§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,287,320, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1915, for the Salaries and Expenses 254 of the Inland Revenue Department." [Note,—£920,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I beg to move, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100."
My object in doing so is to give the House an opportunity of considering and to give me the opportunity of calling attention to the manner in which Government officials in the Department of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are treated in general, and in particular to call attention to a pledge which was given last year by the Chancellor the Exchequer and by the then Financial 255 Secretary to the Treasury, a pledge which up to the present time has not been redeemed. One thing is quite clear, and that is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is extremely fond of creating officials, and does create officials with almost the same ease as a fly lays eggs, but, once having done so, he does not seem to have any further regard for them or for their future welfare. There is no man in this country who is more ready to abuse and criticise employers in every walk of life than the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I venture to say, and I think I will be able to prove, that there is no body of men who feel that they have been treated with less consideration than officials who came under the Department which the right hon. Gentleman controls. Not only does the right hon. Gentleman not care generally about them, but it seems as if he does not even take the trouble to really know the grievances which exist in his Department, because, on the 22nd inst., the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. F. Hall) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the following questions:—Mr. F. Hall (Dulwich) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what improvement has been made as regards the conditions of service of clerks to surveyors of taxes since he undertook, in July, 1913, to take steps with a view to improving their position; and if he will state how many of these employés are still in receipt of a weekly wage of less than 30s.?Mr. Lloyd George: I am afraid I can add nothing at present to the answer given to the hon. Member for North Down on the 23rd April last. The number of clerks to surveyors of taxes (exclusive of boy clerks) in receipt of a weekly wage of less than 30s. is 326.Mr. F. Hall: Could not the right hon. Gentleman say when he is going to carry out the promises made to these officers just twelve months ago?Mr. Lloyd George: I have nothing to add to the answer.Mr. F. Hall: Is the House to understand that there is no faith to be placed in the promises of Ministers?Mr. Lloyd George: The hon. Gentleman has no right to assume that. This is a matter that has been dealt with by the heads of the Inland Revenue, and they are doing their best to carry out the pledges given as regards amalgamation, and I think they are doing it successfully. There are difficulties in the way, and at present they are liquidating their promises with success"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd June, 1914, col. 1556, Vol. LXIII.]What did the right hon. Gentleman mean by talking about amalgamation in his answer? There is no question of the amalgamation of clerks to the surveyors of taxes. I suppose he was confusing it with another and a very real grievance on the part of Customs and Excise officers, but he did not take the trouble when he was giving an answer to a definite pledge, which he had given and had not redeemed, to find out to what branch of the service he was referring. That only shows the entire disregard which the right hon. 256 Gentleman has for the staff which works under him. As regards the pledge which the right hon. Gentleman gave last year, I suppose if I said that he had broken his word or his bond, that he would take it as offensive, but it is the fact that nothing has been done, although a definite statement was made. I would like to remind the Committee of what took place last year. I raised this question on the same Vote, and I pointed out to the House that the whole work of collecting the Income Tax is left in the hands of the surveyors of taxes. They in turn have to employ men to assist them in their arduous and complicated duties. There are, I think it is estimated, 850 clerks who work under the surveyors of taxes in this highly confidential work. That number is exclusive of boys, and 600 of them are unestablished employés engaged on weekly agreements at wages varying from £1 to £2 10s. per week. According to the right hon. Gentleman's own answer, 326 of those are at present receiving less than 30s. per week.
I pointed out last year that there are at least four grounds on which I think that procedure is objectionable and ought to be remedied. First of all, on the ground of the taxpayers. It is obviously unfair that men in business or otherwise should have to show their private books, and hand over what is most confidential information to be examined in detail by a body of men who are not placed in the responsible position of being on the establishment of the Civil Service. We know perfectly well as regards the Post Office that it is necessary in the public interest to put the men engaged even in the sorting of letters in the responsible position of being on the establishment, and it is found to be better for them and the public. Men on the establishment are permanently employed, they have a pension to look forward to, and if mistakes are made or irregularities take place, they can be called to book in a much better way than men engaged on weekly and temporary terms. This aspect of the question becomes more and more important seeing that the Income Tax every year is becoming more and more an inquisitorial tax. Therefore, from the point of view of the public interest every precaution should be taken to safeguard the public, and to see that confidential information is guarded as safely as can be, while from the point of view of the revenue to the State, the more 257 efficient the service is the better it will be for those who have got to find the money to carry on the work of the State. From the point of view of the clerks themselves, it is obviously fair that they should be put on the establishment, and have the advantage of being in the Civil Service. It is undoubtedly unfair to the surveyors to cast upon them the responsibility of sifting through all this information and not give them an adequately paid and equipped staff to do the work.
There is no need to go in detail through this grievance, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year admitted that we had made out an irresistible case. I need not quote his exact words since I do not suppose it is disputed that he said we had made out our case for putting the men on the establishment, and that our case for treating them better was irresistible. He said also that the only ground on which he delayed acting there and then was that there was then a Royal Commission sitting to inquire into the whole question, and he added that if he dealt with the matter the Royal Commission in their Report might upset any decision he might come to then. He went on to say if we let the matter stand over he would see that it was dealt with during the coming year. Let me quote the words used by the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Masterman, and then by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Masterman said:—The hon. Member for Eastbourne asked whether we did not think we should have something in the revenue of statement this year. That means that by March or by July of next year, some definite scheme should be passed. I think by that time, if not by March, certainly by July, the Royal Commission will have reported, and I think I can promise him, and I trust it will satisfy him, that before another year has gone there will be some definite Government proposal for the amelioration of the condition of this class."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd July, 1913, col. 2244, Vol. LIV.]We on this side were not altogether satisfied with that assurance. The Chancellor of the Exchequer came in, and he was very anxious at that time not to press the matter to a Division, because many hon. Members opposite felt very keenly that something should be done in this case. They were putting some pressure on the Treasury Bench either to act or else allow them to divide, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer got up and said this:—Those who interpreted my right hon. Friend's statement, I am sorry I did not hear it myself, but I know the details, seem to have come to the conclusion that he gave a purely vague promise which is generally associated with official undertaking, that the matter will 258 be considered next year. That certainly is not the case. My right hon. Friend is very anxious, and very properly so, to get the Report of the Royal Commission and see what they say about the surveyors. … I think, certainly, a very good case has been established. I think there is a good deal to be said for it, and that it is very desirable to employ men dealing with matters of an entirely confidential nature which affects the private affairs of hundreds of thousands of men in this country, of tenure necessary to identify them with the public service, and to give us the same sort of spirit as prevails in the Civil Service. I do not doubt that for a moment. I think the case the hon. Gentleman has put is irresistible. … I will guarantee, as my right hon. Friend has already done, that we will do justice to their claims."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd July, 1913, cols. 2249 and 2250, Vol. LIV.]On the strength of that hon. Members opposite, although they spoke strongly in favour of something being done at once, apparently withdrew their opposition, and supported the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or nearly all of them, in the Division Lobby, in the belief, I take it, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was going to act on his promise and going to do something as soon as the Royal Commission reported. I waited in patience until early this year, and then I asked the present Financial Secretary what was being done in regard to the matter. He caused a letter to be written to me from the Treasury as follows:—
§ "Treasury Chambers. Whitehall,
§ 13th March, 1914.
§ "Dear Sir,—Mr. Montagu asks me to send you information as to the present position of clerks in the offices of the surveyors of taxes. I am to remind you that Mr. Masterman stated in Supply last year that it would not be possible to come to a final decision as to the best means of ameliorating the conditions of service of these clerks until the Royal Commission on the Civil Service had reported. His promise was in the following words:
§ 'I think that by that time, if not by March, certainly by July, the Royal Commission will have reported and I think I can promise him, and I trust it will satisfy him, that before another year has gone there will be some definite Government proposals for the amelioration of the condition of this class.
§ In point of fact the whole question has been thoroughly investigated, and as soon as the Royal Commission has reported and an opportunity thus arises of seeing whether suggested improvements will in any way conflict with any general principles of organisation recommended by the Commission, it will be possible to make immediate progress in the matter. Mr. Montagu thinks it is quite certain that he will be in a position to liquidate the promise given in Supply, and to make a statement in July, and in the circumstances he does not think it would serve any useful purpose to raise the question on Monday.
§ Yours faithfully,
§ Andrew McFadyean."
§ 6.0 P.M.
