§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient—
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
I think that it will be within the recollection of the Committee that, in the course of the Financial Statement which I made on 17th April last, I announced the intention of His Majesty's Government partly to restore as from the 1st July certain abatements in allowances and salaries which were paid out of public funds. Those abatements were made in 1931 for the most part by administrative action and, in so far as that is the case, it is possible now to restore the abatements also by administrative action. But there were certain salaries which were fixed by Statute and in those cases it was not possible to employ administrative action and legislation was required to make the abatements. That legislation was effected by the National Economy Act of 1931 and in order to restore in part those abatements it is now necessary to introduce legislation amending that Act. The Resolution which I now move is necessary in order to enable that amending legislation to be introduced.
The Act of 1931 gave power to His Majesty by Order in Council to make Orders which took effect in an Order dated the 1st October, 1931, providing that: 40Where the amount of the salary to be paid in respect of any office in His Majesty's Service is specified in any enactment there shall, as from the date when this Order takes effect, be made from that amountIn this Financial Resolution it will be seen that there are three separate paragraphs. The first paragraph states:
Provided that in the case of a salary of less than £5,000 a year there shall be made such additional abatement, if any, as is necessary to reduce the salary to £4,000 a year.
- (a) in the case of a salary of £5,000 a year or more, an abatement of 20 per cent.;
- (b) in the case of the salary payable in respect of the office of Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, an abatement of 15 per cent., and in the case of any other salary of £2,000 a year or more, but less than £5,000 a year, an abatement of 10 per cent.;
- (c) in the case of a salary of less than £2,000 a year (not being a salary in addition to which any bonus is paid), an abatement of such percentage, not more than 10, as the Treasury may determine;That it is expedient to empower His Majesty to revoke the National Economy (Statutory Salaries) Order, 1931.That is going further than we are required to do in order to carry out the proposal which I announced on the 17th April, which was only to restore one-half of the cuts. This Resolution, if passed, will authorise a Bill which will give power to remove the second portion of the abatements at some future time if it is found possible and desirable to do so, without introducing any further Bill for that purpose.
The second paragraph isto provide that while the said Order remains in force the abatement to be made thereunder from the salary to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund or out of moneys provided by Parliament in respect of any office shall, from and after the first day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, be reduced by one-half.That paragraph refers only to those salaries which are fixed by Act of Parliament. In the case of Ministers of the Crown the only salary in question is that of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the reason for that is that he is the only Minister of the Crown whose salary is actually fixed by Act of Parliament. In the case of a large number of other appointments the salary is specified in the Act of Parliament to be not exceeding a certain sum, but in the 41 case of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries the salary happens to be fixed at a definite sum. Therefore, that is the only Ministerial salary affected by the Resolution. The other cases have been dealt with by administrative action. In addition to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries the Resolution applies to the Judiciary, the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and a short list of other officers who are paid out of public funds.
There remains one further salary to be dealt with, and that is the salary of the Governor-General of Northern Ireland. In that case the salary is contributed to by the Government of Northern Ireland. Their contribution is made by way of deduction from the share of the revenue which they have retained. Therefore, we shall have to increase the contribution which they now make, so that the contribution will be one-fourth of the salary of the Governor-General.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Are we to understand that we stand for one-fourth of the salary of the Governor of Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
No, I said that the Government of Northern Ireland contribute one-fourth of the salary of the Governor.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Then three-fourths of the salary of the Governor of Northern Ireland is paid by this country?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Three-fourths is paid by the National Exchequer and one-fourth by the Government of Northern Ireland. That is in accordance with an old standing arrangement. The only other paragraph in the Financial Resolution is a consequential one which says that the Act must contain other incidental and consequential provisions which are necessary for its purposes. It will be seen that the Resolution is merely to implement the statement already in possession of the Committee. If there are any questions which hon. Members wish to ask I shall be very happy to answer them.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
While we are grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the information that he has given there are some points regarding which we are not clear. There is the 42 statement in the first paragraph that the intention is to revoke the National Economy (Statutory Salaries) Order, 1931. The paragraph then provides that the abatements henceforward shall be reduced by one-half. Are we to understand that when this Resolution has been agreed to and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has brought in his Bill in due course it will not be necessary to bring in another Motion or another Bill to restore in full the abatements to those to whom part is now being restored? Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer be in a position if he so desires to restore the remaining half of the abatements so that there will be no further question of abatements for consideration by the House? We should be glad to be informed on that point. The Chancellor may have made it clear, but the matter is new to us.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
May I point out that these salaries are only those which are fixed by Act of Parliament? The effect of passing this Resolution, and subsequently the Bill founded upon it, will be to give power to effect full restoration of these salaries in precisely the same way as those which can already be effected by administrative action.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
It will be open to any future Chancellor of the Exchequer, I suppose, to make a declaration that the abatements are to be restored in full, that he may do that quite independently of what he does in regard to the restoration of the other cuts approved by this House, and that the restoration is quite, independent of, and in no way connected with, the restoration of cuts to the Civil Service, His Majesty's Forces and so on. The House having already partially restored the cuts to men engaged in His Majesty's Services, I want to know whether any further restoration may be made without the necessity of any further Resolution, and that this is quite independent of any restoration of cuts in a general way which may be brought about in a subsequent Budget?
