to the hon. Member for Newry. My right hon. Friend pointed out that it was a serious matter from a disc), 1497 plinary point of view, because these communications were made to the Press before the second circular had reached him.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Was not that the occasion on which a supplementary question was put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Yes, there was a supplementary question put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackburn. It was said by my right hon. Friend that the offence was committed after the officers had been informed by the authorities that they must not do what they did. My right hon. Friend, according to my recollection, told the hon. Member that if he would put down a question he would inquire into the matter. The communications were made to the Press not in anticipation of a circular, which had not reached them, but after the circular of 26th September had reached them. My right hon. Friend, in answer to the Member for Newry, said—I think the Committee should hear it— "Two circulars had been addressed to them, and the offence was committed by them immediately after the receipt of the second circular, though their attention was specifically drawn to the fact that no communications to the Press were to be made."
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Was that the occasion on Which I put a supplementary question, and as to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed a doubt as to its accuracy?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
There was a supplementary question which is rather germane to our discussion. My right hon. Friend stated that "the offence was committed after the officers were informed—" Then the hon. Member asked," Is he perfectly sure he is correct? "and the reply was, "My recollection is what I have stated. If the hon. Member will put down a question I will further inquire into the matter." It is rather singular he has not put down a question after the lapse of six weeks or two months.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
On the 5th of April. This illustrates precisely and exactly the inconvenience of the course which the hon. Gentleman has adopted. I think it would have been extremely interesting had we been able to get a statement from my right hon. Friend after his very careful examina- 1498 tion. I find that I am not in a position to give to the Committee those facts owing to the difficulties—the technical difficulties—which I have already mentioned. Passing away from the minuter aspects of the case, the facts really are, as I think the hon. Gentleman knows, that the officers were well aware that fines were inflicted on the authority of the Board of Inland Revenue. They were properly and legally inflicted, and a deduction of £10 was made in consequence. It would be perfectly impossible to maintain discipline in a large force,. numbering 7,000 men, if punishments of this sort, inflicted most reluctantly and unwillingly upon a very deserving class of officers, were not in the cases of these few men—I think not more than ten or twelve altogether—who did commit a breach of discipline and confidence—were not enforced and subsequently maintained. You have to inflict either pecuniary fines or disciplinary punishment upon officers who in other respects are deserving, who are capable officers who have done capable. work for the State. It is not pleasant for the head of any Department to have to do. this, and I know it was with great reluctance that the Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue proceeded, as he felt bound to do, in support of the authority of the Department of which he is the head.
§ Sir HENRY COTTON
May I ask whether there is not a standing rule that fines are not to be inflicted by the head of the Department?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Not only is there no, standing rule, but the head of the Department is supreme in a matter of this sort. As I said, it was with reluctance that the-fines were inflicted, and they were inflicted. for the sake of the discipline of the Department. My right hon. Friend at the time saw no possibility of reducing or remitting the fines. The hon. Gentleman has also raised the question of the revision of salaries. As he very truly stated, the two Departments of the Customs and Excise are in course of amalgamation, and until that amalgamation is complete, and the two establishments dovetailed into each other, it is perfectly impossible in any way to announce what the salaries of individual members or even of a class shall be in the future. It is for that reason that my right hon. Friend appointed a Committee, of which I am chairman, to go fully into the question, and until that Committee has reported, as I hope it will shortly, I can make no pronouncement as to the salaries 1499 which it may or may not be necessary to enforce. Then the same hon. Gentleman raised a question with regard to the retirement of Revenue officers. It is perfectly true that in June, 1877, a circular was issued saying that the age of retirement would be 62, but it has always been not merely held to be so, but actually competent for the head of a Department to retire any member of the Civil Service who is serving under his authority at any age and at any time he likes. The extreme limit of age has been fixed at 65, and 60 is the age when the Civil servant himself can claim to go on pension if he wishes; but there has always been the power in every Department, and I imagine it is exercised by great corporate bodies like the London County Council, for the head of the Department to retire members at an earlier age, and the age which the Board of Inland Revenue has fixed for present purposes is 61.
Was it not specifically laid down in the Order of 1877 that these people would not be retired unless they had completed 40 years' service, and unless they had reached the maximum salary of the class to which they belonged, providing they were good and efficient officers?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
It must rest with the head of the Department to decide whether they are good and efficient officers, and it rests with the head of the Department to alter within the limits of 65 the age at which Civil servants may be retired if he thinks necessary. I do not say for one moment that the Order of 1877 is not as my hon. Friend has put it, but it is perfectly possible, and I think quite proper, that the terms of that Order should be varied later as that Order itself varied earlier terms. I really do not think the Committee has done full justice to the consideration shown, once the policy was accepted, to individual members of the Civil Service who were retired under the terms of that Order. The hon. Member for Blackburn did not lay quite enough stress upon the words of the Order, "Retirement after the close of the current year." The Order was issued at the beginning of October, 1708. That therefore gave the Civil servants concerned practically six months' notice. It gave them more than that. I should like to refer to the terms of my answer to a question by the hon. Member for Newry.
1500 I said, in answer to him, that in fixing the actual retirement age the Board of Inland Revenue, Customs, had allowed extensions not exceeding three months beyond the 1st April, 1701, in the case of officers of 61 years and over, so that they gave them six months' notice of the intention of retirement, and then three months' extension of time beyond that in the case of officers reaching 61 after 1st April. An officer, therefore, was able to count on for a year's service or another increment of pay as an extension of his pension. I really think, therefore, that retiring officers were given, I will not say exceptionally or unreasonably good terms, but I think they were treated very fairly, and their claims for extra pension were met very fully by the retirement Order of October. Those were the three points which were raised by the hon. Gentleman in the course of the Debate. I shall only acid one word in reply to the opening sentence of the hon. Member for Blackburn, in which he rather complained of the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. During the considerable number of years that I have been in the House I do not remember any debates on the Inland or Customs Revenue Votes in which the presence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was more than accidental and passing. The Debate has invariably been conducted by the Financial Secretary of the day, and the absence of my right hon. Friend is no act of intentional or even accidental discourtesy to the Committee, but the practice he has followed of being absent is a practice almost traditional.
§ Mr. PEEL
There is one point I should like to raise on the statement of the hon. Member opposite. He complained of the difficulty of dealing with the situation at the present moment because of the Papers having been sent to a different office. That may be so, but I think it is hardly satisfactory to hon. Members who wish to deal with these matters, and wish to get an answer. Will there be any other opportunity of dealing with these points? It is quite obvious that the answer of the hon. Member has not been so well informed as it would have been if he had been able to inform himself, and I should really like to know whether there will be an opportunity later of going into these two points in order that we may have some fuller statement. Let me say one word about the penalties inflicted. I am bound to say I think the case is a hard one, and I think further it is quite possible the hon. 1501 Member may have made a mistake about the dates upon which the whole question turns.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
It really does not turn entirely upon the circulars at all. There are general instructions not relating to any one particular occasion; there are general instructions which forbid officers of the Inland Revenue communicating news which they have received from official sources either to the public or to the Press, and, quite apart from the circulars referring to this particular case, they were infringing, and they ought to have known they were infringing, not particular but general instructions when they communicated to the Press facts which came to their knowledge from official sources.
§ Mr. PEEL
I will leave for the moment this general point, because I want to deal with the more specific points raised. The lion. Member told us that the matter had not been fully represented by the lion. Member for Blackburn. He said there was one circular, whereas the hon. Member opposite said there were two circulars. There is a point to be considered there, and it turns upon the dates. There were not two circulars, but a letter and a circular. On 26th September a letter was sent not to all the officers, but to the collectors, and by them to the supervisors, who again advised the officials under them. It was at the beginning of October that this information was given to the Press, and I think the hon. Member is quite right in stating that it is possible, and in fact probable, that these instructions filtered down to the lower ranks of the Service. It is quite true also that there was a circular issued, but it was not issued till December, and could therefore have nothing to do with the communication of this matter to the Press. I think, therefore, that when the hon. Member says there are two circulars he is wrong. One was a letter and one was a circular. The circular was issued in December, two months afterwards, and could therefore have nothing whatever to do with the matter at all. There is no allegation of these officers having received money for the information they gave, although there is, of course, this general obligation resting upon them not to disclose matters of importance which come to them officially. I cannot help thinking that possibly in this case they had some cause for transgression in the fact that this information was being given in other parts of 1502 the country. It was a matter of general knowledge and interest at that time, and no one could really imagine there was any reason why the public service should suffer from information of that kind being disseminated. I rather dislike discussing here matters of discipline, but I cannot help thinking that in this case it was perhaps hard to have exacted a very full penalty of this kind for what was really a formal offence. I think perhaps the hon. Member might reconsider the fines inflicted in view of the facts I have stated, and especially as the second circular was not issued till December, two months after the offence was committed.
§ Mr. BOULTON
The hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury stated in the course of his remarks that the question of salaries would not be investigated by the Committee over which he was presiding. I desire to appeal to him to reconsider that decision. It appears to me that the present would be a very suitable time for the Committee to go into the question of the salaries of these officers. A union of these two branches of the Service is being brought about in order that more efficiency may be attained in the Department and in view of the new work which will be laid upon these officers. There is no question that a great deal of extra work is going to be given to these officials to carry out, and surely, when a union of the two branches of the Service is being effected, it is a proper time to consider the question of their salaries. I would appeal to him on this point.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Emmott)
Is the hon. Member dealing with Customs and Excise, because he is not in order on this Vote in doing so?
§ Mr. BOULTON
I was only, Mr. Emmott, dealing with the point raised by the Secretary to the Treasury, when he dealt with the inquiries of the Committee over which he is presiding, and said it would not consider the salaries of the officials of the two branches of the Service. I understand that there is going to be a fusion of the two branches, and I will ask him whether he will reconsider the question and take into account the extra work which will be entailed on these officials and enlarge the scope of the inquiry so as to take evidence on this question, investigate the salaries, and make a Report.
