§ Order for the Second Reading, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I will at once give way if the Secretary to the Treasury has anything to say. If he has no material to place before the House to justify the Consolidated Fund Bill, which disposes of some millions of money, I propose to give him some ammunition by asking him one or two questions, and, in particular, first of all, I wish to ask a question of which I gave notice at Question Time. I want to raise the point about the amount of money that is owing to us from the Northern Government of Ireland for transport and weapons handed over to that Government by His Majesty's Government. I hope the hon. Gentleman has some figures, which, apparently, do not weigh very heavily with the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Questions have been asked in this House about the amount of munitions handed over to the Southern Provisional Government, and they have been answered in full detail. I have previously asked a question on the Estimates about the amount of munitions, motor transport, and the like that have been handed over to the Northern Government, and what arrangement has been made for their payment. I was told by the Colonial Secretary, in reply, that the whole of the Government warlike stores for the use of the police in the Northern territory, on the date the Government took over last November, was handed over, lock, stock, and barrel to that Government, and he went on to say it was not in the public interest to give any details of the amount of munitions. In the first place, I think that was a very provocative statement to make, and it is treating our Irish fellow-subjects, with whom we all hope to be at peace, as if they were enemies. I do not want to pursue the matter at any great length, but I want to make that protest, and I think that the Colonial Secretary will regret his action before very long. I want to ask what was the money 2158 value of these accoutrements; these motor cars, motor lorries and weapons which were handed over to the Northern Government?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think that question arises, because I do not see the provision on this Vote of any money for the Northern Government.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I think, Mr. Speaker, that this matter was discussed in Committee at some length. It comes in the Irish Vote that was taken, I think the day before yesterday, in Committee. I must ask for forgiveness for delay, because I have been expecting the Government to reply, and I have not therefore looked up the reference, but I think it will be found on page 30.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I presume that the hon. and gallant Member is referring to one of the Votes which were passed in Committee yesterday?
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
No, Sir. It was one of the Votes which passed through Report yesterday. I refer to the Vote, Class 3, No. 22, on page 29 for the Royal Irish Constabulary, and in particular to Sub-head G on page 30. That matter was discussed at some length, and I am sorry to say, hopelessly, in that we were unable to get any information as to the value of the stores which were handed over. It is on that point that I propose, first of all, to seek information. I asked then what was the value of these goods, and motor transport, etc., which were handed over. If the right hon. Gentlemen could give us the figures it would not convey information to the possible opponents of the Northern Government. It would not give the number of rifles or the number of motor lorries, because for one thing we do not know the value of the equipment and transport. The Secretary of State for the Colonies refused to give us this information, and I am sorry to say he is rather prone to do this sort of thing, so far as the regular Opposition is concerned. Now either the Government have this information, and have kept some account of the equipment handed over, and know its value or else they have not. If they have this information they ought to give it to the House. We are voting great sums of money at a time of acute financial crisis, and we really ought to be given full details 2159 as to these sums. We ought to know exactly the liabilities which the Northern Government have taken on. I further asked a question of the right hon. Gentleman to which I had no reply. It bears on this particular Vote. I asked what arrangements were being made for repayment. Before we are asked to vote a sum of no less than £1,474,000 for this one Vote, we ought to be told what chance there is of repayment. On the Committee stage the right hon. Gentleman pleaded that these were difficult times for the Government. That may be so, but even the right hon. Gentleman's barricades in Whitehall have been taken down. I do not know if he has dispensed with some of his armed guard which were accompanying him, but I am sure that he is in no danger whatever and, indeed, I very much doubt if he ever was. There is no excuse for our Government not having an account of what they handed over. I can understand the Northern Government not having a full account of what they may have received. I understand all the difficulties and I appreciate them, but there is no excuse whatever for our Government adopting these lax accounting methods. There has been too much evidence of late of these slipshod methods, and they have occurred, not only in Irish administration, but also in other branches. I think we are entitled to have an answer to this question. I want to know the value of the stores, equipment, and motor transport, which was handed over to the Northern Government. What was the agreed value or the stock value? It does not matter which, and even approximate figures will do. I do rot want to go into the details or the reasons which were given by the Colonial Secretary. I want to ask, secondly, what arrangements have been made for paying for these stores. I make no excuse for stressing this point. We have got into thoroughly slipshod financial methods during the War. Treasury control has been relaxed. It has not yet been reasserted. The control of this House over finance has been relaxed, and it has not yet been reasserted. Until this has been done we shall get nothing like financial solvency in this country. I have been able to draw the attention of the House to one clear instance of this large sum of money in one substantial Vote, and if we allow the Government to get this 2160 Vote through without asserting our perfectly legitimate demands, then the sooner we have an appeal to the country the better, because it shows that the House of Commons has abdicated its functions. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us this information.