That was sent on the 13th March, 1914. I waited, and very shortly after that the Royal Commission reported, but, as some of us had prophesied last July, there was really nothing in the Report to have waited all that time for. The Royal Commission made a few passing references to the case of surveyors of taxes, but they did not deal with it in detail, because, as they
said, that had already been done by a Departmental Committee, who had come to a certain conclusion with regard to this particular grievance. The Report, so far as it goes, entirely supports my contention that these men ought to be on the establishment. I do not believe that the Secretary to the Treasury will dispute that point. So far as the Report of the Civil Service Commission is concerned, there is nothing there in any way to delay for one week the carrying out of the recommendation of the Report of Sir Matthew Nathan's Committee. On the contrary, the Royal Commission go so far as to say that they think it most undesirable that men should be employed in the same service alongside, one another, some on the establishment and others not, as such conditions are bound to give rise to discontent and friction, and all such causes should be removed. They go on to say:—
We see no reason why these offices should not be staffed by clerks of the junior clerical class. But as this question has, we understand, recently been investigated by a Departmental Committee specially appointed for the purpose, was still under consideration when we took evidence respecting the Inland Revenue Department, we refrain from submitting any more precise recommendations.
If that was the case, the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well last year how far the Royal Commission had gone; he knew that they were going to take no further evidence after I raised the question in July, and it was merely in order to prevaricate and to use the Royal Commission as an excuse for going further into the matter that that reason was given. The Government might just as well have dealt with the question then, because the Royal Commission has done nothing further in regard to the matter.
§ Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present,
§ Mr. R. GWYNNE
I think that when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been saying so much about their devotion to the Civil Service and that nothing is too good for them, they might at least have come now to champion their cause. We would then have given more weight to their expressions of gratitude to the Service. We will see when the Division is taken who are the real friends of the Civil Service, who are really determined to see that they are employed under fair terms; whether pledges given in regard to them 260 are to be carried out, and who it is that is merely giving lip service and trying to make party capital out of the Civil Service. This may be a matter of little moment to the Labour party or to Radical Members, but it is of considerable importance to the surveyors of taxes. It is of considerable importance to the country that we should see that pledges given by Ministers are carried out. We are getting too apt nowadays to take it as a matter of course that pledges should be given and not kept. It is our duty on this side to lose no opportunity of calling attention to these matters and of forcing Ministers, so far as we can, to carry out the pledges which they have given in order to get out of inconvenient situations at the moment. There is nothing in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service to prevent the Treasury from immediately carrying out the recommendations of the Departmental Committee. Although the Report of the Royal Commission was published at the beginning of April—and no doubt the Treasury were cognisant of the details long before that—yet so late as last week we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitting that up to the present nothing has been done—and that in spite of a definite promise that something should be done within a year, even if the Civil Service Commission did not report until July. The Commission reported last April. There has been time to redeem that promise, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have been better employed looking after the staff who work under him than in some of his other occupations, in which he gets perhaps more advertisement but less credit.
This question is only one out of many. There is also the question of the assistant surveyors, which is long overdue for treatment. Great grievances and hardships arise in that case. I will not go into detail, because my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Worthington Evans), who will second this reduction, will do so. There is also the case of the assessors and collectors. They also have grievances. We have heard a good deal already this Session about Income Tax. The Prime Minister said the other day that the Income Tax was rather inclined to be under the limelight. Is it not necessary that we should have a little limelight cast on the terms under which the Income Tax is collected, and under which those who collect it have to work? Ought we not to see whether we can induce right 261 hon. Gentlemen opposite to put their own house in order, and to deal with grievances which they are always willing to admit for others, but are never ready to remedy in themselves? Quite recently the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the question of the superannuation of medical officers of health and sanitary inspectors. He then said that their case for superannuation was irresistible, one reason being that it was the only way to get rid, without hardship, of men who were past their work. There are many of us on this side who would willingly vote for the superannuation of Cabinet Ministers if we thought that they would give up their posts when they are no longer required. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not again be led into supporting the Treasury merely by some promise which Ministers may make. We have had one lesson, and I suggest that unless there is given to-day a definite undertaking, stating a definite time when this grievance shall be remedied and the promise redeemed, Members on all sides should join with us in supporting the reduction, in order that it may be brought home to the Government that we are tired of their promises which they do not mean to carry out.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Montagu)
I understand that this reduction does not need a Seconder, and although I do not wish to stand between the Committee and the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Worthington Evans), I think it would be advisable that I should speak before any other speeches so unnecessary and so unwarranted as that made by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. E. Gwynne) are inflicted upon the Committee. The hon. Member threw out broadcast charges of prevarication and broken pledges, which make it necessary for me to repeat what the pledges were and to show how exactly we have fulfilled them. The hon. Member read them to the Committee, but I do not think that hon. Members could draw accurate deductions from them. There was the pledge by my predecessor, who said:—If not by March, certainly by July, the Royal Commission will have reported, and I think I can promise him … that before another year has gone there will be some definite Government proposals for the amelioration of the condition of this class.'That is on the 3rd July, 1913. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:—I think it would be better to hear what the Royal Commission says. I will guarantee, as my right hon Friend has already done, that we will do justice to their claims.262 Then the hon. Member quoted a letter written on my behalf from the Treasury, in which I said that I would be in a position to make a statement when this Vote came before the House. Without waiting for that statement, and without waiting for the Vote to come before the House, he throws out these charges, which I think the House will agree, in the light of what I am about to tell them, were wholly unwarranted and ought not to have been made.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
As the right hon. Gentleman has personally attacked me, may I point out that I am justified by the fact that when a question was put last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that nothing had been done.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The date upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary promised last year that an announcement should be made was upon this Vote this year, and now that announcement is going to be made. The hon. Member had from me a letter giving the same undertaking, that by July of this year we should be in a position to make a statement. The hon. Member says that the Royal Commission has reported for some months. Of course it has. But I would ask hon. Members of this House to agree with me when I say there is a Commission affecting the conditions of employment right throughout the Civil Service, and involving vast charges upon the public purse, and it would not be fair to hurry the Treasury in the consideration of the questions so far as they may prejudge the recommendations which the Treasury may adopt as a consequence of the Report of the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission, as the hon. Member for Eastbourne himself quoted, suggested that those who were concerned should be included in the junior clerical staff, which was one of the things which they recommended should be brought into existence. Therefore, it is not true to say that the Royal Commission has no bearing upon this question of the clerks to the surveyors of taxes. All we were anxious to see was that the scheme which we adopted should do justice to the claims of these men, and should not conflict with or prejudge the consequences of the Report of the Royal Commission.
It was only decent to wait for the Report of the Royal Commission, and, having it, it is necessary that any scheme should not conflict with what may be the 263 outcome of the general recommendations. I would like to remind the hon. Member for Eastbourne that it is not necessary at all to argue the merits of this case. Representations were made to my right hon. Friend from all quarters of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanark has been persistent in his advocacy of these claims. Hon. Members from the Labour Benches used powerful arguments as was recognised by hon. Members opposite. I hope the House will agree with me that as this statement was promised by July—and it is rather a complicated statement, which I will endeavour to make as short as I possibly can, and as clear as I can—that we have fulfilled our pledge.
There are now in this class of clerks to surveyors of taxes 1,176 men and boys. Three hundred and three are boys with salaries rising from 10s. to 20s. per week. The others are divided into four classes, A, B, C, and D. There are 83 in Class A with salaries of 40s., rising by increments of 2s. 6d. to 70s.; or £104 per year, rising by increments of £6 10s. to £182. There are 173 in Class B with salaries of £78 per year, rising by yearly increments of £6 10s. to £156. Classes A and B are pensionable. Classes C and D are not pensionable. The former have salaries of £78, rising by increments of £6 10s. to £130; and the latter receive £52, rising by increments of £5 4s. and £6 10s., respectively, to £78 and £104. There are 83 in Class A, 173 in Class B, 178 in Class C, and 439 in Class D, with 303 boys, making a total of 1,176. It was urged in criticism against the system last year that only those persons in Classes A and B were established and pensionable, the remaining classes holding their appointments—in theory, though not necessarily in practice—on the precarious tenure of a week's notice, a tenure of office which it was argued—and I think quite rightly—was indefensible, having regard to the responsibility of the work and the increasing complication of the valuations. The Government have decided that in future the whole of the clerks to surveyors of taxes should, under the organisation now proposed, be placed on the permanent and pensionable establishment. It is not, I think, easy to estimate with any accuracy, having regard to the prospect of the clerks in the lowest ranks and the circumstances when they are promoted to Classes A and B, to say the exact financial result of that concession. These clerks now have 264 some little chance of promotion to Class A or Class B, and that is a factor which complicates any exact calculation of the cost to the Exchequer of any concession. But it is estimated by the financial experts who represent the Treasury that the amount will be £20,000. We propose to discontinue entirely the employment of boy labour, replacing it by adult labour, and we are going to absorb the existing boy clerks, after passing an examination test of efficiency, into the new organisation. The boys will pass into the new organisation at seventeen.