Mr. W. W. RUHERFORD
I think the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the 1503 Treasury has rather misunderstood the complaint. which is made by numerous classes in the Civil Service, and which has been referred to, in the course of this Debate, with regard to orders being issued which limit their terms of service, and which, in -the case of the particular order referred to, has the effect of inflicting considerable injustice. From the point of view of a large number of Civil servants who happen to be 60 years of age, the point of the complaint is really this. They admit that undoubtedly the Department has the full right from time to time to alter the conditions of service, and to issue orders, but it is considered in the Service generally that these orders ought simply to be applicable to the new men joining the Service, and that all those who have joined the Service of the State, under a given set of conditions, are reasonably entitled to have those conditions carried out on which they joined the Service. They say that it is to late in the case of a man who has been 15 or 20 years in the Service, and who has gone into it on the footing equivalent to his not retiring before 62—it is too late to tell him when he is 57 that the terms of his service are altered, and that he must retire at 61. It is felt that in such cases it is no answer on the part of the Treasury to say: "Oh, we have got the power to retire any given individual at any time." Of course, we all know that every public Department has got servants whom they do not consider when they have passed 55 years of age to be really efficient from the point of view of health or giving way of faculties, or anything of that kind, and equally, of course, we know that they have the right to retire a man in that position. These men consider, however, that a general statement of that kind is no reply to their complaint, and they think that they suffer from very great hardship indeed if, when they join they were fully justified by the terms under which they joined, to consider that they could go on to 62, and under a subsequent. change they have to retire earlier. The substantial claim, therefore, of all branches of the Civil Service is, that when the terms are altered from time to time, the new terms should only apply to new men corning into the Service. With regard to the other point, I think the Committee will agree that for any public servant in the Inland Revenue to divulge any private information which may affect individuals with regard to their income, with regard to the abatement they are claiming, or with 1504 regard to any matters of that sort, would be fatal to such a man continuing in the Service.
It ought to be laid down in the strongest possible manner that public servants of this description must be reticent and careful, and must not be allowed to give to the public or the Press information of a private character of any sort or description touching their service. But what is this particular complaint? What is the basis upon which these men have been fined? They have been fined simply for imparting probably to reporters, who may possibly be dodging about to catch them at odd moments, and saying: "How many claimants have you had?" simply because some of them, probably in a careless moment, allowed themselves to say that they had had 180 claims, ant for furnishing figures like that I understand that these men have been fined in this extremely hard and heavy way. It is clear, at any rate, with regard to the subordinate men in the Service, that they had not received any caution. As a matter of fact, in one or two cases which have come to my knowledge, it is admitted that nothing in the nature of a letter or circular has filtered down through their superiors to these men before the information was given. There was great interest on the part of the public all over the Kingdom to know generally how this old age pensions business was getting on. People wanted to know, if the Post Office got 200 or 300 applicants, or two or three thousand applicants in particular places, and what was likely to be the general position, and for a subordinate official, who casually had that information in his custody, to allow himself to make it public, certainly was an act of indiscretion, and if he had been cautioned that general information of that sort ought not to be given, I can understand his being fined a heavy sum and made an example of, though that is really-not a class of information which makes it a very serious offence. But in this case it was a matter of general interest to know the particulars of this old age pensions scheme, and I join with those hon. Members who have appealed to the Treasury in the circumstances not to take such a harsh and extreme view of the position as to press these fines to the full extent, as they seem to have decided to do. Some of us came here to-day prepared to refer to the two Votes, as it was understood that they would have been taken together, but I understand it would be entirely out of-order to refer to the Customs.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Yes, certainly it would be out of order. I am very sorry that the two Votes are not put down, but they are not, and I cannot allow them both to be discussed.
§ Mr. W. W. RUTHERFORD
As they have not been put down, I do not know whether I should be in order in appealing to the Secretary to the Treasury. Seeing that the matter would not take very long, as the discussion on the particular Vote now before the Committee is nearly at an end, I would appeal to the Secretary to the Treasury to allow the Customs Vote to be discussed, because it is included in the Orders of the Day, although it is not included in the Motion. Is there no power which would enable us to raise further questions upon that Vote to-day, because there was a general understanding in the House, although I do not suggest that any understanding has been broken—there was a general understanding that we were going to have the Customs Vote as well as the other Vote put down.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I had hoped, when the Secretary to the Treasury began his reply by saying that he had not got the materials to answer the question, that we should have had a non-committal answer from him on these two points brought up by the hon. Member for Blackburn, and I am very sorry that, in spite of his not having the material, he replied by a direct negative to the appeal made from both sides of the Committee. I do think that this reply of the Treasury to the fining of these Revenue officers for imparting information to a Service paper is really most unsatisfactory.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I do not wish to interrupt. I do not like being interrupted myself, and I do not like to interrupt other lion. Members, but perhaps it may shorten the discussion, and shorten the speech which the hon. Member desires to make to the Committee, if I state again that I had an opportunity myself of actually consulting high officers of the Inland Revenue. and they themselves investigated cases of fines, and a high official who I had the opportunity of consulting assured me that in every case which he had investigated, and in which a fine was inflicted, the fine was not inflicted until the officer himself confessed that he had seen the second circular, and that he knew perfectly well what the instructions of the Board of Inland Revenue were, and that he should not communicate this information.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I do not think it is a question of date. It is a question of whether or not, as I understood my hon. Friend, these officers contravened instructions of which they were aware, or ignored them.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
No; the point just now is this: What does the hon. Member mean by the second circular?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
If I used the words "second circular," I may have done so by inadvertence, but what I wished to convey was this, that the officers had got, before they communicated particulars, the different instructions from the Board of Inland Revenue, and in the case of the particular officers to whom I referred they admitted that they had seen the instructions of the Board of Inland Revenue; but notwithstanding those instructions, they disobeyed them, and communicated with the Press.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I understand the hon. entleman draws a distinction between "instruction" and "circular."
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
That interruption is exactly the point I wish to make, viz., whether these ten people who were fined for sending information to the Press were afforded any opportunity of defending themselves, because the whole dispute centres round the question of the date of the appeal by the service newspaper (26th September) for this information. On 26th September, it seems, that appeal was issued, and on the same day the circular was sent out by the Government Office asking Civil servants not to communicate the information to the Press. Anyone who has any knowledge of public offices will know that between the printing of the circular and the issue a considerable period would be allowed to elapse. It would be very unfair, therefore, if the people who received that circular first, and who were enabled by the receipt of that circular to cancel the information. 1507 which they were about to send in to this Service paper, should escape the fine, while the people who did not get the circular till later were not able to stop the information which they were sending in, and were fined. Of course, as the Secretary to the Treasury said, if these people were asked, and if they had this letter or circular which was sent out on 26th September before they sent in their information to the newspaper, then I admit that they have no case to stand upon at all. But if the circular was later than 26th September—the reminder of the universal rule—after these unfortunate ten had sent in these harmless figures, they have a very hard case, and some grace might be allowed them from the Treasury.
So far as the question of the new rule as to superannuation is concerned, surely there the issue is perfectly plain. As a rule I am entirely with the bureaucracy, and am anxious that we should retain full power to sack people whenever we want to get rid of them. But having issued that circular of 1877 stating clearly and distinctly the contract under which people in the service were to serve, namely, that they would be retired at 62, you are committing an absolute breach of contract with your servants when you make it 61.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I interrupt for the purpose of giving satisfaction, I hope. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) has not quoted the concluding words of the circular, which are all important. They are:—The Board reserves for future consideration the question of further reduction to 61 or 60 of the age for compulsory retirement. No change will be made without due notice being given.So the members of the Service were informed that a further reduction was Possible, and six months' notice has been given besides the further consideration of which I have already spoken.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
That seems to be perfectly satisfactory as long as no exceptions are made, and some people are allowed to complete their three, four, or five months, so as to complete their full service, and others are not.
§ Mr. SUMMERBELL
Like the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rutherford) I came for the purpose of discussing the Customs Vote. I do not know whether it is within the province to ask the hon. Gentleman to make a definite reply. I 1508 understand the Revenue Votes were put down by agreement with the official Opposition, but I am told that was a misunderstanding. I should like to have a definite statement as to whether that is so or not?
§ The CHAIRMAN
This has nothing to do with the Vote. Whether there is a misunderstanding or not we can only take the Votes of which effective notice has been given.
§ The PATRONAGE SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Joseph Pease)
Perhaps I might be allowed to deal with the last point to this extent. The Vote was put down at the request of the official Opposition, and I approached the Leader of the Labour party and informed him of the intention to put down the Revenue Vote. I should have been very ready to respond to any invitation from any quarter of the House to put down any other Vote second on the Order Paper, but no representation was made to me. The Revenue Votes were alone put down as they were, the only ones applied for by the official Opposition. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Peel) asks whether a further opportunity could be given to raise this question, owing to the fact that we are Debating this subject in the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is really responsible for the administration which has been criticised this afternoon.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
What I said was that it would have been to the convenience of the House if the hon. Member for Blackburn had given me notice that he was going to raise the point, because then could have got the papers, which it is not easy to get at a moment's notice. I made no complaint. The hon. Gentleman is under no obligation to give notice. I thought it would be for his convenience and the convenience of the Committee had notice been given. The information, which I have been able to convey to the Committee, has, I hope, been satisfactory.
§ Mr. PEASE
In the event of there being any strong desire to raise this Question on a subsequent occasion the Government would be quite prepared on any of the allotted days to meet the wishes of the 1509 House in regard to putting down the Report stage of the Vote, and a subsequent opportunity will then be afforded of dealing with the matter more fully.