The only other point I want to raise is in connection with a different Vote, a Vote for the Board of Trade, Class II, No. 10, on page 6. I do not want to go over the ground which was covered thoroughly on the Committee stage and and on the Report stage over this Board of Trade Vote for £610,000. I think the matter ought to be cleared up. I will not delay the House long, because I know that other hon. Gentlemen are anxious to speak. I asked for information on that Vote about the factory which was put up at Avonmouth and for which it was stated that the Government advanced £500,000, and the President of the Board of Trade was most courteous. He said he had heard something about the matter, but he had no information and he had not been able to get information, and he did not know what Vote the money was borne on, and so he asked to be excused. Of course we did not wish to press the right hon. Gentleman. But that was many hours ago—I think two days ago—and I would like very respectfully to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury if he can give us any information in regard to this Avonmouth factory. It was raised on both Debates on this Vote; it was raised on Committee stage and on Report stage, and no information was then forthcoming.
I take it, Mr. Speaker, that the Consolidated Fund Bill for these Supplementary Estimates is very largely for the main purpose of asking for information which the Government are unable or unwilling to give us during the preceding stages, and I therefore take this opportunity. I would very much like to know exactly what has happened about this sum of £500,000, whether it was in fact voted, when it was voted, and for what purpose, and what is more important now, whether the whole of this money has been lost. We are asked to vote £600,000 odd, and we ought to know whether we have any assets to put against that expenditure. In other words, has the whole of this £500,000 been lost, beyond hope of recovery, and, if so, what are the circumstances? This is a very 2161 considerable sum of money, and I would be very much obliged if we could have some information. I have raised these two points, which I think are points of substance, and I make no apology for having raised them. There are many other very peculiar circumstances in regard to several of these votes, and I hope that this Bill will give the opportunity of alluding to them. I do not wish to raise any other points except these two simple but important matters, and I would be very much obliged if I could receive a reply.
§ Sir GODFREY COLLINS
The question which you, Sir, have put from the Chair that this Bill be now read a Second time is in relation to the first Government Measure of this Session. It is characteristic of the present Government to ask this House to vote considerable sums of money and it is not surprising to the Members of the House that at the earliest stages of this Session this House should be engaged in considering not only the voting of Supplementary Estimates, but the passage of a Consolidated Fund Bill into law. What is the Bill? It makes provision for the Supplementary Estimates which have been under consideration by the Committee during the last 10 days, and I venture to assert that the examination of these Estimates by the Committee have shown that the financial policy of the Government is cynical and cruel. It also reveals the fact that the Government is controlled by various Departments, and it also shows, as the House well knows, that the various Government Departments have underestimated the amounts that they will require to ask the House to find this year for the various services which are embodied in these Supplementary Estimates. What a contrast to the attitude of the Government just a year ago! They came to this House on the opening day of the Budget. They informed the House that they would be in the possession of a surplus of £176,000,000 for certain contingencies, but, through the passage of these Supplementary Estimates, that surplus has disappeared, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to be hard pressed to balance his Budget. In considering this Consolidated Fund Bill, and these Supplementary Estimates, this House is entitled to ask itself this question. "Whether the Estimates for the coming year will be so framed that the 2162 House of Commons a year hence will be forced to pass large Supplementary Estimates?"