Next we propose to reclassify the staff on improved scales of pay as follows: There will be forty staff clerks beginning at £200 and rising by increments of £10 to £300. There will be forty-three staff clerks beginning at £200 and rising by increments of £10 to £250. There will be 351 clerks beginning at £85 and rising by increments of £7 10s. to £180. There will be 742 clerks beginning at £50 and rising by increments of £5 to £130. The class of stage clerks will correspond in numbers, though not necessarily as regards individuals, with the present Class A. The class of 351 clerks at £85 to £180 will similarly correspond in numbers, though not as regards individuals, with the existing Classes B and C. The bottom class will absorb Class D and the present boy clerks, so far as the latter succeed in passing the examinational tests, which must of course necessarily be imposed. There will be efficiency bars at suitable points in the scale. There are other points regarding the various classes, but I do not think the Committee will wish me to burden them with all these numerous other details, which will be issued in the regular form at the earliest possible date. The total cost of these proposals may roughly be stated as follows: Improvement of scale, calculated at mean, approximately £37,000; add to this value of pension rights £20,000—making a total improvement of something like 60 per cent. on the present conditions.
The Treasury propose to make a further concession in the matter of counting unestablished service towards superannuation. At present the unestablished clerks, on being placed upon the establishment, have the right to reckon for pension half of their unestablished service in the direct employment of the State. Some of these clerks were in indirect employment before they entered the direct employment of the State.
265 We are precluded from counting for pension any service spent, technically, not in the service of the Board of Inland Revenue. It is therefore impossible to count half the direct and indirect service together in any case where this half would exceed the total direct service, that being the maximum which can be legally counted for pension. Where this is the case the whole of the direct service will be counted towards a pension; otherwise—and I hope the House will follow the rather complicated wording—otherwise such portion of the direct service as is equal to half the direct and indirect service combined will be counted. When there is no indirect service half the direct service will be reckoned. There is one further word which I should add. Owing to the decentralised control of this service of collectors of Income Tax, it is necessary sometimes compulsorily to remove men, without an increase of salary, from one place to another. This involves some hardship, and the Board of Inland Revenue will, at their discretion, be empowered to give a bonus of £10, or, if the rise of salary is less than £10, to make it up to £10—that is a bonus for the trouble and inconvenience for compulsory removal from one station to another.
I think the House will see that this will be a very satisfactory rearrangement in the conditions of the service, and that the men should feel, if they have been kept waiting a long time, that they have got what was worth while waiting for, and have received at least something satisfactory from those who employ them. Since this matter was debated last year the Royal Commission has reported, and recommends the substitution of a junior clerical staff for the existing assistant clerks. It would not be desirable to prejudge the very complicated questions of the recommendations of the Royal Commission in this matter. The scale of pay that we are proposing is far higher than the present scale of pay, and all that I can say in furtherance of what I have said is that if and when the assistant clerks are absorbed into the new junior clerical staff, then it will be a matter to be considered whether it will not be possible to effect still further improvements in the scale now granted. The hon. Member demanded last year that these alterations and rearrangements of pay of the clerks to the surveyors of taxes should be made during the coming year. He was indignant with the Members of the Labour party for 266 accepting the assurance of my predecessor and of my right hon. Friend that a charge would be made. That change has been made. Perhaps, after all, that is a disappointment to the hon. Member! This new scale of pay and these new conditions will come into force as from the 1st April last, so that is within the year. We have been making some inquiry as regards other branches of the public service to which the hon. Member referred—the assistant surveyors of taxes—and we have been able, too, to make some improvement in their position. All the assistant surveyors of taxes who were appointed before 7th August, 1908, and who are considered to be fit for an independent charge of a district, in a proportion not exceeding 50 per cent. in all, may be selected on a ground of special merits, and advanced to a salary of £200. The officers so advanced will be required to mark time at £200 until after eight years' service. This will come into operation as from 1st April, 1914. I think after what I have said that the hon. Member opposite should withdraw the censure he has levelled against the Government.
§ Mr. WORTHINGTON EVANS
The right hon. Gentleman has made a statement in regard to the new terms and conditions of service of the clerks to the surveyors which, upon the whole, seem satisfactory. I do not want to pledge myself finally that there may not be some minor adjustments, but, on the whole, it seems to me that he has met the ease very fairly. I do not propose to discuss the matter in detail; but I notice that as a matter of fact that some of the staff clerks of the A class are going to be put into a worse position than some other men in the A class. They are not going to be in future treated as one class, but divided into forty superior staff clerks, and forty-three who are to be in a junior class. The right hon. Gentleman did not explain why this difference has been made between them—between men who have hitherto ranked as one class. I can quite see that there are possibilities here for a difference of opinion between those who are chosen and those who are left. Before I deal with the two other classes of assistant surveyors and assessors and collectors of Government taxes I want to say a word or two on what I consider a most unjustifiable attack by the right hon. Gentleman upon my hon. Friend who moved this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman said that my hon. Friend had thrown about charges of broken 267 pledges, and he proceeded to quote from some of the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT. But he really did an injustice to my hon. Friend, because what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said last year was that it was quite impossible for him, much as he wanted to, to deal with this question then, or until he had the Report of the Royal Commission. He said that he would deal with it next year, and that that was not to be treated as a mere official promise. I ventured then to indicate doubt as to whether the right hon. Gentleman was not merely putting the Committee off, and he shook his head and said, "I assure the hon. Gentleman I am not merely giving a perfunctory promise in this respect." Nothing did happen from that day until the announcement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, and my hon. Friend could not possibly know that the right hon. Gentleman was going to make that statement.
§ Mr. WORTHINGTON EVANS
The Chancellor of the Exchequer as lately as the 22nd June said that he had nothing to add, and, if he knew that already a decision had been come to, why could he not have told my hon. Friend and said, "Do not let us talk about this by way of question and answer; when this Vote comes up we will make an announcement." But the Chancellor of the Exchequer did nothing of the sort, and, even if you look at the Estimate, they give no indication whatever of any increase to cover this £57,000 which the right hon. Gentleman has announced to-day. He cannot carry it out without a Supplementary Estimate. Where is that Estimate? Does he think it is included in these Estimates?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The Estimates for the Civil Service this year, as the hon. Member knows, are prepared long before it would have been possible to put this in. If it is necessary to take a Supplementary Estimate, of course it will be taken; but to suggest that we were not carrying out the policy because there was nothing in the Estimate is not correct.
§ Mr. WORTHINGTON EVANS
The position the Government has taken up is consistent with denying any information such as the Government has given to-day. Let me take the Estimates. There is a note on the Estimates showing that the 268 staff is to be increased by a total of forty-two, and the note says:—The organisation and salaries of this class are under consideration.We knew they were under consideration, and we asked on the 22nd June what was the result of that consideration, and the answer was that nothing was done. Yet the right hon. Gentleman thinks it fair to blame my hon. Friend for bringing this up to-day, and then he took the opportunity to make the announcement he has just made.
I now propose to deal with another class of servants in the Inland Revenue. The right hon. Gentleman said he had an announcement to make about the assistant surveyors. I propose to remind the Committee who the assistant surveyors are. The assistant surveyors are established Civil servants; they are appointed by competitive examination at a salary of £100. From 1892 to 1908 the assistant surveyor served as an assistant on an average for four years and then became a full surveyor of taxes, and his salary went up to £200. All assistant surveyors joining the service between 1892 and 1908 had a reasonable prospect, seeing what had happened during the last sixteen years, of an increase in their position to that of surveyor at £200 after a service averaging four years. In 1908 there was a reorganisation of the service due to the additional work thrown upon the Department by the Budget, and there was an increase in assistant surveyors from about ninety, which was then the total, to 200, and with that increase of something like 110 assistant surveyors there was a statement made to the assistant surveyors that at the end of five years their position would be reconsidered with the idea of advancing them to £200 a year, because the Committee will see that although on the average when there was only ninety assistant surveyors they readily became absorbed after four years into the position of surveyors, when the large number of extra assistants had been appointed and their total number had become 200, there was a block in promotion and there was no prospect then of their being absorbed at the end of four years. So the Department induced them to accept the position of assistant surveyors with the small salary of £100 a year and postponed promotion, stating, "We will reconsider your position at the end of five years with a view to increasing the salary to £200 a year in certain con- 269 ditions." As I understand it, at the end of the fifth year fifty of the assistant surveyors applied to have their cases reconsidered and they were all refused.