§ Mr. C. B. STUART-WORTLEY
The Government appear to be taking up a rather wooden attitude on the Question, and failing to draw some distinctions, which might properly be drawn in the various cases. The Financial Secretary tells us there is one or more cases in which the incriminated officer confesses to having done this particular thing after having had his attention specifically drawn to the fact that it was a thing he ought not to do. On the other hand, there seems to be a certain conflict of testimony as regards the other cases. It is perfectly clear that if the Commissioners of the Inland Revenue—and it is their conduct which is in dispute upon this Vote—were wrong in the facts, they ought, I think, to have made some kind of distinction between the flagrant cases on the one hand and the less flagrant cases on the other, and ought not to apply a rigid rule, in what seems to be a very severe form, with strict equality in all cases. It is very unfortunate that we do not quite know the facts, because the facts are so very material. The hon. Gentleman naturally says there is a general rule prohibiting communications to the Press. I am very glad to hear it is a general rule. The very existence of the circular rather points to the fact that the rule has fallen into desuetude. That is not probably the fault of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue at all, but it may have been the fact that hardship may have been occasioned in some of these cases if it was true that some of these officers believed that any rule there had ever been had fallen into desuetude and might be safely disregarded. It will he admitted that that would be a different case from the case of a man who in defiance of superior authority resorted to this very objectionable proceeding of communicating information to the Press. I hope there will be some future opportunity when the Financial Secretary has had an opportunity, which he has not had to-day, of making himself further acquainted with the exact sequence of events in relation to each other, without which we are debating this matter with insufficient information.
§ Mr. SUMMERBELL
After the statement of the hon. Gentleman I am more surprised than I was before. However, I rise principally to say a few words in support of the hon. Member for Blackburn in 1510 regard to this matter. I consider the statement of the Financial Secretary far from satisfactory, particularly the second statement. It may be perfectly true that these men did know in a general way that they were not to impart official information, but I think all the circumstances ought to be taken into consideration. It was a new Act, everyone was anxious for information, and information was being imparted by the post offices up and down the country. Almost in every town you could get to know the day after the number of claims that had been made at the branch offices and general post offices. In these circumstances to inflict the fine which has been inflicted is unjust and very harsh. It is not assumed for a moment by any Member of the Committee that these men imparted information in order to receive any reward. That being the case, I hope the Financial Secretary will yet give a promise to the Committee that the cases of these men shall be reconsidered. If not there is only one course to adopt, for I feel just as strongly as those who have spoken that the men have been harshly treated. The only course to adopt is to carry the matter to a Division. I do not think the Government ought to permit such a proceeding in face of all the circumstances. If the Financial Secretary cannot tell the House about the second circular, if he cannot impart the fullest knowledge to the Committee, he ought not to be so dogmatic as he is to-day, and practically state that the fines have been inflicted, that they have to remain, and that the matter will not be reconsidered by the Government. So far as I am concerned personally, I shall enter my protest in the most forcible manner I can, namely, by opposing the Vote unless a more satisfactory assurance is given by the Financial Secretary in regard to the reconsideration of the cases of these men.
§ Mr. A. J. SHERWELL
I rise for the purpose of dissociating myself from the view which has been so freely suggested on this and the other side of the House that offences of this character can lightly be disregarded by the Permanent Heads of the Departments. No one disputes the interesting character of the information which was divulged, but the only arguments put forward in defence of the officers is that the offence was a small one, and that it had relation to the information which was of general interest, and the divulgence of which could not cause very much harm. But the implicit suggestion 1511 of that argument is that the officer himself is to discriminate as between the various items of information, and that an item of information, the divulgence of which would, in his judgment, be harmless, may be divulged in open and deliberate contravention of instructions which he has received. I do not think the technical question of whether a certain instruction was a circular or was a general instruction really is of vital importance in this discussion. There is no dispute concerning the essential facts, and every officer in the Civil Service, and notably these officers, is perfectly well aware that he is exceeding his duty and privilege in divulging information of any kind, and the fact that the particular information might be divulged without causing serious public inconvenience is really not germane to the argument at all. I sincerely deprecate the position in which Members of the House are increasingly being placed by being made the mouthpieces of grievances which, in my estimation, are not proper subjects for discussion in this House. I hope sincerely that the effect of this, as of previous discussions of this character, will be to give emphasis to the suggestion that the time may shortly come when some Standing Committee or other authority may be appointed to deal with complaints of this kind, which are becoming rather offensive, and encroach considerably on the time of Members of the House. If this matter is to be carried to a Division I shall unhesitatingly support the Government.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The Secretary to the Treasury must be extremely grateful to the hon. Member, for he has provided him with the only grain of comfort he has received in the course of this Debate, in which nearly a score of Members have spoken in opposition to the action of the Department. It has been stated by a number of hon. Members that the whole matter centres round the date of the instructions which were given to the Pensions Officers. The Secretary to the Treasury attempted to make a point of the fact that I did not respond to the application of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to put a further question as to the accuracy of a statement he made to the House. If the Secretary to the Treasury will refer to "Hansard" he will find that I spoke in this House on 1st March this year, and then I gave the dates not only of the circular, but of the subsequent general order, and the facts that I 1512 stated on that occasion were not challenged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I shall give to the Committee the actual facts, and I am prepared to pledge my word for their absolute accuracy in every detail. It is perfectly true that there is in the general instruction given to the officers of Inland Revenue a prohibition against giving information to the public. That is part of the general instructions governing the work of all the officers of the Department. It is the duty of every officer to be acquainted with that regulation. That I am quite prepared to admit. The 26th September was the date on which the information appeared in the Service newspaper, and that is the date of the circular letter. That general letter dated 26th September is the one in which the Commissioners of Inland Revenue called attention to the paragraph in the general instructions. It is utterly impossible that these officers could at the time they sent the information to the newspaper have been made acquainted with the contents of the circular. An officer would not get it at the very earliest until Monday morning, and, although it is dated 26th September, we do not know whether it was sent out on that date, because as a matter of fact such letters are often delayed for days before being posted to their intended destination. It would have to be sent by the supervisors in the different districts to the officers. One of the stations where an officer was fined is Loch Carron in Ross-shire. Now, it is a physical impossibility that the officer of that station could have become acquainted with the contents of the circular on 26th September. The information appeared in the Service paper in the following week, and as it goes to press on the Thursday evening, we might safely assume that it had received the information by that day. I think there is sufficient evidence to prove at least the strong possibility that no one of these officers was in possession of the information at the time of sending of the facts to the paper. May I be allowed to say that I think the information recently sent to the hon. Gentleman by some permanent official referred, not to the circular issued on 26th September, but to the request as to whether the officers were aware of the paragraph in the general instructions? I think it is of importance to take notice of this. If the Board of Inland Revenue thought the paragraph in the general instructions covered the pension work, why did they consider it necessary to issue the circular of 26th September? And if they 1513 considered that the circular of that date met the whole case, why did they consider it necessary to issue a special general order? These are points which seem to prove first that the Commissioners of Inland Revenue had doubt in their minds whether the paragraph did cover the pension work. The general order was issued on 26th September, and these are the only two circulars that have been issued. If it be desirable to have such regulations—I think we all admit that it is—why should it apply only to one part of the public service. If it is a serious thing for officers of the Inland Revenue to divulge information, is it not equally serious for the officers of the Local Government Board to do so? Is it not equally important that officers of the Post Office should not divulge information? Therefore, why are not the President of the Local Government Board and the Postmaster-General called to task for the officers of their Departments giving information to the Press? I have grave doubts as to the legality of these fines. Certainly no private employer could impose them in this way. I very much doubt whether the Board of Inland Revenue have legal power to make these deductions.
In regard to the matter which I raised with respect to the superannuation of officers of the Inland Revenue, the Committee have got no more satisfaction from the hon. Gentleman than in regard to the fines. The hon. Gentleman said that the officers called upon to take their superannuation papers had been given six months' notice. That does not meet the question which I asked. If they had been given two years' notice, it would not alter the fact that many of them are giving six, eight, or nine months' service, for which they are getting no compensation allowance at all. What I ask is that when a man has got well into the second year he should be given an opportunity of continuing that in order to add in the case of a first-class officer of Excise £4 3s. 4d. a year to the pension. I think the efficiency of the public service would not suffer if the Treasury made that slight concession. The Secretary of the Treasury drew the attention of the Committee to the fact that I had not read the last paragraph of the regulations dated 1877. I was under no necessity to read it. It does not in any way touch the crucial point in the circular, namely, that no officer is to be called upon to retire until he has completed forty years' service. I quite admit that the Board have power, 1514 under this Order, to reduce the age to 60, but they have only power under the Order to enforce retirement in cases where the officer has reached the maximum salary of his class. I very much regret to have to carry this matter to a Division, but the answers of the hon. Gentlemen have been so very unsatisfactory that no other course is left for me. I share with the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sherwell) the opinion that there is something in the nature of a waste of time in having to discuss these matters in this House, but there is no other court to which officers who feel aggrieved can appeal against the despotism and tyranny of public officials except this House, and until we get such court of appeal as that which the hon. Member suggested, we shall have to continue to bring these matters to the attention of the House. I Leg to move a reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Question proposed: "That the reduced sum of £743,100 be granted for said purposes."
§ Mr. CARLILE
I suppose I am not obliged to confine my observations to the subject on which the reduction has been moved?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Amendment does not confine the scope of the discussion at all, so that the hon. Gentleman can discuss whichever subject, relevant to the Vote, he wishes.