It is the habit of the Government to make under-estimates, to ask for insufficient money in the original Estimates. They are then forced to come to the House month by month for further money. Although they may hold out hopes during the coming months of large reductions of expenditure, their past policy and the present Consolidated Fund Bill are dear evidence that whatever their intentions may be towards economy in future, their expectations will not mature and the burden of the taxpayer will not be lightened. I shall not refer now to the Debates which have taken place and the concessions which have been granted through the pressure of Members in all quarters of the House regarding pensions to civil servants, but I would remind the House that the total pension bill, irrespective of the cost of the Ministry of Pensions, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, partly included in the present Estimates and in the original Estimates, amounts to £7,500,000 a year.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think the hon. Member was not in the House yesterday when a question was asked, and I ruled that the discussion on this Bill must be confined strictly to the Estimates therein included.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I understand that the Estimate on page 50 of the Supplementary Estimates makes provision, under heading Q, for superannuation and other charges amounting to £1,082,000, and that on page 29 of the Supplementary Estimates there is an extra sum of £91,000 for the Irish Constabulary.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That may be, but it does not lead up to the Army and Navy and Air Force and all the rest of the charges.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I am obliged for your ruling. The statement I was making was that I omitted all these services because I realised that to discuss them would not be relevant. My only object is to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the love for officials which the Government have shown has affected the size of these Estimates. The employment of many officials in the Customs and Excise and numerous other Departments, 2163 automatically leads to heavy pension charges in the future, and unless the Government takes steps to reduce the number of officials in these Departments our pension bill will increase year by year. This Bill, and the Estimates to which it refers, are a clear indication that the Government have not had sufficient regard to public expenditure and the burden of the taxpayer.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Sir Hamar Greenwood)
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) pressed me to give the value of the arms and equipment transferred to the Northern Government and the Provisional Government of Ireland.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Only to the Northern Government. We have had it for the Southern Government.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
Not the value. The point is as to the exact value of the arms and equipment handed over to the Northern and Southern Governments. I am not in a position to give the value, because the value has not been determined, and it can be fixed between the parties only when they agree upon a value. I can assure the House that, as far as the number of the arms and other equipment is concerned, a careful record is kept and that the books show whether they have gone to the Northern Government or to the Southern Government.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I do not think my point is understood. Is the motor transport being run now without any agreement as to its value having been reached?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
We must have some regard to the general position of Ireland at the moment. There are in Ireland two Governments struggling with the greatest possible difficulty. Everyone hopes that they will be successful in bringing peace to their respective peoples and to all Ireland. They have asked us to help them with certain motor cars, arms and other equipment. We have done so on the understanding that as soon as possible, when peace is restored, these things will be taken over at a valuation. It is pressing me too hard to ask now: "What is the value of a rifle given here, or a motor car handed over there?" I have more confidence in both these 2164 Governments than has the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I believe that the valuation will be a fair one. Above all, it is to the interest of this House to support the two Irish Governments. There is no desire to evade the question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and, if I had the figure of value, I would give it to him gladly; but I do not think it is right to press me to ask these Governments to sit down now, with Ireland in the state in which it is, and to fix a value for the necessary equipment for maintaining peace.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I wish to ask a question which I think is covered by this Bill, although it is difficult for Members of the House to know exactly what Votes are covered, as there is only a gross sum stated. I understand, however, that Army Estimates have been before the Committee. What I wish to know is whether the right hon. Gentleman intends to implement the promise he made and the expectation he held out to the House that we should be given the fullest information about the burning of Cork City. There are several Estimates that touch on this matter, among the Estimates that have passed through the Committee of Supply. There are the unclassified services, "Criminal Injuries," and, of course, there is the pay for the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Auxiliary division.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would like to know on which of the Estimates the hon. and gallant Member bases his remarks.
§ Captain BENN
I submit, with very great deference, the Estimate on page 49, which shows that compensation has been paid for criminal injuries and an advance made on account of compensation to law-abiding persons in necessitous circumstances in cases of injury to their property. I submit also chat on the payment of the sums due to the Government forces, Auxiliaries and others, the matter to which I wish to refer might also be considered to be in order.
§ Captain BENN
That is information to me, and would be to some Members of the House. I do not know how it is possible to discover from the Bill what Estimates are in and what are not.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Quite so. If the hon. and gallant Member will look at the Reports of Supply he can easily find out. They are summed up in the Ways and Means Resolutions upon which the Bill is founded.
§ Captain BENN
Is it necessary that an Estimate should be reported to the House and pass the Report stage before it goes into the Consolidated Fund Bill?
§ Captain BENN
Then I submit that on the Estimate for the payment of the Royal Irish Constabulary, on page 29, the remarks I am about to make may prove to be in order.