The right hon. Gentleman announced to-day what he called a concession. He says that half of the surveyors who are appointed under the old conditions—and, if I am right, I think there were forty-four appointed under the old conditions prior to 1908—half of these, twenty-two in number, are to obtain an advance to £200 a year at the end of six years' service, but then they are to mark time and get no further promotion until they have completed eight years' service. It seems to me that it is not following the conditions upon which the additional assistant surveyors were appointed. Merely to make twenty-two, half of those qualified under the old terms, is no real concession at all. I think it is a niggardly way of dealing with the service, which expected every prospect of promotion, and it is extremely unfair, and I trust the Treasury will be able to reconsider their position in that respect, more especially as under the 1914 Budget, if it ever arrives upon the Statute Book, which I suppose it will in some form or another, there will be an amount of additional work thrown upon the Department, and the twenty-two or a larger number promoted to the position of surveyors will readily be absorbed in the various districts which it will be necessary to create. I ask that at least the whole of the forty-four to whom I have referred should be advanced to the position of £200 a year at the end of five years' service, in accordance with what was part of the terms of their appointment, and that twenty additional, who entered on the old condition prior to 1908, should also be treated in the same way.
I also want to call attention to the position of assessors and collectors of Government taxes. This is a different class of question altogether. These are outlying officials, as it were; the officials of whom we have been speaking so far are central office officials. I venture to say it is quite impossible to define the condition of their appointment, pay and service generally. I can quite understand the Secretary to the Treasury saying this particular question is part of the larger one—of the whole of the assessment and collection of taxes. This system has been allowed to grow up. It started almost before the penny post existed, and some of these officials are doing work 270 which could be quite easily done through the post—that is to say, they take round and deliver notices by hand which might be sent by post. It is quite possible that the Secretary to the Treasury may reasonably answer that the whole of the conditions of employment as well as appointment and pay ought to be taken into consideration. If he does make that answer, I ask him to get to work at once upon it so that there shall not be unreasonable delay. Let me remind the Committee as shortly as I can what their position is and what their grievances are. I am now speaking of the assessors and collectors of Government taxes. The position of the assessors is to serve Income Tax forms and to collect information for various assessments for Income Tax where people do not make returns, and, when these assessments have been made they have got to hand over these forms and to make returns to the local Commissioner, and finally these forms are handed over to the collectors of Income Tax, and the collectors who are part of the same class serve the forms upon the taxpayers and collect the taxes and do other necessary clerical work in connection with returning them to the centre.
These people, it will be seen, are engaged in work which requires some considerable amount of judgment. They have got to be local informants in country towns and places as to the persons who refuse to make returns for Income Tax and who should be assessed. I do not mean that they are the ultimate assessing authority, but they are the local informants of the local assessing committee, and their work is obviously responsible and confidential. Let us consider their appointment. Their appointment is an annual one. The assessor is appointed by the General Commissioners each year for each parish, and the collector is appointed by the Land Tax Commissioners, and the General Commissioners nominate a collector for each parish to be grouped for Income Tax. The remuneration originally was poundage, that is, a percentage upon the revenue actually collected. The remuneration now is fixed by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue with the approval of the Treasury. The assessor receives half his remuneration when the Income Tax return forms are delivered in each division, and the bulk, several months after, when the assessments have actually been made, and in his capacity as assessor of Land Taxes he receives an 271 allowance for this branch of his work, when his net quota has been collected, which is done twelve months after the assessments have been made. It will be seen that the assessor for Income Tax receives no sort of salary at all until six months after part of his work as assessor of Income Tax has been done, and several months afterwards he receives a further share of remuneration. The collector is even in a more curious position, for he receives his remuneration in various instalments depending upon the date fixed for the closing of the account, but he never receives any remuneration until ten months after he has entered upon his work. Then out of his remuneration as collector he has to furnish his office, and provide the necessary assistants, and his payment is postponed on an average for a year after the work has been done. I do not think anyone will defend that as a means of payment for collectors or assessors, and no Government Department would think of appointing new servants on those terms. This is one of the things that has been allowed to remain, because it was based upon the idea that the Income Tax was a temporary tax, and therefore everybody connected with it ought to have temporary appointments. The remuneration was based on the amount collected as representative of the work done. That was altered, but the times of payments were left very much as they would have been had they still been payable by commission. What the collectors and assessors want is that as this tax has now become a permanent part of our system, the annual appointment should be abolished, and the appointment should be permanent. I do not think that I need argue that point. It is obvious that this is confidential work which requires something more than a temporary appointment.
As regards their remuneration, it is equally undesirable that they should wait so long for it, and they should be paid either quarterly or monthy salaries. Some of the assessors and collectors are whole-time men. There may be some difficulty, and it may be necessary to divide them into two or more classes, but, at any rate, the whole-time men ought to be given an established position to make them eligible for superannuation. I can quite understand the Government saying that this raises a large question, and that although it has been looked into in Part IV., if it 272 is to be put on a permanent basis the whole question of the relation between the assessors and collectors of Income Tax and the surveyors, and the central office and the clerks to the surveyors ought to be taken into account. If the answer is that that ought to be done before the question of remuneration for the appointment is made, I shall be satisfied if the Government will say that they will make those inquiries within a reasonable time, and let the House know what their intentions are. This matter ought not to be allowed to drift on from year to year, and I think the Committee will feel that we are justified in bringing this matter forward for consideration, and I hope the Government will consider it. The hon. Gentleman said that on this side of the House we have been twitting hon. Members opposite with not having supported us last year in the Division Lobby on this question. That is wrong, because the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness, at any rate, had the courage of his convictions, and he went into the Lobby in the support of a Motion for the reduction of this Vote. I know there were certain hon. Members sitting as Liberals who supported us in the Debate, but none of them went into the Lobby in favour of the reduction. It is a very small point, but the hon. Gentleman is wrong.
§ Mr. WORTHINGTON EVANS
The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness did, as a matter of fact, go into the Lobby with us on that occasion. I think my hon. Friend has done a real service to the Civil servants for whom he was speaking last year and this year, for I feel certain that after what happened in the last Debate had it not been for the hon. Member's persistence this question would have been put off, and probably we should have had no such announcement as that which has been made to-day. Last year the Secretary to the Treasury was very vague indeed on this question, and it was not until he had been convinced that there was a large volume of opinion on both sides of the House which would have gone into the Lobby against the Government that he sent for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and although the right hon. Gentleman had not been in the House during the earlier part of the Debate, he 273 came in for the purpose of making a little more definite what had been said in regard to these salaries.
§ Sir STEPHEN COLLINS
I should like to support the appeal which has been made by the hon. Member who has just sat down to the Government to consider the position of the surveyors of taxes and assessors. The hon. Member (Mr. Worthington Evans) has spoken so well and clearly that it only needs just a word to back up his appeal. As the hon. Member well said, these are only temporary men; they may be here today and gone to-morrow, although many such cases may not have actually occurred. I know from experience and conversation with some of them that they feel their position very acutely. Many of these gentlemen are persons of long tried service, and I hope the Government will consider their appeal and see if something cannot be done to put them on a permanent basis like other Civil servants. If this could be done they would be very grateful, and they would feel that their position was established, instead of feeling that they may be put in just for a day or a month or a year. The Secretary to the Treasury has pleased us very much with what he has said, but I hope that he will add to his laurels by considering this question, and see if be cannot do something for these worthy servants who, although they are only temporary men, yet do real good work, and are men of trust and experience. I would like to raise my protest against the remarks which the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. R. Gwynne) has just made. If the hon. Member would have a little more patience he would not need to have spoken as he did. He finished up his speech by saying that the Government had made promises that they never would perform and which they never intended to perform, and all the while the Secretary to the Treasury was here with the figures before him. I ask the hon. Member for Eastbourne in future to exercise a little more of that spirit of charity which suffereth long and is kind, and he may do things a little better for his own credit's sake if he would not make such rash statements as those he has made today, which have made him look so foolish.