§ Mr. CARLILE
There are only one or two questions I wish to ask the Secretary of the Treasury before the Vote is disposed of. The first matter I want to ask a question about is with reference to the salaries of the Estate Duty Office. I notice that there, is an increase of 5 per cent. in the Estimate for the salaries for the ensuing year. There is a lump sum of £5,000 put down for the provision of additional assistance. I think the Committee is entitled to ask some explanation why that lump sum is added to the Vote. Why has it become necessary at the present time to ask such a large increase? I suppose the explanation may be that under the new taxes proposed in the Budget some difficult work will come on the Estate Duty Office. I think that is extremely likely if the Budget ever passes. At the same time, if it is merely a question of calculating 15 per cent. as against 10 per cent., I think it should not cost £5,000 to carry out that additional slight calculation. My next question is in 1515 regard to the Comptroller and Auditor-General's Office. There is an apparent disappearance of a large number of accountants, and it seems to ma most desirable that the accounts of the Departments which in the past this staff has had to deal with should continue to be examined with all the care which can possibly be brought to bear upon them, and yet we find that whereas last year there were eight accountants, including one principal accountant, the number for the year 1909–10 is reduced to three. I have no doubt there is an explanation of that, but it seems to be a very serious alteration, and the Committee is entitled to more information than the hon. Gentleman has so far given. On page 47 I notice there is an increase in the number of inspectors involving a considerable increase in the amount of the Vote. The additional sum under this head is over £600, and I shall be very glad if the hon. Gentleman will give some information about that. On pages 56 and 57 there seems to be a very large increase, both in the number and in the cost of the surveyors of taxes of the second class. Last year there were 432 such surveyors, and this year there are 488, an increase of 56. involving an additional outlay of £12,000. That appears to rue to be an enormous amount, and I shall be glad to receive some information. The Surveyors under A, B, C and D are also mentioned, but no figures are given for 1908–9. I should like to know why that is so. There is a note which states that the number is not recorded. I think we might reasonably ask that the number should be recorded in order that we may know what the increase has been. The number of clerks and surveyors for 1909–10 is given as 728. Without the numbers for 1908–7 we are unable exactly to estimate what the additional cost of this class really ought to be. I notice that the increased cost of this class is from £61,000 to £78.000, a difference of £17,000 in that particular class, but as we are not informed how many of the clerks were in the employment of the office last year, we cannot really judge whether the increase is warranted, and I should be very glad to know from the hon. Gentleman what is the explanation of that very large increase. These are, I think, all the matters as to which I wanted information, but I wish to support the hon. Member who moved the reduction by £100, more especially in connection with the very unsatisfactory explanation given us with regard to the compulsory retirement of Civil 1516 servants and with regard to the superannuation arrangements. if the hon. Gentleman can give us some explanation on the subject of these particular items I shall be grateful.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Before answering the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down I would like to make one very important correction of a statement made by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden). He stated that the circular of the 26th September was sent out to the collectors. That is an inaccurate statement.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman's particular circular is, but this circular of 21ith September was sent out to supervisors, and being sent out to supervisors there was none of that unnecessary delay to which the hon. Gentleman referred. In the one particular isolated case, in which he suggested it was impossible for the Inland Revenue Officers, as they were the Old Age Pensions Officers, to have sent this circular, that is a suggestion that is not fair to the Department concerned to make, and it is not fair to the men concerned. All the men concerned who were fined—I do not like to use the word "all," because one particular case may have happened—but, so far as I know, all the men concerned saw the circular of 26th September before they communicated the information to the Press. It was not any letter or circular of 22nd September, but the circular of 26th September which was seen by the men before they communicated the information to the Press, and they -therefore knew what they were doing, and in defiance of the orders of the Board of Inland Revenue they made these statements. It was not for them to judge of the reason or legality of the orders. It was for them to obey the orders of the Department under whose authority they worked. Therefore I think the hon. Gentleman quite unintentionally has very considerably misstated the position to the House, and has given information which he himself believes but which is not accurate, and has endeavoured to get other hon. Members to believe that substantial injustice has been done to 1517 these persons which in fact has not been done. With regard to the question of the hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Carlile) as to the increase in the Estate Duty Office, that increase is not due to the provisions of the present Act, but is due to the necessity of getting expert advice. It is due to the fact that the Inland Revenue Department has very good reason to fear that in consequence of the absence of expert information as to the values of real property of all descriptions very considerable under-valuations of property have been returned in the past to the Department, and it is for the purpose of getting more skilled and more exact information as to property of all descriptions passing at death that the Department found it necessary to call in expert advice as to property; and the Department is satisfied, and I also am satisfied, that the result will be of very considerable advantage to the Exchequer, and that the £5.000 which is now for the first time to be given for that professional advice will result in very considerable increase of revenue becoming available to the Exchequer. Mention was made of the fact of a decrease of five officers in the Accountants' Department. That is due to the transfer of a certain amount of work to the Customs and Excise Department, which has reduced the necessity for so large a staff of accountants in the office of Inland Revenue. The increase in the surveyors of taxes is partly clue to the growth of population and wealth, but is also very largely due to the operations of the Finance Act of 1707, under section 29 of which declarations as to income, which were formerly voluntary, have now been made compulsory, and these returns therefore
§ have now to be exacted. They occur in ever-increasing numbers, and a larger staff both of actual surveyors and of surveyors' clerks has been required to deal with this increasing volume of business. I think those are the three points as to which the hon. Gentleman wanted information.
§ Mr. WATSON RUTHERFORD
In reference to the amount of the fines which have been imposed, I daresay that if the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury were to put his hand in his pocket, and if £10 had disappeared, he probably would not feel to-morrow that it had gone.
§ Mr WATSON RUTHERFORD
It is not a very big sum to people who have got an official position with a salary of £1,500 a year, but the salaries of these men who are fined would be from £120, I think, to £250, and they are deprived, therefore, of from a fortnight to a month's salary, and when you fine a man a month's salary it is a very considerable hole in his annual income. I venture to think on that point that the arbitrariness and the amount of the fine should not be lost sight of, because although £10 does not sound like a vary big amount, I think it is entirely illegal to inflict the fine at all, and compared with a man's income of from £120 to £250 a year it means a very serious loss indeed.
§ Question put: "That a sum not exceeding £743,100 be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 41; Noes, 64.1519
|Division No. 150.]||AYES.||[5.13 p.m.|
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.)||Du Cros, Arthur||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Grayson, Albert Victor||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Alden, Percy||Gretton, John||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Hazleton, Richard||Snowden, P.|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)||Heaton, John Henniker||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Kimber, Sir Henry||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Macpherson, J. T.||Take, Sir John Batty|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Clough, William||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. R. Stuart-|
|Cooper, G. J||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Oddy, John James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||F. A. N. Newdegate and Mr. Sum-|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Peel, Hon. W. R. W.||merbell.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Dalziel, Sir James Henry|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Barran, Rowland Hirst||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Beauchamp, E.||Dewar, Sir J A. (Inverness-sh.)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Barker, Sir John||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Duckworth, Sir James|
|Duncan J. Hastings (York, Otley)||M'Callum, John M.||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Marnham, F. J.||Steadman, W. C.|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Massie, J.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Menzies, Walter||Walters, John Tudor|
|Greenwood, Hamar (York)||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Hart-Davies, T.||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Murray, James (Aberdeen, E.)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||Norton, Captain Cecil William||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Hedges, A. Paget||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Whitley, Jolla Henry (Halifax)|
|Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Radford, G. H.||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Jackson, R. S.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Williamson, A.|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Ridsdale, E. A.||Wilson, P. w. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Lamont, Nerman||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Joseph Pease and the Master of|
|Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Elibank.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Sherwell, Arthur James|
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
I wish to draw attention to the work which has been done by Excise officers in connection with old age pensions. The work which they have undertaken, in the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been admirably done.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This Vote has nothing to do with old age pensions. The question to which the hon. Gentleman desires to call attention does not arise on this Vote.
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
I do not wish to refer to the question of old age pensions itself, but to the work done by these officers in connection with them.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The work has not been done by officers who come under this Vote. I understand that all the men who do work in connection with old age pensions come under the Customs and Excise Vote. This is Vote No. 2, referring to Inland Revenue, and I understand that none of the officers who come under it had anything to do with old age pensions.
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
I am greatly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation, but may I ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether no officer under this Vote has done anything directly or indirectly in connection with old age pensions?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
So far as I know, no officer of the Inland Revenue has been connected either directly or indirectly with old age pension work.
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
May I ask what opportunity will be afforded to us to discuss this question of the work done by Excise officers in connection with old age pensions? It is a subject on which hon. Members of this House desire to state their case, and I would like to have an answer from the Government. I shall bring up 1520 the Question again at as early a date as possible.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The officers who carry out the work in connection with old age pensions are on the Customs and Excise Vote. The hon. Gentleman knows that the Excise was taken over from the Inland Revenue Department and added to the Customs Department, and they come under Vote 1. It is under that Vote that discussion of the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act may be raised.
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the information he has afforded me, but may I ask whether it is not a fact that the Excise and Customs are in course of amalgamation, and that some of the officers under that amalgamation come under this Vote?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
No, none of them come under the Vote. They have all been transferred to the Customs and Excise Vote.