§ Captain BENN
My submission is that Cork City was burned by some persons whose salaries are included in the Estimate to which I have referred. We are in the dark to some extent, but we have had evidence repeatedly brought forward in this House and we have not had rebutting evidence from the other side. The point I am making is that the right hon. Gentleman pledged himself to give us the evidence.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is quite clear that it is on the Vote for the salary of the Chief Secretary that this should be discussed, and not on the salary of a policeman.
§ Captain BENN
Of course, I bow to your ruling, but I would point out that very shortly we shall not be able to debate the salary of the Chief Secretary, because I hope the office will cease to exist. It looks, therefore, as if all these deeds will pass into oblivion without the House having an opportunity to express an opinion.
Mr. T. THOMSON
Before we give further sanction to the Votes under Class 6 dealing with the pensions of civil servants, I wish to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether, in considering the, re-arrangement which he promised, he will bear in mind the exceedingly anomalous position which arises because of the various classes of pensions. There are three classes of pensions. There are pre-War pensioners who get no advantage. Those who retired 2166 comparatively recently come under the special arrangements foreshadowed in the Supplementary Estimate, and benefit by the capitalised value of the bonus. There are, thirdly, those who will come on the new scale which the Financial Secretary has promised to determine. Will the hon. Gentleman consider whether it is possible to co-ordinate the various systems so that these somewhat gross anomalies cease to exist? I dare-say it will not be possible to do that to any considerable extent in the revision he is making, but it is absurd and unfair that you should have these three types of pensions, based on three varying standards, for common services rendered to the same Government by the same class of civil servant.
Might I, with due respect, submit, as a new Member, that although the House of Commons is supposed to have control over finance it is exceedingly difficult, especially for new Members—I do not desire to be presumptuous in criticising the ancient forms of the House—to know exactly what are the particular services we are passing in this Bill. You, Sir, have ruled that it we refer to the various reports of Ways and Means we can discover what is before us, but with due respect, might I say if it were possible in future to simplify the way in which these matters come before the House it would strengthen that control and that knowledge which the ordinary Members have of the finances they are asked to sanction. Precedents, I know, weigh very heavily in this House, but surely some are better for the breaking, and in these times of financial stringency I think the more simple the accounts are made, and the better the ordinary Member knows what he is discussing, the more rigid economy you will be able to secure.
§ Sir W. HOWELL DAVIES
I should like to mention the matter of zinc concentrates and the factory at Avonmouth.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Might I point out to the hon. Member, as I pointed out to the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, that the £500,000 for a factory at Avonmouth is not included in this Bill, and, therefore, it will not be possible to discuss it. The other matter of the zinc concentrates is in order.
§ Sir H. DAVIES
I do not know whether I can incidentally refer to the factory and the position the Government are in, being 2167 under obligation to deal with these zinc concentrates? It might be an advantage for the Government to have some interest in factories erected to deal with these imports. The fact of the matter is, this business was begun as a war scheme to provide against possibilities. No Vote, so far as I know, was ever taken in this House. The Port of Bristol has shared in the responsibility, because that port has invested a considerable sum of money to deal with these zinc concentrates should the necessity arise. I do not think the House need feel that what money has been spent in regard to these factories is money thrown away. It is quite possible the time may come when they may be very useful for the Government to deal with the obligations which they have incurred.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I should like to address a few questions to the hon. Gentleman who represents the Treasury on the subject of the Vote on. page 35 of the Estimates—Superannuation and Retiring Allowances. It is inevitable from the decision at which the Government arrived, in deference to the universally expressed opinion of this House, that a very great anomaly in the treatment of retiring civil servants will be constituted, and that very grave inequalities will exist between those who retired in the past and those who will retire in the future. I should like to ask, in support of the appeal already advanced to him by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), whether he proposes to co-ordinate the present system, rent as it is by two completely different methods of dealing with these cases, and whether he has any proposals for remedying, in any respect, the inequalities which will exist as the result of this decision or concession to the opinion of the House.