§ Mr. HOARE
I cannot agree with the remarks which have just been made by the last speaker. On the contrary, I think the hon. Member for Eastbourne can go on his way rejoicing, and take heart of grace at the singular success he has met with this afternoon. I am perfectly well con- 274 vinced that if it had not been for the activity of the hon Member for Eastbourne there would have been no 60 per cent. rise which has been announced by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury for the clerks of the surveyor of taxes. For the last two years I have been attending from two to five days a week on the Royal Commission on the Civil Service, and it is because the Financial Secretary has made several remarks on this point that I have risen to take part in this Debate. As a Member of that Commission, I am delighted that the hon. Member for Eastbourne has been successful in inducing one Department at any rate to pay more attention to its recommendations. It is a very singular fact that the conditions under which the clerks to surveyors of taxes work have gone on as long as they have. I think every hon. Member agrees that less, than 30s. per week is much too small a sum to pay to these people for temporary employment, and although the Treasury has control of the salaries not only of its own Department, but of other Departments up to now, it has taken no action at all in this matter. The excuse given by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was that he was waiting for the Report of the Civil Service Commission. Last year Mr. Masterman said that the Report was, going to be issued in July. I do not know on what ground he based that statement, but there was never any idea of reporting last July. I feel that what the hon. Member for Eastbourne said was quite correct, namely, that the answers he was given a year ago were of a dilatory nature, to put off the day of reckoning that had to arrive some time.
It is a singular fact that having waited so long the Treasury apparently are going to ignore the recommendations contained in the Civil Service Commission Report. What is the state of affairs? Two years ago the Civil Service Commission were provided with certain memoranda from the surveyors of taxes and from their clerks, in which the demand was made that the salaries of the clerks should be raised by a sum of £62,000. I believe the Departmental Committee was then sitting. I do not know whether it was on the strength of that Committee's recommendation that the Financial Secretary has just put before the House the proposed changes in their scale of salary, but certainly as far as I can see, looking at it on the spur of the moment, the changes which the Secretary to the Treasury has just suggested will not 275 satisfy the men, because they demanded £62,000 a year, and at the most the Financial Secretary is only offering them £50,000 a year. How does this stand with regard to the Report of the Civil Service Commisison? One of the strongest recommendations that we made was that as far as possible employés in Government offices should be brought into certain general classes. One of the great difficulties in dealing with the conditions of service has been the great variety under which a number of small classes serve in different offices. In accordance with that general principle these clerks should have been brought into one of the general classes of the Civil Service. Our recommendation was that they should be classed principally as members of the new junior clerical staff. The Treasury, as far as I understand is, first of all, not satisfying the men themselves, and secondly, it is adding to the very great complications that already exist in the Civil Service by creating a number of new classes of individuals. I therefore cannot agree that the statement which the Financial Secretary has just made is really satisfactory. It would have been much better if he had either satisfied the demands of these Civil servants to the full, or if he had brought them under one of the general classes that already exist in the service. I am in full agreement with one point in the changes which he outlined. I am delighted to hear that he intends to abolish the class of boy clerks in the service of the surveyors of taxes. There was no kind of defence for the existence of this blind alley form of employment in the service of the Treasury, and the only wonder is that the Treasury has not abolished this class long ago. Certainly the upshot of this Debate has been to show that up to the present the Treasury has been a very bad employer, and that it only acts when it is pressed to do so by hon. Members like the hon. Member for Eastbourne.
The hon. Gentleman was very severe in his strictures of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. E. Gywnne), but I do not think that he was entirely justified. My hon. Friend raised this question last year, and he asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer only a week ago if anything was being done, and be was informed that nothing had been done.
If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been doing anything, I am perfectly certain that he would have added it, instead of leaving my hon. Friend under the impression, which I think was justified, that nothing had been done by the Treasury until this Debate. There are one or two questions I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman, though I agree it is not quite fair to ask him too much in detail about this very complicated scheme. At first glance it seems to be a great improvement on what has been established before, but there are one or two things that strike me, and about which I should like the hon. Gentleman to give me an answer. There was before Class A of the Civil servants, which consisted of eighty-three clerks getting from 40s. to 70s. per week. That class has now been divided into two. There are forty clerks getting £200 a year, rising by £10 increments to £300, and forty-three rising from £200 to £250 a year. I should like to know why that one class has been split up into two. They both start at the same salary, and I should like to know why they are not all able to rise to the same maximum. There is one other point. I see that Class D consisted of 439, and 303 boys make up the new Class D. Is it not a fact that some of those 439 who originally got from £52 to £78 a year will start at a lower salary than they are receiving at the present time. If I understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, they will now all start with a salary of £50 a year, rising by £7 10s. to £130 a year. I think the hon. Gentleman might perhaps be able to give me an answer on those points. The point raised by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Worthington Evans) about the assessors of Income Tax is one worth the attention of the Treasury. It does seem an anomaly that these Civil servants, who have got a most difficult and confidential work to carry out, cannot be sure of permanent employment. They are only taken on from year to year, and I certainly think that they are deserving of better treatment than they receive at the present time.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
May I ask if it would be in order on this Vote to discuss the position of Excise clerks?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The item for the wages and salaries of these servants 277 comes, I think, on Vote I., and the question of their position cannot, therefore, be raised on the Inland Revenue Vote.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
I wanted to impugn, not in any inimical spirit, the action, or want of action, of the hon. Gentleman with regard to the grievances of these clerks.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is quite clear that it must come on Vote I. of the Revenue Vote. The hon. Gentleman only replies on the Votes as they arise, and that Vote is not set down for to-day.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Gentleman, in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Stanley), said that all the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said was that he had nothing to add. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has added a very considerable sum, amounting to something like £57,000, to the salaries which we are now going to vote, and that we are going to have a Supplementary Vote in order to provide for it. It seems to me to be a very inconvenient method of making an alteration to make it at the last moment after much pressure, and then to come forward and say that in order to do it we must have a Supplementary Vote. Supplementary Estimates are very bad things to have. They take up a lot of time, and they deceive the House of Commons and the country as to the real extent of the Supplies put before them. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. R. Gwynne) has raised this question on several other occasions, and the proper course for the Treasury to have pursued was not to have waited until the last moment, or to have said in answer to a question that there was nothing to be added, and then to have come down and raise £57,000 and ask for a Supplementary Estimate in order to carry it out. That seems to be a very bad thing, especially at the present moment when the expenditure of the country is so large. I should like to point this out to the hon. Gentleman, who, I am sure, is desirous of doing the right thing. The proper course is to find out whether or not proper salaries are paid. If those salaries are not proper, then they should be increased; and if they are improper, they should be raised without the intervention of hon. Members on either side of the House.