On page 55 it is suggested that there should be an increase of £100 in respect of the Special Commissioners. We all know the importance of the work which is done by the five Special Commissioners. As I understand the Finance Bill of this year, it is intended to largely increase their labours, but to what extent I should like to ascertain from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. We know that they will have to state cases for the opinion of the High Court under the provisions of the Finance Bill, and that they will have to deal with some complicated questions of the super-tax. I should like to know what is the additional work to he imposed upon these five gentlemen, who have already important duties and are somewhat overworked. Have the Government up to the present given any great consideration to this particular matter? We know that the Finance Bill 1521 does propose to throw extra duties upon them. Will it be the duty of these Commissioners, amongst other matters, to serve notice on every single person they believe to be in receipt of an income of over £5,000 a year, and therefore liable to the super-tax? Is it the intention of the Government that the regulations to be enacted in the Finance Bill this year shall include the service of a notice on every person thought likely to have more than £5,000 a year, and to require a return as indicated under the section of the Bill? I am asking these questions particularly in relation to the duties of the five Special Commissioners who, as I have said, are already somewhat overworked. Again, is it proposed that any of the existing work which those gentlemen now do shall suffer because of the extra duties which are to be put upon them under the Bill? We know each Income Tax payer has an opportunity of being assessed by Commissioners. Are any of their rights to be taken away from the public next year, or are those five Special Commissioners for the United Kingdom to have their work doubled or trebled without any increase of pay save this purely nominal sum of £100? There is another point to which I will call attention, namely, the law charges to be found on page 62. It has reference to the position of assistant clerks in the Legal Department of the Inland Revenue. I want to know whether their position is the same as the position of assistant clerks in the office of the Treasury Solicitor? It appears that these clerks are paid, not only directly by the Treasury under this Vote, but are also paid certain sums by the Solicitor to the Inland Revenue.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
It is the London Office. In the office of the Solicitor to the Inland Revenue some of the clerks are paid by the Solicitor and others directly by the State. I fully recognise the advantage of that system in giving the Solicitor complete control over his Department, but I should like to know whether these clerks have any superannuation allowance or pension. It appears to me that some of them have, and that some of them have not. In certain instances in the Department of the Solicitor, in the vast majority of instances, they have no pension or retiring allowance. If I am right in that I should like to point out to the hon. Member the great importance of encouraging these clerks to remain in the service of the 1522 State as long as they possibly can. They have been in the service of the State for a very considerable period. We have heard a great deal this afternoon about the divulging of State secrets. These clerks who do not receive any pension, and who have served the State for a number of years, are well aware that official secrets are not to be passed on. I should like to ask hon. Members why this distinction is drawn between them and other Civil servants, except that some of them receive their pay from the head of their Department? I do not object to that system in any way only so far as the pension is concerned. I should like to know whether the answers I have myself given to the questions raised by me are correct.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The hon. and learned. Gentleman is right in supposing that the sum of £100 is an increase on the Vote. It is really for the Special Commissioner-who presides over the meeting of the other Commissioners. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the Estimate he will see that the sum of £100 has been increased to £200 for the Special Commissioner who presides over the meeting of the other Commissioners. In regard to the duties of the Special Commissioners in relation to the super-tax, as proposed under the Finance Bill, I think it would be rather anticipating the Debate on that measure were we to go into questions which will arise on the various proposals it contains. All I can say at this stage is that undoubtedly there will be some increase-of the duties imposed on the Special Commissioners, but I do not for a moment anticipate that they will be of such a. nature as to differentiate their work in the future from what it is at present, nor such as to necessitate any increase of remuneration. With regard to the question of assistant clerks in the office of the Solicitor to the Inland Revenue, the hon. Gentleman will see on page 62 that some clerks receive pensions. They are those who are paid directly by the State. The other clerks, who are paid by the Solicitor out of an allowance which he receives— something short of £5,000 a year—do not receive a pension. Those-who are paid directly by the State have a retiring allowance and the usual advantages which apply to all Civil servants. Those who are paid directly by the Solicitor get such pay as is the result of a bargain between him and them. This change was introduced, I think, in the time of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach; at all events in the 1523 year 1870. It was then thought desirable to make a change, and the present system was adopted, namely, that these clerks should be direct employés of the Solicitor. This arrangement has obtained since that time, by which he is able to exercise more complete control than formerly.
I thank the hon. Member for his reply, which really bears out the remarks I made, in introducing the subject that you are going to put on five gentlemen, whose consent, I presume, has never been asked, an amount of work which will double or treble, or, according to the hon. Member (Mr. Hobhouse), considerably increase their present work without any extra remuneration. So far as the Special Commissioners are concerned, I cannot help thinking that that is not a satisfactory reply, or for the members of the public who must employ them in getting their work done. As to the second point, I quite agree as to the advantage of the scheme of 1890, and that the clerks should be responsible to the Head of the Department. That does not preclude the Government from treating them as far as pensions are concerned on the same basis as other Civil Servants. I do hope he will bear the matter in mind and give it consideration for next year, and see whether something cannot be done while still keeping the supremacy of the Head of the Department so that the men may be kept in the employment of the State rather than be tempted away to outside work.
§ Mr. G. STEWART BOWLES
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend (Mr. Rawlinson) for his point as to the Special Commissioners, and I wish to ask a question as to the whole Vote. I confess, considering what work will have to be done by the Inland Revenue this year, I am really at a loss to understand exactly what this Estimate is intended to mean. In 1908–7 there was a total gross Vote of £,200,819, for Inland Revenue, and for the year 1909–10 the total is £1,253,200.
§ Mr. BOWLES
No, but I am comparing the gross totals, and the increase will be something like four per cent. That would be perfectly sufficient, and, indeed, a rather large increase at an ordinary time, but if one considers the new and Multifarious duties which apparently are going to be put on the Commissioners and officials of the Inland Revenue during this 1524 year 1909–10, at any rate to some extent, it does appear to me to be a very sanguine view that the Government takes that all that enormous mass of work is going to be performed for a no greater cost than an extra four per cent. Was this Estimate framed, and is it presented to the Committee and to the House and the country, in view of the proposals of the Finance Bill now before Parliament or not 1 If it was I am bound to say, considering the enormous duties which are going to be placed on those officials, that the Estimate is a very sanguine one. If, on the other hand, the Budget proposals were not considered in framing these Estimates, and that appears to be very probable, seeing that they would be framed in November, then the Estimate bears no proportion to the cost which will really fall on the public funds.
It seems to me to be an important question that the Committee should know whether the Government expect that for the increase proposed they are going to get from the Inland Revenue officials all the work which they have hitherto done, plus all the new work proposed to be put upon them, or whether this is merely an Estimate founded on the assumption that the new duties proposed by the Finance Bill will not be put on them, or will not come on the Estimates of this year. The Committee will remember the Commissioners of Inland Revenue are to administer enormously complex new machinery and to engage in new duties, and that something like the preparation of a new Doomsday Book is to be undertaken under the immediate control of those officials. I think the Committee are entitled to know whether all this new work is or is not in this relatively small increase.
§ Mr. J. GRETTON
I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to a subject which was referred to in a question pm, by the hon. Member for the Chorley Division (Lord Balcarres) on 11th May, as to whether certain collectors in the Department of Inland Revenue are paid commission on the amount of their collections. The answer to that question was not a very lucid one. It was to the effect that the rule is to pay salaries, that there are exceptions, and that where those exceptions occurred the amount paid was on the collection. This matter, I consider, is a very urgent and a very important one; and, for my part, I object very strongly to the system of paying officials of the Government responsible for the collection 1525 of taxes on the amounts of their collections. It is obviously a system which is an encouragement to officials to press their claims for payment in every way possible. We know, as a matter of tact, that a very large amount of Income Tax is paid over and above the amount to which the Government have a claim.
I had a case brought to my notice the other day of a lady who received an income from various sources. She wished to know how far the Budget proposals affected her, and on inquiry into her case it appeared that a very considerable amount of her income had been subject to Income Tax with various companies, while she had been paying a large portion of the Income Tax twice over. The system of bonus on the collection is one which will inevitably lead to officers pressing claims on taxpayers who are not fairly well informed as to all the routine and difficulties of the regulations of the Department, and also to press claims upon those who are not prepared to undertake the very difficult and very troublesome defence of their rights in this matter. I want to press this case further than a question and answer. I think we should have definite information as to the amount paid under this system.
This matter is becoming more important in view of the enormously increased powers, both in assessing and collecting, which have been conferred upon the Inland Revenue officers by legislation. On looking at the Vote, I find there is a distinct indication in some parts of it as to this system of allowance. There are very large sums put down with which no very clear account is given. I find an item of £231,000 on page 60 of the Estimates, and some on page 56. There are indications as well of salaries and allowances paid to those officers. I am not going to suggest that any high official or any subordinate in the Department would on account of such an inducement go outside instructions received from a superior officer or outside the regulations, but of late years the Government have been rather wasting money, and there has been a system of sharpening up the collection of taxes. There has been a very large increase in the collection of Income Tax, brought about by the most searching investigation and unremitting demand to everybody who might be thought to be owing one farthing of Income Tax. Under the circumstances the House and the country should have some dear and definite explanation from the 1526 Treasury as to the system of paying officers a bonus on the amount of their collection, and in order to emphasise this matter I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by £200.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
In replying, perhaps I may answer the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Bowles). I gathered that his suggestion was that the increase in the Vote was unexpectedly small, owing to the probable duties cast on the Inland Revenue by the operations of the Finance Bill. It is quite clear we cannot discuss what those duties will be. I may point out to him first of all that the Bill is not law, and, secondly, that the annual increase in the Vote is not really so small as he thinks. From page 45, under A, he will find that nearly the whole of the increase is upon salaries, wages, and allowances in addition to salaries, and shows that nearly 80 per cent. of the total increase of the Vote is a provision for increase of staff.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Partially in view of the Budget and partially in view of the general growth of the work. To come to the more immediate question before the Committee, namely, with regard to the collection of Income Tax, I would point out to the hon. Member that in the case of Ireland the system of poundage still exists, but poundage both in Scotland and in this country has been commuted for a fixed allowance, and therefore it is of no advantage for an individual collector to get in £10,000 or £20,000 or any larger sum more in one year than another. He receives no individual or personal benefit by the sum of money collected through his agency, for he is paid, not as in Ireland by poundage, but a sum of money which is under the Act of 1871 fixed remuneration, and it is a sum not less than what he was getting in 1870 and 1891; therefore the activity of a salaried and pensioned officer of Inland Revenue would be no greater than and no less than the activity displayed by a collector of taxes who received a commuted allowance, under the arrangement of collection as it at present exists: I trust the explanation which I have offered to the hon. Gentleman will at all events show him that even if the system of collection of Income Tax which at present exists, and which is set out under D, were changed into collection by officials of the Inland Revenue—permanent Civil servants—that the same activity 1527 which is found so objectionable by the hon. Gentleman now would still continue, and the cost of collection would be greater than under the present arrangement.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I must say that I do not think that the answer given to the Member for Norwood is at all satisfactory. My hon. Friend put, as he always does, a very clear and intelligent question and one of great importance to the hon. Gentleman. My hon. Friend has a very good eye for seeing financial errors, and he has at once put his finger on a very fatal flaw in this particular Estimate. My hon. Friend has pointed out that the increase of £53,000, or only 4 per cent. of the total Vote, is very small in view of the extra work which will be put upon the Inland Revenue officials under the Finance Act. I cannot discuss anything which may arise under the Finance Act because it is not passed—["Does not the Government intend to pass it?"]—and because the increase is intended to apply partially to the Budget and partially to the normal increase in the Department owing to the increase of ordinary work of the Department. But the hon. Gentleman claims credit for having framed an economical estimate. The hon. Gentleman can claim no credit of that kind, unless it is that he has framed an Estimate which is absolutely unworkable and inadequate when the financial schemes of the Govern-men are developed. What does it mean? It can only mean two things. First of all that these Estimates were framed without any adequate knowledge or forethought of what they were going to meet. Again, we have the spectacle of the Government framing an Estimate about which it does not in the least know (and apparently does not care) whether it is adequate to meet the expenditure they are going to put before the House of Commons. It was the same last year with the Old Age Pensions scheme, and the consequence was an enormous deficit. The same thing is happening now. I observe that the hon. Gentleman, instead of answering my hon. Friend's question, pushed it aside as though it was not worthy of attention. This is a most important question, because it goes to the root of things. These Estimates ought to have been framed in a businesslike manner, but nothing of the kind has happened. It is a haphazard Estimate, framed without any idea of what is going to take plce. Does the hon. Member know that these officers 1528 this year will have to provide for the valuation of the whole of the land in the United Kingdom? Is he aware that when a lease is determined that the lessor will have to render an account to these officers? Is he aware that the enormous increase in stamps and the super-tax will have to be dealt with by these officers? For all this the hon. Member comes down to the House and with effrontery booms himself with only having increased the Estimate by £53,000. He might as well come and say, "I have provided an Estimate for £20,000, but it is true that the expenditure-will be £200,000. I do not care anything about that; I have provided for an Estimate of only £20,000." When the party to which I belong was seated on the opposite side of the House the party to which the hon. Member belongs was almost rabid on the question of Supplementary Estimate. No more unsound system of finance, we were told, ever existed than that which was seen in Supplementary Estimates, which, chiefly owing to the war, were brought in by the Departments. The hon. Gentleman brings in proposals which will result in large Supplementary Estimates, but he has not been able to get up and justify his proposals, and I do not think it ever occurred to him, until the hon. Member for Norwood drew his attention to the fact, that these officers will have to meet a very large increase of business. The answer is so unsatisfactory, and shows that the hon. Member knows so little about what he is dealing with, that I beg, Sir, to move: "That the Chairman do report Progress, and to ask leave to sit again."