It is scarcely necessary to point out, after the Debate on the subject, that under this decision civil servants retiring in the future labour under an immense disadvantage as compared with those retiring now. Already those who have just retired or are retiring under this Supplementary Estimate are at a great disadvantage compared with those who retired a year ago—with civil servants who retired when the cost of living had reached its highest point, when the index 2168 figure on which their bonus was based stood at something like 170 above pre-War level. Those men derived a very great advantage even over the civil servants who went on for another year or two, and who are retiring now. The bonus of those who are retiring now is computed upon an index figure which stands at 70 above pre-War level. Therefore there is a disparity existing even under the present system between the civil servant who retires to-day and those retiring earlier. To such an extent does the disparity exist that those retiring to-day have only about half the pension of those who retired at that time in respect to the amount of pension which is calculated on the war bonus. Already, I say, that disparity exists; now the hon. Gentleman in deference to the opinion of the House proposes to constitute a graver injustice, because he has decided that the pensions of all civil servants retiring in the future shall not be based in the same way even upon the very modified war bonus now existing. Even had the hon. Gentleman not come to this decision with the falling index figure and consequently the falling war bonus, a man retiring in the future would be at a disadvantage with those retiring in the past. As it is, the grievance and unequality are accentuated and aggravated.
I do think it legitimate to submit to the hon. Gentleman that it is highly inexpedient to penalise those men who have served their country longest, and consequently best. He is putting a premium upon early retirement. All the men who have hung on through the difficult and arduous period of reconstruction to the present time are at a great disadvantage compared to those who retired comparatively early. I cannot help feeling that such an obvious injustice must give rise to the very gravest dissatisfaction in the ranks of the existing civil servants. All those who remained and are subject to this new concession will feel, and feel justly, that, as compared with those who have departed in former times, they are being very harshly treated. These considerations must lead to the conclusion that if this concession is not to give rise to very great and very legitimate grievances this provision, which the hon. Gentleman introduced yesterday, must be made retrospective to the pensions already granted. That is the only way to equalise the incidence of 2169 this revision, otherwise the hon. Gentleman is bound to find himself immersed in the most bitter feelings and jealousies between the existing civil servants and those who have retired. All these men will labour under a sense of great grievance.
An argument was adduced by the hon. Gentleman against making this concession retrospective. He said we are in honour bound by the most solemn obligation and by a written contract not to revise the pensions which have already been granted. But the day before the hon. Gentleman was arguing that he was in honour bound by the most solemn obligation not to revise the pensions basis of existing civil servants. The hon. Gentleman pointed out how the word "emoluments" under the Statute was defined. That definition was accepted by the civil servants. He pointed out that he had accepted the ruling of the Whitley Committee in this definition. If his argument be accepted that it is illegitimate to revise the pensions of the past, that argument is easily applicable in respect to the pensions of existing civil servants. The hon. Gentleman retained the services of these men in the Civil Service on the ground that their pension would be paid on a certain basis which he now proposes to revise. If we are so solicitous on this question of honour in respect to the past—a point which in my opinion cannot be sustained—if we are so solicitous on this question of honour, ought we not to consider that it is equally binding upon us in regard to existing civil servants? The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that if any of these men had known that this concession was going to be made they would have left the Civil Service, under more favourable conditions, as hundreds of civil servants already have done.
Much has been made by the hon. Gentleman of the honourable obligations which ensued upon his decision. Then, in face of pressure from this House, which did not adopt the same view as himself, and which took the view that under the economic conditions of the day it was legitimate to revise the argument in regard to war bonus which had been entered into under entirely different conditions—under pressure from the House the hon. Gentleman decided to throw over the standpoint which he had adopted the day before as involving the 2170 honour, as I understand it, of the Government and of this House. There is no question of degree in matters of honour. Either we are bound to all these men, or not at all. If the hon. Gentleman, consistently with honour, can throw over the existing civil servants, he can throw over the civil servants of the past. The hon. Gentleman rather reminds me of the man on the sleigh who was pursued by the proverbial wolf. He had several small babies of honour in the sleigh. He had to throw over one of them to retain the others.