278 Both sides of the House and both Governments have done the same thing, and I deplore it very much. They have not made an alteration in the salaries until they have been pressed by whoever may happen to be in Opposition. They have made a concession at the last moment. That gives the idea to outsiders, and it must also give the idea to the Civil servants themselves, that they will not get justice without agitation. That is one of the worst ideas, most subversive of discipline, which can be introduced into any service. Therefore, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will excuse me if I venture to lay before him the experience I have gained in that direction over a considerable number of years in investigating these Estimates. It is a very bad practice. It leads to extravagance and unrest, which we are all desirous of avoiding, in the Civil Service itself. I see that the actual increase in the salaries amounts to £49,670, so that with the £57,000 which is to be added there will be a very large increase in the salaries this year. Turning over the page, I see that there are six special Commissioners of Income Tax. I do not know whether those are the special Commissioners who have been appointed to investigate the Super-tax. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell me whether that is so or not. There is a star, and, on looking at the footnote, I see that one of the special Commissioners has a salary of £1,200 a year. If hon. Gentlemen will look again at the actual item in the Vote, they will see that these special Commissioners have a minimum salary of £850, annual increments of £25, and a maximum salary of £1,000. Who is this special Commissioner who has a special salary of £1,200 a year? Why should he have been so singled out, and why should the maximum of £1,000 a year be exceeded? I am glad that an hon. Member who is a Member of the Estimates Committee, and therefore pledged to economy, has been sent to find out what is the reason of this, and I hope that he will get a correct answer.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
The right hon. Gentleman appealed to me to withdraw my Motion for a reduction, and, after the announcement that he has made, I shall gladly do so, but I should just like to ask him one or two questions beforehand. He has told us that this increase in efficiency is going to add something like £57,000 a year. Are we to understand that it is to be £57,000 this year, or that the ultimate cost of these 279 additions will amount to that sum, perhaps in ten, fifteen, or twenty years' time? I assume we are not correct in thinking that this year the increase will be £57,000. I have another question to ask. It is difficult to follow exactly the hon. Gentleman's detailed statement, but may we assume that, generally speaking, the Treasury have accepted the recommendations of Sir Matthew Nathan's Departmental Committee. If so, I am satisfied on that point. I agree with my hon. friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Hoare) in thinking the suggestions are not altogether desirable, and may complicate the situation more than ever, but it is impossible now to criticise them. I realise, however, that the Treasury have endeavoured to meet the grievances we have put forward. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's personal observations upon my remarks this afternoon, I should like to say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr. Masterman both last year, as I read the OFFICIAL REPORT, mentioned July merely because they thought that the Royal Commission would report about that time. I was certainly given to understand that so soon as the Royal Commission reported, then and at once something would be done, and that is why I thought, and still think, I was justified in feeling aggrieved that when the Royal Commission reported earlier than was anticipated, namely, in April, and when we asked in June what had been done, the Chancellor of the Exchequer replied that he was still considering the matter. I hold the opinion that my remarks were justified, and if they seem to be too strong for the hon. Gentleman he must put the blame on the Department or take it to himself for not knowing what was going on, and for not having made a public statement earlier that he did intend to keep his promise. There are many grievances outstanding which I hope will receive consideration before next year.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I think anybody who reads the OFFICIAL REPORT will agree that in making a rearrangement of this particular branch of the service we have amply fulfilled our pledge, and I think also that any reasonable man will agree that the last person in the House who ought to have made the charge, which was advanced 280 by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Rupert Gwynne), of broken pledges is the hon. Member who had received from me and had read to this Committee a letter, in which I stated it was quite certain I would be in a position to liquidate the promises given in Supply by July. There might have been some excuse if the hon. Member had not received such a letter, but, under the circumstances, I assert there is no excuse for him. With regard to the question put by the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench (Major Stanley), the clerks to surveyors of taxes will receive their existing salaries, and will proceed by existing increments to their existing maximum. With regard to his remarks about the distribution of the clerks, Class A will be recruited from Class B, and members of Class B will have a chance of going into Class A. But some differentiation will be made in salaries, as there are some districts in England and Wales which, in the opinion of those who have to deal with these matters, are of less importance. With regard to the question put by the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), of course it would be more convenient not to have a Supplementary Estimate this year, and in a large Vote of this kind it is possible there will be savings which will prevent the necessity for such an Estimate. With respect to the other matters, action had to be taken before the Royal Commission Report had been received and considered, and it was obviously impossible to include these new salaries in the original Estimates for this year. The choice lay between postponing the salaries for next year or running the risk of a Supplementary Estimate, and we took the latter, as we were pledged to the House of Commons to bring them into existence this year. With regard to the Special Commissioners of Income Tax, the hon. Baronet knows that a man has a choice of being assessed by a special Commissioner of Income Tax, if he is shy of disclosing his business to the local Commissioner. These special Commissioners have charge also of the Super-tax, and in some matters they constitute a Court of Appeal. The salary of one of them is £1,200, because at the time he was appointed he was acting as Secretary of the Insurance Joint Committee. He was taken from that post to be a special Commissioner of Income Tax, and he carried his salary with him as personal to himself. I refer to Mr. Braithwaite. With regard to the collectors and assessors of Income Tax it is difficult to rearrange 281 their salaries, because the amount of work which has to be done at different periods of the year varies enormously, and for that reason if there was a change in the occupation of the office during the year, the distribution of the emoluments would be unfairly affected. Although the appointments are nominally annual they are not actually annual, as there is no reason why a man should not look forward to reappointment year by year. I do not want to prejudge that question to-day, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been in communication with the Association of Assessors and Collectors, and has agreed to receive a deputation from them on this point. Therefore I am precluded from making any definite statement. In reply to the hon. Member for Chelsea, he as a Member of the Royal Commission, knowing the importance of its recommendations and how far they affect all sorts of Departments, when he suggests that this Department is reprehensible for not having considered the Report by July, shows a strange lack of appreciation of the enormous importance and complication of the subject.
§ Mr. WORTHINGTON EVANS
The hon. Gentleman has announced some very minor alterations with regard to the assistant surveyors, but will he take into consideration the claims of two classes, numbering sixty-four and twenty respectively, for whom I have spoken?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I will of course bear in mind what the hon. Member has said, but I cannot go into details at present.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I wish to deal with another point in this Vote and that is the item for salaries, wages, allowances and travelling expenses in the Land Valuation Office. I am sorry to have to raise it now, but I am afraid it is the only chance we have. I shall leave it to my hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Royds) who has an expert knowledge of these questions unequalled by that possessed by anyone in this House, to deal with one part of this Vote, and I shall confine myself to the points which I have indicated. The Committee will observe that the Vote shows a very great increase. We fully realise that to-day we are only discussing the administration of the Land Valuation Department, but naturally in a case of this kind, where 282 administration and legislation are somewhat interdependent, there is a temptation to entrench on the legislative aspect of the case. I hope, however, I shall be successful in steering a clear course. I Want to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that there is a very large increase in this Vote amounting to over £170,000. There is an increase for salaries, wages and allowances of £47,000 odd, and for travelling and subsistence allowances of £33,000 odd. Without desiring to refer to the legislative aspect of this question, I do think that the Committee, in considering the amount of money which is being spent, should remember that this is a very vast and costly machine which has been set up and which is producing a remarkably small result, and, in view of the fact that the result is so small, it seems to me that there is clearly a responsibility resting on this Committee, as guardians of the public purse, to keep down, as far as possible, the cost of this Department, seeing that instead of producing an egg of the size one would expect from an ostrich, it has produced one of the proportions of a tomtit's.
There has been a very large increase in the travelling and subsistence allowances. In 1913–14 that item was £46,000. In 1914–15 it has risen to £78,300. The removal expenses have also gone up slightly. There is also a small increase of £300 in the matter of postage, but another very considerable item of increase comes under the head of "law charges and expenses of appeals" which have gone up from £8,000 to £11,000. There is in fact a very large general increase, and I think we are entitled to some explanation in regard to it. With regard to the staff there are 128 first-class valuers, 120 second class, and 200 junior valuers. I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer one question. I have never been able quite to understand the way in which the duties are divided among these various classes of valuers. On a certain estate of which I have some knowledge, on one occasion it was visited by a first-class valuer, on another by a second-class valuer, and on still another by a junior valuer. I do not know what is the clear line of division between their duties, but I do know that the valuation of land is one of the most highly technical duties in connection with any form of business, and that it is not possible to get a man who is sufficiently competent to value land for £120 a 283 year, which is the amount these junior valuers are paid according to the Estimate.
I would also ask the right hon. Gentleman by what process the valuers, and particularly these junior valuers, are chosen. I make no charges against any of these valuers, because so far as I have come into touch with them, I have always found them extremely courteous and in no respect behind the very high standard of public officials generally in that connection. I have, however, taken the trouble to inquire into the antecedents of some of these valuers, and in the case of three of them—they have not valued any land of mine, so that I had no personal bias against them—I find that they were extremely junior clerks in a land agent's office. In each case I know very intimately the former employer, and he told me that in his opinion they were not engaged in making valuations, and had no knowledge of the kind of work they had to undertake until they were made public officials. It has been my lot to come into contact with land valuation questions, not only in the United Kingdom but in other countries. I cannot pretend to have the knowledge of them which some Members of the Committee possess, but I have a fairly extensive knowledge, and I do not know any more technical business than land valuation. How can it possibly be said that a boy taken out of an office at the age of nineteen or twenty, who has been a clerk in a land agent's office, but has had nothing to do with the valuing of land, especially agricultural land, is competent to make a valuation. He is only paid a salary of £120 a year, and you cannot get a competent valuer at that sum. I am well aware of the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties in obtaining a valuation of the whole of the land of the country, but if a few more highly paid and more competent officials were employed, some of the law charges would be thereby avoided. The increase in the law charges is very serious, although no doubt the right hon Gentleman will say that that is due to the action of those who sit on this side of the Committee.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The right hon. Gentleman might be inclined to say that those who have opposed his general policy have caused that increase. In a matter so important as the valuation of the land of 284 this country, if you have men who are not fully qualified to deal with it you are bound to have high law charges. That some of these men are not qualified to undertake this business will not be denied. Instances have been given in the Press of men who, when valuing timber, made no differentiation whatever between sound timber and rotten timber. Timber is naturally a very important consideration in the South of England, with which I am acquainted. It takes a very highly qualified man to know the difference between rotten and sound timber. Timber merchants who are not well qualified very often make serious mistakes through not knowing the difference, and it requires very highly qualified men to detect it. How can it be said that these boys who were junior clerks and are now junior valuers have sufficient knowledge of the subject. This legislature has embarked upon this process of valuation, and I cannot say anything upon it with regard to this Vote, but it is the duty of the Committee, in view of the heavy increase in certain charges, and the great importance of the subject, to give their close attention to this particular Vote. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman by what process these men are chosen; what are the duties of the first and second-class valuers and the junior valuers respectively; and whether he can hold out any hope that the great increase in travelling and subsistence allowances will not continue.