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Caldwell)
I cannot accept that Motion. There was nothing in the answer made by the Secretary to the Treasury which would justify the making of such a Motion at this. stage.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
On a point of order, Sir, I submit that the Members on this, side of the House have agreed that the answer was unsatisfactory. A reply has, not been given to the question raised, and under these circumstances I venture most humbly to submit it is quite in order to move that Progress be reported in order that the hon. Gentleman may have an opportunity of making himself more fully acquainted with the business before the House. I would also point out that we have been brought here after a very short 1529 adjournment, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in his place, that the question now before the House deals with the Budget, and that these questions are intensified by the Budget. Under these circumstances, I beg that you will accept the Motion to report Progress.
§ Sir W. BULL
I should like to support what the hon. Baronet has said in relation to the Revenue Department, and that the staff of that Department will have to be practically doubled. I want to ask the hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill whether the valuations are going to be made in the office or outside the office? Are the valuations going to be made by the officials in Somerset House or are they going to be made by the officials of Somerset House with the assistance of well-known valuers such as Messrs. Fox and Bousfield? What is proposed will practically mean a new Domesday Book. It will take a great deal of time to compile, and when you remember that the London County Council have been engaged for many years in getting merely a list of the freeholders of London alone, and that it is being done at a cost of not £15,000, but of £50,000, and that two-thirds of the book has so far only been completed, I think the hon. Gentleman should hesitate and consider well what is in contemplation. This has occurred in the case of an experiment which has been tried, and, seeing the result, it seems to be perfectly absurd that the Inland Revenue Department can do the work proposed at an increased cost of merely £53,000, and that they will be able to cope with the immense amount of work which will be entailed. The country will naturally demand that the officials who will be employed should be men of the highest integrity and of experience, and they will have to be acquainted with various circumstances, and value every detail of the property with close and conscientious care, because there is absolutely no appeal under the Bill as it at present stands. Therefore, I should like to support the Motion of the hon. Baronet for the City of London to report Progress and to ask leave to sit again. I think the answer given is thoroughly unsatisfactory. It is an estimate of what salaries will be paid during the forthcoming year. We have in the Finance Bill some idea of the work that will be entailed, and to say that the amount provided to meet the extra cost of the work is at all adequate is, to my mind, beyond the mark.
§ Sir A. ACLAND-HOOD
This discussion is very interesting as showing the way the Government business and the business of this Department is conducted. Apparently, as far as we can judge in this Debate, one room of the Treasury has been under the able guidance of the Financial Secretary, and there they have been engaged in drawing up the Estimates with due regard to economy, while in another room the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Treasury officials have been framing the Budget—a Budget which will demand a permanent financial increase. Surely it would be far better if these two statesmen consulted each other, and that in the matter of framing the Estimates of the Inland Revenue Department we had some slight knowledge clearly put of what fresh demands were to be made in connection with the permanent staff of the Inland Revenue Department. The unfortunate result of the present situation is that the hon. Gentleman comes down here, and knowing, as he must, that the proposals of the Budget are to involve a very large increase of staff, he admits, as he is bound to, that very inadequate provision has been made for the payment of that staff. Two things emerge from this view. The first is that the Budget, after all, is only shop-window dressing. Here you have a great measure brought in and no adequate provision made. We are becoming accustomed under this Government to shop-window measures; so that it will not altogether surprise us if we find that this great financial measure is, after all, a shop-window Bill which the Government mean to go to the country upon. The other alternative is—perhaps even the more likely one, for the hon. Gentlemen opposite are optimists—and we all know that the right hon. Gentleman hopes before Christmas, before the end of the current financial year at all events, to pass his Budget into law. In the event of the latter, may I ask if it is the intention of the Government to bring in a Supplementary Estimate to provide the salaries for this new staff of officials who have to do all these multitudinous duties? If not, only one thing remains, and that is that the Government are going to put fresh burdens and fresh duties of a most difficult kind upon the present officials without any proper increase of salary. If that is the case there will be a considerable difficulty amongst those officers, and I should like to press the Financial 1531 Secretary to tell us frankly whether in the event of the Finance Bill becoming law during the current year a Supplementary Estimate will be presented to provide for the salaries required?
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
The point raised by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. G. S. Bowles) is extremely interesting. I must confess that my alarm and concern in this matter was made much more grave by the answer given by the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. That answer in its two parts was absolutely inconsistent. He began by saying in the first place that "the Finance Bill is not passed; we do not know whether it will pass or not," and that therefore it was not the place of the Government to make any addition to the staff. He then went on to say that some increase had been made in the Estimate; that, indeed, "we have made considerable increase, an increase of £52,000 a year." Therefore there is much more provision than the hon. Member for Norwood proposes. But are these not two distinctly inconsistent arguments? The. hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that, whatever happens before, there must be some enormous increase after the Bill passes. But what is more alarming is this: If this enormous increase of £52,000 occurs in this year, what will the increase be if this dreadful Bill passes? The increase will not be £52,000. We may add another figure at least, and it may be much more than double in view of the proportionate increase of staff. It is not, therefore, only a point of interest that has been raised by the hon. Member for Norwood, but it has aroused alarm, and considerable alarm, in my mind by the divergent views which emerged from the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary. He said in one place that to a certain extent they had made provision; and again he said that they could not make the slightest provision until the Finance Bill had become law.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has done me the honour of quoting a statement which I never made. I pointed out to the hon. Member for Norwood that the principal part of the increase of this burden was for the personnel, and as such, therefore, entirely at the service of any increased expenditure which might occur in consequence of the Finance Act.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
Might I ask the hon. Gentleman, are we to understand that the Treasury actually put upon this Estimate items to meet a Bill which has not yet become the law of the land?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I should have thought it would have been exceedingly unwise on the part of any Government not to make some provision for expenditure which may be necessary in connection with that Act.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
It is not the intention of the Government to consult the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Universities as to the proceedings of the Government.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
And for the same reason I do think that the speech of the right hon. Baronet opposite was a little out of place. It would no doubt have been appropriate to the Recess, but it is entirely out of place in a sober discussion of detail in the House of Commons. Discussion was raised very properly in the consideration of detail by the hon. Gentleman behind him, and I venture to suggest that I gave a full answer to what was put forward. The right hon. Baronet seems to think that the answers from this Bench are to be satisfactory to right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We give the information from this side of the House without regard as to whether it is satisfactory or not, if it is true. Very often truth is very unpleasant. What he wants is information of a kind upon which he can base a speech. I can only lay before him and the Committee facts in connection with this particular matter, and say that the provision in the Estimates was considered in relation to the Finance Bill which is before the House. In order to make provision for the expenditure in that Bill we put in the increased amount.
§ Sir A. ACLAND-HOOD
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the interesting lecture as to the conduct of Debates in this House. I can assure him that coming from such an authority it wilt no doubt carry much weight. But the hon. Gentleman has not answered my question, which was an important one.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The hon. Baronet is pre-supposing whether a larger and new staff will be required. So far as my information goes, this Estimate is adequate for all the purposes I have indicated of the Finance Act.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
We are not asking the hon. Gentleman to consult all the Members on this side of the House. I made no such suggestion. What I did say, and what I say without the slightest fear of contradiction from any of those carrying on the Finance business in the Department—that the Treasury in no instance have made provision for salaries or staff which might be rendered necessary by a Bill which was not yet upon the Statute Book.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
We are grateful for the very lucid explanation of the hon. Gentleman opposite. We now understand that the Treasury have made provision for the expenditure which will be incurred under the Finance Act. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow (Sir Henry Craik) has complained that such a course is unusual. The hon. Gentleman opposite says provision has been made. Therefore, we are now in a clear position. There has been an increase of £53,000. We now understand that it is entirely owing to the increase to be put upon the Department by the Finance Bill. Very well, I think we are all clear on that point. What is the money for? To make a new Domesday Book—to value the whole land of England; to value the minerals, gotten and ungotten; to arrange for the collection of the super-tax; to investigate into the claims of the 30,000 people as to whether or not they have got more or less than £5,000. I have already stated, that instead of £52,000, a million a year will be required. Have the Government ever thought of the immense work that this staff will be required to do—what the right hon. Gentleman has told us they will be required to do in the administration of the new Finance Bill? We cannot value the whole of the land of the United Kingdom for £52,000. To go into the question as to when a lease is terminated all the conditions of the lease are to be submitted to the Department. Why, the work of the Department will be more than doubled, and if the Department already costs a million, then I say if you estimate for a further increase of a million, that it is an extremely moderate one. We have, I am glad to say, in this Debate obtained from the Government a very frank state- 1534 ment of what they intend to do in this, Estimate. But it seems to me that the whole position is so ludicrous that the only idea that comes to my mind is that the Government themselves know that they will not be called upon for any expenditure upon this Department.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Because it seems to me to be absurd that any reasonable Government, even in this country, would come down and propose an increase of £53,000 for the enormous work such as I have shortly outlined—to come down here and to propose an increase of £50,000 is absolutely unreasonable, and under these circumstances, and as a reduction has been moved, I shall have very much pleasure in voting for that reduction.
