HC Deb 03 March 1921 vol 138 cc2129-37

Again considered in Committee.

[Sir E. CORNWALL in the Chair.]

Question again proposed, "That Item A be reduced by £550."


There was another point on which I wanted my right hon. Friend to give us some information. He stated that the reasons which mainly moved the Treasury to the increase of the Comptroller-General's salary were, firstly, the special qualifications of the post, under the new and exacting conditions, and, secondly, that it had been only fair to promise him that, when he left the Treasury, he should not suffer any financial loss during the remaining portion of his official career. Those, I agree, were reasons which, under pre-War conditions, would find almost general support, but we are not now in pre-War conditions. The conditions under which we are living to-day demand from us all the most exacting economy—certainly that is so in my own case—and the Treasury ought to set a good example to the private citizen. Then there is another point upon which I should like further information. As I understand it, the rule is that, when the head of a Department has his salary raised, proportionate increases are granted to his subordinates who are in what I may call the same class as himself. That is, I understand, the rule which obtains generally in the Civil Service, and certainly in most other branches of civilian administration. If that is so, I should like to know how much more this increase involves in future additional salaries to the Assistant Controller-General. I find, for instance, in the original Estimate that he has an Assistant Controller, four principal clerks, five assistant principal clerks, and then you go on to the second division to which, I suppose, my argument would not apply. But taking those nine officials I should like to know what additions to their salary will in the future fall to them if the Committee grants the request of my right hon. Friend to grant this increase of salary to the Controller-General himself. But assuming I am wrong and that this increase of salary is special to the present owner of the office. If and when he demits his office, what view would the right hon. Gentleman take, if it happens in his time of office, of his successor? Will this addition, which is now made for special reasons as he tells us, become the permanent salary of this particular position? I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman once again the feeling which I am sure is very general throughout the whole Committee, those who are at present and those who are not present, that these increases of salary, which six months ago might have seemed fairly reasonable under the then circumstances, as things are to-day are really not justified.


I have listened to a good many Debates in the last fortnight, and the great cry in the House has been for reductions in wages. We have had a Debate on unemployment, and we have been told that heavy taxation is one of the causes of unemployment. This may be a very eminent civil servant—he may have all the abilities that are necessary, and every honour and dignity, but he is already in receipt of an income of £38 a week, and we have the cool proposal that his salary should be increased by £10 per week. This proposal is made at a time when we have a million men unemployed. If it is good economy to reduce wages, this economy must be general in its application. I think there is a limit to the reduction of wages, and there should also be a limit to the increase of salaries. There can really be no personal necessity for an increase of this servant's salary, and I think some of the criticism which has been levelled at the working classes in the last fortnight could very well be directed against this Vote. If the Committee goes to a Division, as I hope it will, I shall certainly cast my vote against this increase. I think it cannot be justified under the circumstances that we find to-day, and, while we have these attacks levelled at labour, and a general cry for the cheapening of production, I think it is not permissible for this House to increase the salary of any servant who is getting £38 per week while we have a million people who are altogether unemployed and will be compelled to live upon the meagre sum of £1 per week.


I rise to add my protest to those already advanced against this increase in the salary of two civil servants. It really reflects a most remarkable state of mind on the part of the Government at this juncture in our affairs to be in the habit of coming to the House to request increases of the salaries of bureaucrats. The argument has been advanced that these two gentlemen could command larger salaries in business than they do in the Civil Service. That is no argument at all. Once the Civil Service begins to compete in terms of money with business for the best brains in the country, the competition is never ended and we cannot possibly compete successfully with business. There are other factors surely which attract a man to Government service beyond merely mercenary conditions. The power and the prestige which attach to a Civil Service appointment will always attract the best brains of the country to the Civil Service, always providing the salaries are adequate to provide a man with a sufficient sum for the proper maintenance of his family and the education of his children. It is seriously contended that salaries respectively of £2,000 a year and £1,500 are not sufficient inducement to persuade men to remain in the Civil Service, and that they may be tempted away to business. Does anyone seriously contend that men cannot adequately support families on incomes of this amount, cannot educate their children and maintain a position in life commensurate with the dignity of their position? At this moment when it is suggested in many quarters that an all-round reduction in wages may be necessary and in some quarters it is even suggested that a reduction in real wages may be necessary, can you imagine any effect upon public opinion more detrimental to the national interest than these eternal demands for additions to the salaries of bureaucrats? After all in these days every section of the community is affected.