§ Mr. ROYDS rose
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not know whether the hon. Member will occupy much time, but I should like to answer the Noble Lord before 8.15. If he is not going to be long, I will give way now.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I regret I was not here to hear the first part of the observations of the Noble Lord, but as soon as I heard that the question was being raised I came into the Committee. The first question to which I heard him refer was that of travelling expenses. There has, undoubtedly, been an increase, but I think I can explain it satisfactorily. Now, after three or four years of valuation, the valuers are engaged upon the valuation of hereditaments, which are the farthest away from the central offices. So long as the valuations took place in the 285 immediate contiguity of the central offices the travelling expenses were not high, but now that they are going further afield the travelling expenses are naturally increased. That is the explanation of the gradual and, perhaps, considerable increase in the cost of travelling expenses connected with the valuation. I am afraid they will probably increase until the end of the first valuation, because there is still a considerable number of hereditaments far removed from any central office, and the travelling expenses will he heavy.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Do I understand that the whole of this increase, which amounts to £32,000, is due to the greater distances which these men have to travel, and to the fact that they receive allowances while travelling? It seems a very large sum to be accounted for merely by the fact that they are now travelling further afield.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If the Noble Lord considers the immense character of the transactions, involving the employment of hundreds of valuers, he will see that it is not a considerable increase; on the contrary, I think they have done the work with a good deal of frugality, having regard to their having to travel considerable distances to get to these outlying districts. I suppose there are many districts to which they cannot get by railway at the present moment. I come to the Noble Lord's second point, namely, the cost of appeals. I think he said they cost £11,000.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not think the Noble Lord can reasonably complain that the sum is very heavy when he considers that the total number of hereditaments—
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
When the Noble Lord considers that there are eight million hereditaments which have already been valued, he will see that the number of appeals is exceedingly small. If I had known that he was going to raise this question I could have got the figures as to the number of appeals, but I shall be able to give them in the course of the evening. They are exceedingly small. As 286 he knows, if he has had any experience at all of employing solicitors and lawyers, they are rather expensive people to employ. Eleven thousand pounds, considering the immense number of transactions in which appeals were possible, strikes me as being a very small sum. I am not sure that it does not also include the cost of referees, but I am not sure of that. I come now to the duties of the various branches of surveyors. I agree with the Noble Lord that when you come to value the land of the country it is a very difficult operation, which requires, men of skill and experience. But he knows very well that when you have a firm of valuers—I am not referring to official valuers—they have two or three first-class men in their office, a large staff of clerks, and some second and third-class, men whom they employ to assist the principals in putting through the valuation. The function of these junior men is to do what is called reference work. They go on the premises with a map, they check the various figures, they get a full description of the building, and they do work which is half clerical, but which requires, of course, a certain amount of experience. Take the first-class men. Their salaries are £120 rising to £350, but the Noble Lord only quoted the lowest figure. Their appointment is subject to the production of certificated qualifications, and is made by the Civil Service Commissioners under Clause 7 of the Order in Council.
To be eligible for a third-class candidature a man is required to pass the examination of the Surveyors' Institution or of the Auctioneers' and Estate Agents' Institute, so that they are not merely clerks who have no kind of proficiency, but they have passed the examination of one of those institutions. I believe the Civil Service Commissioners dispense with a certificate of that kind in cases where it is shown that these junior clerks have already had experience in valuers' offices. He has asked me what are the qualifications of first-class and second-class valuers. The professional qualification normally required for first-class valuers is fellowship of the Surveyors' Institution. The second-class valuer requires normally the professional qualification of Associate of the Surveyors' Institution. In the case of mineral valuers, either first or second class, the person appointed must be either an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers or associate 287 member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, or a member of a recognised Institute of Mining Engineers. So steps have been taken to see that men who are employed for this purpose are men whose qualifications are above suspicion. I know that in certain cases men have been appointed whose qualification is rather one of long experience of valuing—for instance, farmers and landowners, who know from experience and have for twenty or thirty years been valuing land in their own district. I know cases of that kind. I am sure the Noble Lord would be the first man to state that these men are very often men of the highest possible qualification for the work. I agree that it is desirable that you should have highly trained men. The Noble Lord has made the suggestion that it is desirable that we should have a few more.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Not so many, but more highly paid, because thereby you would get more competent men. You could not for £120 per year get men who would be sufficiently competent. They would get a better sum of money in this country or in the Dominions Overseas in this line of business.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If you happen to get a job overseas, of course you are better paid, but let me put this to the Noble Lord. He knows perfectly well that when you have got your highly-paid man he must get his £120 a year man to assist him. There is work which he could not do himself. He could not possibly cover the ground, and it is true of any firm of valuers at present employed by landowners that they have a number of men of that kind. They are not used for the purpose of first-class valuers, but as assistants to the first-class valuers. They are £120 a year men because they have not had the experience, but they can do the kind of work for which they are employed. I do not think the Noble Lord brought to my notice any case where a £120 a year man had been employed in valuing. He can call my attention no doubt to many cases where they have been employed to assist in the valuation, and it is quite impossible to get a valuation without assistance of that kind.
§ Mr. ROYDS
I have no fault whatever to find with the valuers themselves. I am quite sure the chief valuers and the assistant valuers are doing their work to the best of their ability, but when the Chancellor of the Exchequer says he has 288 done his best to engage experienced valuers I should like to draw attention to the fact that no valuer has ever previously had any experience of this class of valuation at all. No valuation has ever been found such as is directed to be found by this Act—gross values, site values, assessable site values, statutory site values, values on the occasion—and no independent valuer not paid by this Department ever believes they can be found. That is the position to the best of my belief. I am quite sure that the valuers are doing their best, but they have an impossible task in front of them. Something has been said about appeals and the cost of appeals. These appeals very largely arise not on any question of value, and certainly not on the question of market value or total value, but they arise in consequence of the different view taken by the valuers for the Government and the valuers for the subject as to what is the meaning of the Act under which these valuations are directed to be made. To give an instance, there is the question as to whether tenant right is to be included in the total value and whether stone walls and embankments are to be included in the value of the site, and whether drainage works are included. The legal representatives of the Government take the view that embankments and so forth are to be valued in the site. I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, when he framed the Act, it was part of the scheme of the Act that stone walls and embankments and drainage operations, as we see in the Eastern counties, should be included in the value of the site, and should not be divested as improvements? These questions are left to be fought out and settled in the Law Courts, but they are questions on which I should like to have a plain answer across the floor of the House of Commons.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that is a matter of legislation. What the Chancellor of the Exchequer may have intended does not arise. We are bound by the Statute as it exists.
§ Mr. ROYDS
We do not know what the meaning of the Statute is. That is exactly what we are fighting for in the Law Courts. It is quite unsettled, and it is for that very reason that I raise the point. It is before the Law Courts now as to whether these are or are not in- 289 cluded. Instead of going to the expense of testing that, leaving the poor subject to pay the cost, I think if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would tell us straight away, as the author of the Act, what he intended, it would simplify matters very much, and if the construction placed upon it by the legal advisers of the Government is not the construction that he intended when he framed the Act, perhaps we might have legislation introduced to put the matter right.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I understand the hon. Member is referring to a case in which his firm is engaged, which has come before the Referee, and in which the Referee has supported the view of the Department. My hon. Friend understands what the law was. For the moment the Referee has declared the law to be exactly what the Department said it would be. If it is sub judice. I do not want to make any reference to it.