§ Mr. J. F. RAWLINSON
As I already gathered from the Financial Secretary in reply to my previous question, that he had thoroughly considered the different details of the expenditure in regard to the business which is now before the Committee, and as no doubt his reply was thoroughly satisfactory to himself and from his own point of view, but unsatisfactory from my point of view, I desire now to ask him one or two further questions. As I gathered from his reply, it meant that the Special Commissioners of Income Tax would have to do extra work without increased extra remuneration. I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman, in making his Estimates of the increased expenditure for the year, how much of it the Treasury has allocated to what I might call Part I. of the Finance Bill—that is, the part which deals with land. As the Committee knows, the part of the Bill dealing with land will throw large additional work upon the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. There are only two or three of these Commissioners of Inland Revenue altogether, and their work will be very much increased. I do not want to enter argumentatively upon the question whether the increased cost will reach a million or not, but I am simply doing what I am entitled to do, asking for -information for the House of Commons; whether the answer will suit my purposes or not is another matter. I want to know what is the extra expenditure, and what part of that extra expenditure has the Treasury allocated to Part I. of the Finance Bill, which deals with the valuation of land. No doubt some official can give that figure 1535 quite easily, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Glasgow has stated, it is quite exceptional to provide for the expenditure on a measure which has not yet become law. I do not say it is unprecedented. The Treasury Officials have no doubt made a very careful estimate of what the cost will be of administering a Bill which has not yet become law, and as they have made that estimate in these exceptional circumstances, they will of course have the figures readily at hand. Therefore the first question is "What is the amount allocated for Part I., which I may call the land provision of the Finance Bill? Then I come to the second question, which is this: What sum has been allocated to that part of the Finance Bill dealing with the Income Tax? The Income Tax, including the super-tax, will give a very large amount of extra work to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. I should like to know what sum has been allocated to that part of the Act? I should like very much if the hon. Member a quesion or two as to the duties on points. I want also to ask the hon. Member a question or two as to the duties on motor cars and the Petrol Tax. As I understand, these are not in the strict sense taxes; the money will go to the road authorities, and I would like to know is any deduction to be made from the road authorities for the expenses of collecting the Motor Tax and the Petrol Tax, or are the extra duties upon the Inland Revenue officials provided for by the Treasury in this particular Estimate? It will be interesting to know. The increased expenditure will, of course, be considerable. Whatever it is, I want to know if it is to be paid out of this Estimate or will there be any reduction in the amount which is to be paid to the road authorities for the very large expenses which will be incurred by the Government in collecting both these taxes. Is any rebate to be made by the road authorities to the central authority? These figures would place the Committee directly in a position to judge whether the extra expenses entailed by the Finance Bill on the Inland Revenue have been properly estimated, and whether this £53,000 is a sufficient sum or not, or whether the figure of one million, which is suggested by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, is the better one. At all events, if we get these figures we will form our own judgment in our own way. There is another matter, and that is with regard to the Death Duties. I wish to know 1536 whether they will make any difference and whether there will be any extra work thrown as the result of them upon the Revenue Department? I venture to ask for this information more or less in detail. How was this £53,000 of extra expenditure arrived at, and under what heads of the Finance Bill is it chiefly to be allocated?
I listened very carefully to the two speeches which the Secretary to the Treasury made in the course of this discussion, and I have no hesitation in saying that those two speeches made this Estimate absolutely grotesque. In the first speech the Secretary to the Treasury told us that part of the expenses under this Estimate were due to the normal working of the Departments, and that another part was due to anticipated increases arising from expenditure in connection with the revenue of the Finance Bill. I should like to ask what portion of the £53,000 is ascribable to the Finance Bill and what proportion of it goes to the normal increase of work of the Department?
If I take the hon. Gentleman's second speech, I should like him to tell the Committee how he reconciles it with his first speech. In the second speech he told us that practically the whole of the £53,000 was wanted in order to carry out the work which the Finance Bill imposed upon the Departments, and he used the adjective "adequate." He said that the provisions in the Estimates were adequate for all purposes of the Finance Bill. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Sir William Bull) pointed out to him, with all his practical knowledge as a Member of the County Council of many years standing, that the valuation in a perfunctory way of land in London undertaken by the County Council took 12 years to accomplish, and cost already £15,000. Well, if the valuation undertaken by the County Council of London takes 12 years and costs £15,000, how on earth can any business man come down to the House of Commons and tell us that the valuation necessary in connection with the whole of the United Kingdom can be undertaken for anything like £50,000—a valuation which, as my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London points out, has got to be accomplished within a year. Therefore it is not at all inaccurate to describe this Estimate as grotesque. If the Secretary to the Treasury is not trifling with the Committee in bringing forward this Estimate which, on the face of it, cannot possibly be accurate, it is obvious that the Government are not treating the 1537 House with respect in not telling them what the expenditure actually will be. Then, when the Supplementary Estimate comes up, we shall be told we are not entitled to discuss it.
Putting aside the total inadequacy of this Estimate, from the point of view of efficiency, I should like to point out that it raises far more serious questions. The statement which has fallen from the Secretary to the Treasury shows that an enormous amount of additional work will be imposed on the existing personnel, and it is no exaggeration to say that if the Government, which pretends to be model employers, are going to discharge the increased obligations which will be imposed by this financial Bill upon their staff from the highest to the lowest, they are simply imposing conditions which will amount to sweating, and this comes forsooth from a Government which pretends to be the friend of the workers and introduces a Trades Boards Bill and an Anti-Sweating Bill. These Estimates are of far more serious import in regard to the social wellbeing of the Government officials, particularly in the lower ranks of the Civil Service, than appears at first sight. Does the hon. Gentleman think that any fair employer would undertake for £50,000 to get a Domesday Book compiled? If he does, all I can say is that he would be a sweater. It could not possibly be done for anything less than half a million of money in wages. I only hope this reduction which has been moved will be carried to a Division, and in voting in favour of the reduction I shall do so as a protest against the Government trying to get work done upon unfair terms by their staff and as a protest against the Government introducing Estimates which must be absolutely inadequate to the due performance of the work.
§ Mr. JOHN S. ARKWRIGHT
I consider the question raised by the introduction of this Estimate a matter of very great seriousness, because anything to my mind must be a matter of great seriousness which touches the control by this House of the finances of the country, and it is a thing about which this House ought to be particularly jealous every day and every hour of its life. We are discussing an Estimate this afternoon with only one lion. Gentleman upon the Government Bench. He is, I know, responsible for the Estimate, and I am perfectly prepared to accept his presence here as regards this matter, but the condition of the Trea- 1538 sury Bench shows a certain lack of interest upon an important matter of this sort, and I would like to point out that we are discussing expenditure which has got to be met by a Bill which is to deal with great new items necessitated by the Government's new Finance Bill. The making of a new Domesday Book is not the only thing. It is perfectly plain there must be great new expenditure. I am sorry to say I have not heard the whole of this discussion, but I have heard enough to have understood the Financial Secretary to tell us that he considers £50,000 sufficient for that purpose. The only question I would like to ask him is, speaking approximately and lumping these proposals together, whether he thinks £500 a county in these islands is not necessary for the purpose?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) has asked me a series of questions, one of which I think was hardly relevant to this particular Vote, but I will endeavour to answer it. The question he put was whether the Motor Tax was going to be devoted entirely to the upkeep of the roads. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has had a definite question put to him upon this very point—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I did not really hear the hon. Member ask that question. That is discussing legislation, and it is not in order.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Of course I will bow to your ruling, and I am afraid that the whole of the questions put to me deal with legislation.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
My question was as to the amount taken in these Estimates for the collection of the Petrol Tax and the duties connected with land in the Finance Bill. I want to know whether there is anything in this Vote allowed for the collection of the Motor Tax?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
It is difficult to disentangle the various points raised dealing with legislation and expenditure. I attempted to answer one of the hon. and learned Member's questions, and was quite properly stopped by the Chairman. I can only deal with his questions in general terms. I have been asked to give definite information as to how much has been allotted in this Estimate to Valuation, how much to Death Duties, and how much to the collection of the Income Tax. Of course it is impossible for me to give the 1539 exact details, because the cost will largely depend upon the time when the Finance Act comes into operation. The cost of valuation for the whole year was estimated at something like £100,000, and it is quite clear that if the valuation does not extend over the whole year, and only goes over a period of six or nine months the expenditure will be correspondingly less. If the Opposition is exceedingly active and ingenious, and if the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) exercises his usual assiduity and ingenuity in his Opposition to the Finance Bill it is quite clear that the expenditure for the whole year will not be required. If the hon. Baronet's efforts are crowned with success, and if he delays the period at which the Bill comes into operation, a much less sum will be required. I think hon. Members opposite would do better to consult the hon. Baronet who represents the City of London rather than myself as to the probable expenditure upon these items.
§ Mr. CARLILE
The hon. Gentleman has not given us the information we asked for. We want to know upon what figures he has based his Estimate?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I based my Estimate on the probable amount of opposition Which will be brought into play against us. H hon. Members opposite can assure me that the opposition will cease at the second reading we shall probably have under-estimated the amount required this year; but if the opposition is prolonged into the month of September hon. Members may rest assured that the sums asked for in this Vote will be adequate for the purpose. The hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University asked me a question about the Income Tax, in which he suggested that the staff at the disposal of the Inland Revenue would not be sufficient to deal with the extra work. It is quite true that a larger amount is anticipated under the Finance Bill from the Income Tax, but it does not follow because the amount of the Income Tax is going to be increased from 1s. to is. 2d. that it will be more expensive to collect. I think the cost will be exactly the same. What will undoubtedly give a certain amount of increased labour will be the super-tax, but that will fall very largely upon the Special Commissioners. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has estimated that 10,000 or 15,000 persons will become assessable under the super-tax, and an hon. Member opposite has put it at 20,000.