I trust the hon. Gentleman will be able to clear up this point which I confess is exercisng me to some considerable extent—that he will be able to explain the seeming anomaly which has arisen in connection with this question of honour—that he will be able to say why he has suddenly realised these considerations in regard to existing civil servants, and why he considers himself still bound in honour to the civil servant of the past? I cannot see, if we are bound by these considerations in regard to past civil servants, we are not equally bound to those who still remain in the Civil Service! Certainly, on every ground of expediency and justice if it can be effected in consonance with honour, the obvious duty of the hon. Gentleman is, it seems to me, so to revise the whole system on which our civil service pensions are computed as to co-ordinate and equalise these very grave injustices that are being effected under the present system, and which are being aggravated under the concession which he has made.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
This Debate is a waste of time. The House is accustomed to listening to speeches by the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) and regards them always as being perhaps the most cultured and interesting speeches we have from the Opposition Benches; but the hon. Member must be aware that nobody was listening to his speech, not even the people in the gallery. We have listened over and over again to the same arguments, we have had them on the Committee stage for two days, and we had them on the Report stage.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Surely the hon. Member does not expect to get an answer now. By this discussion we are not 2171 really embarrassing the Government, and there would be a great deal to be said for the discussion if we were embarrassing them. The Government ale quite glad to spend the time of the House in this way with the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury looking after the business of the House of Commons.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman is having his valedictory siesta on the Government Bench. I would like to get on with something fresh, stop this fooling and get on with the business. At the present time we cannot discuss the Geddes Report or unemployment, and we are tied down to the discussion of these trifles. The people are largely unemployed, and the House of Commons is wasting its time. What do you expect the effect of all this will be on the people? It is just this sort of wasted afternoon that brings the whole of our parliamentary institutions into contempt with the man in the street. They know that while trade is going from bad to worse, and while nothing is being done to help the unemployed, the Government cannot make up their mind whether to economise or spend money, and consequently the House of Commons has to spend its time in this way. I wish to enter my protest against discussing futilities, and against opportunities of discussing what really matters being refused to this House.
§ Mr. KILEY
On the question of superannuation I want to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury if he can say how many of the Custom House staff have been superannuated, because that might throw some light on the question of congestion at the Customs. I want to know whether these delays are due to a number of the staff having availed themselves of the opportunity of retiring. I do not blame them because they are entitled to do so and are acting within their rights; but there has arisen a good deal of delay, and if that is due to the fact that a substantial number of the staff have retired, would it not be better to induce some of them to return, if only for a temporary period, until the present congestion and delay has been overcome. If that is not possible will the Financial Secretary 2172 undertake not to facilitate any further retirements until this congestion has been overcome. I do not think we should facilitate the retirement of any more of these gentlemen whilst the work is so much in arrear. Of course it may be that these delays and congestions are not in any way due to the reasons I have suggested, and in that case there is no point in what I am saying, but if the congestion is due to this cause I should be glad to hear from the Financial Secretary that he is willing to use his influence to induce those who have retired to return to their duties, if only for a temporary period, and I hope he will not facilitate any more retirements at the present moment.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Hilton Young)
Perhaps I may be allowed to answer forthwith the questions which have been put. The hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Kiley) has expressed some anxiety lest the retirements in the Customs will prejudice the efficiency of the Customs. Allow me to assure him that that point has been most constant in the mind of myself and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the greatest care has been exercised to make this scheme of re-organisation and retrenchment consistent with the smooth and prompt conduct of the business of that Department. I know there have been delays here and there, but they are being dealt with. The actual figures of retirement are as follows: In the year 1921–22 the number of retirements during the 12 months of those upon salaries of over £500 was 261. For the same period the retirements of those with salaries under £500 number 480, making a total of 741 in all. Of course this does not represent altogether a saving, because, to some extent, they have been replaced, and we have not been able to economise every one of those places. I am prepared to inform the House that what has been done has been done without any sacrifice of efficiency. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) advanced some criticisms about the form of this Bill, and I wish to inform him that what the Bill covers is always available by adding up the totals of the Votes passed on Report. This Consolidated Fund Bill deals with the Votes for Superannuation, the Royal Trish Constabulary, the Local Loans Fund, and Votes for the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. YOUNG
No, but I have worked out a little sum myself in order to save the hon. Gentleman the trouble. As to the rest of what is dealt with in this Bill, they cover what has been discussed last week. Whenever you change a pension system, anomalies are unavoidable. As a matter of fact, it is very easy to exaggerate the extent and the anomalies due to changes in that part of the pension due to the bonus, but the amount is very much smaller than has been suggested. I would ask the hon. Member for Harrow not to press me even yet for further details as to what our new scheme is to be. All I would say is that in working out the principle it will be within our mind as an important consideration to reduce to the greatest possible extent any anomalies of the sort which have been mentioned.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow (Friday).—[Mr. Hilton Young.]