There are few people of the class to which these gentlemen belong who are not worse off than they were before the War, and yet in a Supplementary Estimate of this nature we find that the only class who are to be exempt from the financial difficulties which prevail to-day are those very bureaucrats who are responsible for spending the money which necessitates taxation. Can hon. Members imagine any moral effect which could be worse than this, that the people who are responsible for the spending of the money are the very last to feel the ill-effects consequent upon that spending? On moral considerations alone the Committee ought to be deterred from hastily increasing the salaries of bureaucrats in the way demanded in this Estimate. Salaries of £2,000 and £1,500 respectively are more than adequate to maintain any man and his family in comfort, and I can conceive no reason why at this juncture in our national affairs, they should be increased, and unless some more adequate explanation is given I shall most certainly vote for a reduction of the amount to be spent.

Colonel L. WARD

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether in addition to the increase of salary that is to be given these bureaucrats have shared in the War bonus for which a sum of £6,100 was provided for this Department in the supplementary War bonus during the closing days of last year?


I should like to protest against the increase of the salaries of civil servants. The Civil Service is becoming rather a privileged class. They are to a certain extent privileged, because the majority of them have pensions, and it is impossible to compare them with people in business who have no pensions and have all the worries of business, not knowing whether later in life they will be perfectly comfortable, as is the case of the civil servant who has a pension coming from the Government. That is the great dif- ference between them. Seeing that the civil servants have pensions to look forward to when they retire I do not see why they should have their salaries increased in this way. If they had no pension I could understand the matter, because they should have enough salary to save for their old age. There is a good deal to be said for the point of view raised by my hon. Friend, who mentioned the fact that there is a movement for the reduction of the wages of labour. Wages are coming down in many industries, and surely, in this respect an example of self-denial should be set by the governing body of civil servants. If that example is set from above, surely it will begin to operate below. Unless an example is set by the Government it is difficult for an example to be set by the private citizen. If the Government will set an example in economy it will be followed by the ordinary citizen and we shall have national economy.


I do not think we have had a satisfactory reply as to the reason for these proposed increases of salary. I must, however, take strong exception to the remarks of the last speaker with respect to Civil servants. He seems to think that the Civil servant because he is entitled to a pension is not as good a man as he might otherwise be.


I never suggested that.


It is true that a Civil servant has a pension, but if he had not a pension he would very likely be getting a bigger salary. It means that he is working for less money than he would otherwise have in private enterprise, and the remarks of the hon. Member were very uncalled for. I think, however, that the Minister ought to give a further explanation. Unless a satisfactory reason is given we are right in going to a Division.


There were at least two questions of public interest which I hope my right hon. Friend will answer.


My right hon. Friend need not be anxious about the point he raised in regard to the increase of the salaries of subordinate officers as a consequence of the proposed increase of the salary of the Comptroller-General, because I understand that in this case the salary is a personal one, and there are no advances in salaries made simply because, for the time being, the head of the office carries a higher salary than before. The salary is entirely an ad hoc salary. It applies only to the person concerned, exactly in the same way as happened when, for a short time, a special salary was attached to the office of the Lord Privy Seal held by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bonar Law), and an assurance was given when the first Estimate was passed that it was a personal salary, and that the next holder would receive the salary attaching to the office, which used to be £2,000 a year. That was stated before the Committee which investigated Ministers' salaries. The next holder of this office will revert to the old figure pertaining to the office. My right hon. Friend made some fun about the Appropriations-in-Aid. He knows perfectly well that we have to make an Estimate for Appropriations-in-Aid just as we do about expenditure. The calculations for Appropriations-in-Aid on this particular Vote are made from the information which we have in our possession at the present time as to the number of men who are presenting themselves for commutation of pension. I should like to say a word in reply to the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) and the hon. Member for Hull (Colonel L. Ward). They were under the impression that we are providing for two extra bureaucrats.




The hon. Member for Hull used the term, "two bureaucrats." There is only one bureaucrat, and one-Government broker concerned. The hon. Member (Colonel L. Ward) was not in the House in the early part of the Debate when I said that one of the increases is an increase for the Government broker.

Colonel L. WARD

Can the right, hon. Gentleman say whether the Member of the Civil Service who is to receive an increase of salary has been receiving war bonus during the current year, and, if so, how much?