§ Mr. BOWLES
The figures I gave were given by Sir Henry Primrose, who estimates that at least 100,000 or 120,000 notices will have to be sent out to deal with the super-tax. That was the statement made by Sir Henry Primrose to the Select Committee.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The information given to me by the Inland Revenue does not nearly approximate to that figure, and the figure mentioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was 10,000 or 15,000. Estimating that 15,000, or even 20,000 extra persons will become assessable to the Income Tax, it is quite clear that will not involve any large expenditure of money, although it will devolve upon certain officials of the Inland Revenue a considerable expenditure of time and labour. The same argument applies to the Death Duty. The scale is going to be increased, but it does not follow that this will necessitate any large increase in the cost of collection, because it is no more difficult to assess Death Duties at 6 per cent. than at 5 per cent.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The hon. Member has not answered one of my questions. I am not disputing the wisdom of the estimate he has made. What I ask for is what amount has he estimated in these Estimates for the extra expense which will be incurred under the Finance Bill. The hon. Member has chaffingly said that this will depend very largely upon the amount of opposition to the Finance Bill. I want to know upon what figures he has based his calculation in placing the amount at £53,000? Whatever figure he gives me I shall be inclined to think will be grossly inadequate, because I am more inclined to accept the estimate of the hon. Baronet who represents the City of London. In his previous speech the hon. Member laid down that the proper duty of the Opposition was to ask for information, and the duty of the Government was to supply it. I quite agree with that. Whether the information is satisfactory or not is quite another matter. The Secretary to the Treasury has not yet told us what his estimate is of the expenditure which is likely to be incurred under Part I. of the Finance Bill. What is his estimate of the increased cost of the collection of the 1541 Income Tax including the new super-tax? All these are absolutely new duties which will be thrown upon the Inland Revenue, and I want to know what has the Treasury estimated will be the increased cost of collection. The hon. Gentleman opposite agrees that there may be some extra cost in regard to the super-tax, but as regards the Income Tax and the Death Duties he does not think there will be any extra cost. Either the Treasury have estimated the cost or they have not, and I want to know how much it is. The Secretary to the Treasury has informed us that the Treasury has included the probable cost that will arise under the Finance Bill of this year. That being so, there is not the slightest reason why the Committee should not have the figures. The hon. Gentleman has not supplied us with any of the figures which we know the Treasury have in their possession, and which, I submit, we are entitled to have.
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
Will the Secretary to the Treasury answer my question as to the amount included in the £53,000 which he ascribes to the extra demands which will be made by the Finance Act?
§ Mr. JOHN GRETTON
The House of Commons is supposed to be a business assembly to discuss the finances of the nation, and yet the officials of the Treasury refuse to give the Committee the necessary information. We are now pressing for information of a most elementary kind, which would be produced to any board of directors anywhere, and yet we cannot have it given to us in the House of Commons. I am surprised that hon. Members on the Ministerial side do not support the Opposition in endeavouring to obtain information which the House of Commons has a right to have. I object altogether to the way in which this Vote has been brought forward. The whole of the Estimate is lumped together, and it would have been smuggled through without observation had it not been for the astuteness and the alertness of the hon. Member for Norwood. The Government must have the information we ask for in their possession, and yet they refuse to give it to the House of Commons. I hope my hon. Friends will press this matter until we have obtained a definite answer.
§ Mr. HARMOOD-BANNER
I notice that there is a very large increase in the establishment, apparently, I believe, owing to the necessary work which is to be done in connection with the Finance 1542 Bill. But if the Finance Bill is not as clear as our discussion, I am afraid we shall not be much wiser. When you look at page 57 you find that an extraordinary number of boys and temporary clerks have been engaged. I should have thought that such important work would have required others than mere boys. I should imagine that the boys ought to be relegated to some other spheres of activity. If you are going to put a super-tax on the most intelligent members of the community you should not have employed so many boys and temporary clerks. The huge figures which will have to be dealt with ought not to be handled in such an exceedingly trivial way. On page 56 there is shown the information which we have been asking for, and I am rather astonished that the Secretary of the Treasury has not referred us to it, but probably his attention has not been called to it. I see that surveyors of taxes have increased in number, but that increase is nothing compared with the increase of clerks and boys and temporary assistants. I suppose this great Income Tax question, which produces such an enormous sum of money, is to be dealt with by these boys and temporary clerks. Let us have some proper explanation on these matters. We know that the work is done in a serious and a critical manner by the heads of the Departments, and I do not know how they are to carry on their increased work without additional clerks.
§ Mr. HARMOOD-BANNER
The page is 56. The information also shows what a great country England is in comparison with Scotland and Ireland, whereas for the super-tax £30,000 more is required for England, in Scotland the sum is only £2,000 more, and in Ireland only £1,000 more. Does this mean that Scotland, which sends so large a part of His Majesty's Ministry, is to be let off lightly? I should have thought that Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, and other large cities contain a large proportion of men who may be subject to the super-tax. Even in Ireland, despite its general poverty, there are some rich people, and £1,000 seems a very small additional sum compared with £30,000 additional sum for England. It looks as if the Government were relying upon poor England for all the Income Tax and all the super-tax. I see that the Accountant and Comptroller-General's Department shows a 1543 decrease. The decrease is comparatively very large, yet the Comptroller is going to have more sums of money to deal with, and consequently there will be a great deal more work. Is the work going to be done more carelessly? Surely we ought to have some explanation of these figures. There is an increase also in the Estates Duty Office, and considering the sums which the Government must have received during the last six weeks we can quite understand the increase. Let us have some explanation why so many boys are required and why so many extra clerks are put on. Although the employment for boys has a peculiar interest to hon. Members below the Gangway, yet they are not here. They are hard at work in Germany and other places. I quite admit that boys have to be employed, but I do not see why they should be employed in undue proportion. Extra clerks are employed only for temporary purposes, and they never get the benefit of a pension. Why are they so employed? Why do not you put on regular men entitled to regular work instead of this large number of clerks? These arrangements reflect no credit on those who are responsible for them. There are always hon. Members opposite who tell us that
§ employers overwork their men and underpay them, and yet we have the Government doing the same thing.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
This is an illustration of slack Ministerial practice and what might be described as slap-dash finance. We have been surprised to find that the Treasury has taken a step towards the most disputable ground—a ground which, I think, will involve most serious consequences in the future. Why is there no precedent for taking sums of money to provide for the possible event of legislation not yet passed? It is because such a practice obviously opens the way to extravagance and waste, and if there is one way in which the door is opened yet wider it is that in which the Minister refuses to give the facts upon which he arrives at these very dubious figures. In view of the refusal of the responsible Minister to give the information which I understand he has omitted to give, I beg to move, Sir, that you do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Question put: "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 20; Noes, 91.1545
|Division No. 151.]||AYES.||[7.0 p.m.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Craik, Sir Henry||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gretton, John||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Banner, John S. Harmood||Houston, Robert Paterson||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Oddy, John James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Peel, Hon. W. R. W.||A. Acland-Hood and Mr. Pike Pease.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Duckworth, Sir James||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Alden, Percy||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Maclean, Donald|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Findlay, Alexander||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Fuller, John Michael F.||M'Callum, John M.|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Maddison, Frederick|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Grayson, Albert Victor||Marnham, F. J.|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Massie, J.|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Menzies, Walter|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport)||Haworth, Arthur A.||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Hedges, A. Paget||Murray, James (Aberdeen, E.)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)||Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Higham, John Sharp||Norton, Captain Cecil William|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hooper, A. G.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Hyde, Clarendon G.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Clough, William||Jackson, R. S.||Radford, G. H.|
|Collins Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Jones, William (Carnavonshire)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Cotton, Sir H. J S.||Kekewich, Sir George||Rees, J. D.|
|Cox, Harold||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Laidlaw, Robert||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Lehmann, R. C.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Sherwell, Arthur James||Tomkinson, James||Williamson, A.|
|Snowden, P.||Walters, John Tudor||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Spicer, Sir Albert||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Steadman, W. C.||Waterlow, D. S.||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Strachey, Sir Edward||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Summerbell, T.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)||Joseph Pease and the Master of|
|Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)||Elibank.|
|Thorne, William (West Ham)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
§ Question put: "That a sum, not exceeding £743,000, be granted for the said Service."
|Division No. 152.]||AYES.||[7.9 p.m.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Creik, Sir Henry||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Saiter, Arthur Clavell|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Houston, Robert Paterson||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Banner, John S Harmood-||Oddy, John James|
|Bull, Sir William James||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Peel, Hon. W. Robert Wellesley||Gretton and Mr. G. Bowles.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Haworth, Arthur A.||Rees, J. D.|
|Alden, Percy||Hazleton, Richard||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Hedges, A. Paget||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Higham, John Sharp||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Hooper, A. G.||Snowden, P.|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Hyde, Clarendon G.||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Jackson, R. S.||Steadman, W. C.|
|Bonn, Sir J. Williams (Devonport)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Kekewich, Sir George||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Summerbell, T.|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Laidiaw, Robert||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Lehmann, R. C.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Tomkinson, James|
|Cleland, J. W.||Lewis, John Herbert||Walters, John Tudor|
|Clough, William||Maclean, Donald||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Compton-Rickett. Sir J.||M'Callum, John M.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Maddison, Frederick||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Cox, Harold||Marnham, F. J.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Massie, J.||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Menzies, Walter||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Williamson, A.|
|Duckworth, Sir James||Murray, James (Aberdeen, E.)||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Findlay, Alexander||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Joseph Pease and the Master of|
|Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Radford, G. H.||Elibank.|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
§ Resolution to be reported upon Thursday, 10th June; Committee to sit again upon Monday next (7th June).
§ House adjourned at Nineteen minutes after Seven o'clock.