§ Mr. ROYDS
I was not referring to that particular case at all; I was referring simply to the general position. I should think the Chancellor of the Exchequer could give me an answer on that general position. I will leave the stone walls, and confine my questions to the drainage operations and works of reclamation from the sea, and so forth. There are a dozen points of prime importance of that character. I merely mentioned these because they came into my head. We have never had an answer across the floor of the House as to what the intentions of the Government were on the subject. It would very much simplify matters if we had. With regard to cost of valuation, I see that the Estimate that we are considering now comes to £761,718, but there are a very considerable number of items which are strictly attributable to the Valuation Department which do not appear under this Vote at all—the Valuation Office, Ireland, £17,396; the Office of Works, £20,000; Stationery Office, £15,500; Post Office, £24,500; making a total, not of £761,718, but £843,614. That is a very large increase. Besides that, we have not included in this Vote an additional sum of £80,000 which the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day would be necessary in order to adjust the full site value to his new scheme. That has got to be undertaken by the Valuation Department, and that brings the total cost for the year up to £923,000, and as these Estimates are seldom adhered to, I think we may safely put the cost of the 290 Valuation Department this year at £1,000,000. I was going to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that in other years, as in the case of some other Departments, a note should appear in the Estimate of services rendered which are strictly attributable to that Department. I have had to ferret out all these figures, otherwise the House would have supposed that the total cost of the valuation was £761,718. As far as I can make out, it is £923,000 odd. That is a difference of over £200,000. We are not considering the true Estimate, and the correct figures ought to be placed before us. With regard to receipts, the House, I think, is also under a misapprehension.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That does not arise to-day. We are simply discussing the administration of the Department carrying out the legislation. The receipts must be dealt with when we are considering finance.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ROYDS
The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated just now that 8,000,000 hereditaments had been valued. I never heard that figure mentioned before, and I should very much like to know how it is arrived at. I should like to know how many hereditaments there are to be valued, and how many have been valued. I think he told us in his Budget speech that there were 9,000,000 to be valued, but if 8,000,000 have been valued that would mean that eight-ninths of the hereditaments of England have been valued. That must be either a gross under-statement of the hereditaments to be valued or an overstatement of the number which have been valued. I should like a definite statement on that subject. The important point is first—how many hereditaments are there to be valued?
§ Mr. ROYDS
Am I right in assuming that there are only 9,000,000? I do not know how many are valued in point of fact and how many owners have required separate valuations. You could be required to make a separate valuation for each field. We were told in the first instance that there were 11,000,000 hereditaments to value. Therefore, I should imagine that the number of hereditaments would be 12,000,000 or 13,000,000. The point is not how many have been valued or how many are still to be valued, but how many are 291 finally agreed. That is the point upon which we have not been able to get information from the Chancellor of the Exchequer up to the present time. I asked how many hereditaments had been valued in rural and urban districts respectively. The right hon. Gentleman replied that he could not give an answer. But the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said a few weeks ago that three-fourths of the valuations had been completed. Does he now say that three-fourths of the valuations of this country have been completed, meaning by "completed" agreed? Does he not mean that the valuers had, according to their own notions, made three-fourths of the valuations? I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman's answer will be, but I cannot believe it possible that anything like three-fourths of the valuations have been agreed. I have no hesitation in saying that not one-half of the agricultural land has been valued and agreed. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give me an answer before I conclude my speech. When we know how many have been agreed we shall have a rough idea what the cost of the valuation will be. The estimate this year brings it up to just under £3,100,000, and, so far as I can see, the valuation is likely to go on for a good many years to come. I should like to know how many valuations have been made on "the occasion." I asked the right hon. Gentleman some weeks ago, and, so far as I could gather from the answer, there were some 300,000 or 400,000, in respect of which valuations have not yet been made. It is only about 2 per cent. of those occasions on which any claims arise, but these valuations have to be made to see whether there is any claim for Increment Value Duty. The valuers and the solicitors have to be paid, but we hear nothing whatever of these charges. If the cost to the State is £1,000,000, I am sure I am correct in saying that the cost to the subject has been as much as that to the State.
There is another point to which I should like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention. I want to know exactly what connection this Valuation Department has with the valuing of property for Estate Duty purposes. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury stated on 6th May last:—I have no doubt whatever that the 'People's Budget' has been of inestimable value in increasing the yield from the Death Duties. That is absolutely undeniable.I deny it emphatically, and I have the authority of the Chancellor of the Ex- 292 chequer himself in support of that. On 29th October, 1909, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated in this House that in the previous spring he had reorganised the Valuation Department at Somerset House, with the result that he was receiving as much as £100,000 a week in additional Death Duties. He stated that he had now a satisfactory Valuation Department for the purpose of Death Duties. That was six months before the "People's Budget" was passed at all. He did not require a Valuation Department at a cost of £1,000,000 a year in order to increase the Death Duties to give him a perfectly satisfactory Valuation Department. It only required an additional expenditure of about £5,000 a year.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
It is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact. Between May, 1909, and March, 1914, there was an increase of 6.31 per cent. Three per cent. was due to the machinery described by my right hon. Friend and 3.31 was due to this new valuation.
§ Mr. ROYDS
The hon. Gentleman calls it the new Valuation Department. How does he know anything about it? The valuation was made by the Department which was valuing previously. I was not in the House of Commons in 1909, but in 1910 I asked if it was the same Valuation Department that was then accounting for the Death Duties as was making the valuation in October, 1909, and the reply was that that was the Department, It is ridiculous to suppose that it takes £1,000,000 a year to provide an efficient Valuation Department for Death Duty purposes. There was a good Valuation Department before, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that he had made it efficient. Now the right hon. Gentleman comes and says that the Department which is costing £1,000,000 a year has brought about an increase in the Death Duties. It is the old Department that has done the work all the time.
There is one important point which the Chancellor of the Exchequer ignored altogether. The right hon. Gentleman has not stated the great depreciation which has taken place in the value of property itself in consequence of his People's Budget. I say that the Government has lost millions of money in Death Duties in consequence 293 of that depreciation in property. Ask anyone who knows what the effect of this valuation has been, and he will tell you that urban properties have depreciated in many cases 50 per cent., and seldom less than 25 per cent. If these properties had not been depreciated they would on the death of the testators have paid higher Estate Duty, so that, instead of this valuation having added to the amount of the Death Duties, it has considerably decreased the amount which these duties would otherwise have brought to the Exchequer. I hope the facts which I have stated satisfactorily dispose of the case made by right hon. and hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, who, whenever the effect of the People's Budget is mentioned, invariably get up and say, "Look at the amount in Death Duties arising from the valuation!" [Cheers.] They cheer that, but I hope they will not do it again, because I think that on the Chancellor of the Exchequer's own showing the whole of that increase is attributable to the Valuation Department which he set up before the People's Budget was ever heard of. I recommend hon. Gentlemen to read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on 29th October, 1909, and also what he said in the spring of 1910, when I raised the question myself. If they will do so, I am sure they will be perfectly satisfied as to the accuracy of what I have said on the subject, and if they are not satisfied, I would ask them to go to Somerset House and ask how the valuations are being made. I find fault with the system, and not with the officials.
As to the question of Reversion Duty, I suppose I should be in order in mentioning that. In consequence of the decision in a case brought before the Law Courts a very large proportion of Reversion Duty which had been paid will be repayable. I have not seen any note in any Estimate as to the allowance to be made on that account, but I suppose a considerable amount of the charges collected in respect of Reversion Duty will have to be refunded. The Revenue Bill of this year deals with that matter. The methods of arriving at these valuations of site value by the valuers is, I understand, by the process of deduction. But the Lord Chancellor recently said in the House of Lords that full site value was not a value, but only a difference. The Land Conference, which is a body of experts selected from all the professional bodies in England dealing with land, have come to the conclusion 294 that the methods of valuation employed by the valuers—I say nothing whatever of the provisions of the Act—are not methods by which you can possibly arrive at the true unimproved value of the land. They have expressed that opinion, and I want to know if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now prepared to pay any attention whatever to expert opinion on this subject. He has told me several times in this House that he is prepared to appoint a Committee to inquire into the whole of this matter. It rests in his hands to do so at any time, and to call expert witnesses before the Committee. He has done nothing of the sort, but has continued the system without regard to the opinion expressed by experts, throughout the length and breadth of the land, that by this process the true unimproved value of the land cannot possibly be arrived at.
It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.