I do not think that that arises on this Vote, but I think it almost certain that he is receiving war bonus, because war bonus is being gener- ally paid. My hon. Friend can raise that question in order on the Estimate for War Bonus, which will be taken within the next week or two.

Colonel L. WARD

On the question of raising this gentleman's salary, the Committee is entitled to know how much money he is receiving from the public purse.


We cannot now discuss the general principle of war bonus.


What the hon. Member is asking, and what I wish to ask, is how much bonus is this gentleman receiving? If my hon. Friend cannot tell me, that is an end of the matter, but if he can, the Committee would like to know.


I would not like to commit myself without reference, but I think about £500 a year.

Question put, "That Item A be reduced by £550."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 58; Noes, 130.

Division No. 16] AYES. [8.58 p.m.
Atkey, A. R. Hartshorn, Vernon Pennefather, De Fonblanque
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes) Polson, Sir Thomas
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G. Holmes, J. Stanley Raffan, Peter Wilson
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Irving, Dan Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) John, William (Rhondda, West) Rose, Frank H.
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk) Johnstone, Joseph Royce, William Stapleton.
Clynas, Rt. Hon. J. R. Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M. Sexton, James
Curzon, Commander Viscount Lawson, John J. Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Lunn, William Stevens, Marshall
Davies, Thomas (Cirencester) Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian) Swan, J. E.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Marriott, John Arthur Ransome Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South) Mills, John Edmund Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Entwistle, Major C. F. Molson, Major John Eisdale Wignall, James
Finney, Samuel Morgan, Major D. Watts Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Galbraith, Samuel Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbrdge)
Glanville, Harold James Myers, Thomas Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Nall, Major Joseph Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Gritten, W. G. Howard Newbould, Alfred Ernest
Hallas, Eldred Nield, Sir Herbert TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G. Mr. G. Thorne and Mr. Mosley.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Forestler-Walker, L. M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.
Ainsworth, Captain Charles Forrest, Walter Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.
Armitage, Robert France, Gerald Ashburner Mitchell, William Lane
Baird, Sir John Lawrence Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Camb'dge) Moles, Thomas
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Morden, Lieut.-Col. W. Grant
Barlow, Sir Montague Gould, James C. Moreing, Captain Algernon H.
Barnett, Major R. W. Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.) Morris, Richard
Barnston, Major Harry Gregory, Holman Neal, Arthur
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Newman, Sit R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Bigland, Alfred Hailwood, Augustine Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton) Percy, Charles
Breese, Major Charles E. Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Perring, William George
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Herbert, Denis (Hertford, Watford) Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)
Briggs, Harold Higham, Charles Frederick Pollock, Sir Ernest M.
Brown, Captain D. C. Hinds, John Preston, W. R.
Bruton, Sir James Hood, Joseph Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Hotchkin, Captain Staff[...] Vere Purchase, H. G.
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster) Randies, Sir John S.
Carr, W. Theodore Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H. Rankin, Captain James S.
Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington) James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.
Chadwick, Sir Robert Jodrell, Neville Paul Rees, Capt. J. Tudor (Barnstaple)
Chamberlain, N (Birm., Ladywood) Johnson, Sir Stanley Remer, J. R.
Churchman, Sir Arthur Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil) Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly) Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Conway, Sir W. Martin Knights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.) Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely) Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale) Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stratford)
Cope, Major Wm. Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales) Roundell, Colonel R. F.
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L. Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd) Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)
Davidson, J. C. C.(Hemel Hempstead) Lloyd, George Butler Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham) Lorden, John William Shaw, William T. (Forfar)
Dockrell, Sir Maurice Lort-Wllliams, J. Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Doyle, N. Grattan Loseby, Captain C. E. Stanier, Captain Sir Beville
Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath) Lynn, R. J. Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M. M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A. Stanton, Charles B.
Ford, Patrick Johnston McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern) Starkey, Captain John R.
Stewart, Gershom Watson, Captain John Bertrand Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato
Sugden, W. H. Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Sykes, Colonel Sir A. J. (Knutsford) Wild, Sir Ernest Edward Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)
Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley) Williams, Lieut.-Com. C. (Tavistock)
Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South) Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Turton, E. R. Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West) Captain Guest and Colonel Sir R.
Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading) Sanders.
Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley) Wise, Frederick

Original Question put, and agreed to.