Is this to be the final attention which this House will be required to give to this matter? Will it be possible for a future Chancellor to make full restoration to those people whose salaries have been fixed by Statute without the necessity for this House to pass any Resolution to alter the abatement and they are 43 not to be contingent upon any financial situation to enable the Chancellor to deal in the same manner with the very much larger number of other people whose cuts have been only partially restored up to the present? This method, we understand, is necessary because these people do not come into the same category. It it true that they are employés of the State, but their salaries have been fixed in this way, including that of one Minister of the Crown who is in the happy position of a maximum or minimum salary, in good or bad times, fixed by law, whereas the Chancellor and the other unhappy occupants of the Front Bench have not that privilege. We understand that the Minister of Agriculture is to be dealt with under this procedure because he is, for this purpose, a salaried official of the Crown whose salary has been fixed by law. We are glad to know that he is to have his salary paid in full. He is working very hard, and if his efforts are from time to time misguided, it is not due to any lack of zeal on his part, and we are glad to know that he is not to suffer in salary even although his plans have not succeeded.
If we are allowed the opportunity to-day of discussing the larger question of the restoration of the cuts, we certainly would like the attention of the Committee given to the question of the incidence of the cuts which will remain after this Motion has been passed. We do not think that it is very urgent that the judges' salaries should be restored even to this extent while the low-paid civil servants do not have their cuts restored to them. There is the whole question of the incidence of the Economy Act, 1931, which perhaps we cannot debate on this occasion, but we are not very enthusiastically demanding that the salaries paid to judges should be restored; nor are we very anxious, in a general way, for those people whose salaries exceed £2,000 a year. The Chancellor has not said how many people are involved altogether in the special provision for the restoration of abatements which this Resolution, is designed to cover, and we would like to learn from him, if possible, the number of judges who are on the salaries' list, the number of judges whose salaries have been reduced by 44 reason of the abatements, the total amount of the restoration to be made to them by this proposal, and a number of other less important officials to whom the Chancellor referred in a general way.
Because we realise that this is not the opportunity which we would like to have of a general discussion on the Resolution, we can only ask these questions, and express our pleasure that the thing has been done in this way with the knowledge of the House. We did not know whether the abatements might have been made at the Chancellor's pleasure without requiring confirmation by this House, and the concessions having been required from the judiciary and the other class of men, it is only right that this House should be consulted before those abatements were altered to any extent. We do express apprehension that the step now taken only takes us half way towards the restoration of abatements, and we should like, if possible, before a further step is taken, that an opportunity should be given the House on a future occasion to confirm or to question the next step which has to be taken if the original position is to be restored.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Like the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on finding himself in a position to remove some of the economies made in 1931, and no one will begrudge His Majesty's Ministers the restoration of half of what they then lost. I have always thought that they were underpaid, and I think that even hon. and right hon. Members opposite will subscribe to the proposition that Ministers of the State, at any rate, ought to be adequately remunerated for their services, which they are not at the present moment. I gather that the Law Officers of the Crown are not included among the Ministers in this Resolution. If I am right in that, I think it is a matter which ought to be dealt with in some way. I do not know whether we shall want a Resolution of the House, but the present rate of remuneration of the Law Officers is absolutely scandalous.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Then I merely leave it with the solemn affirmation that it is a matter which must be dealt with before very long. I am afraid that I should be transgressing the bounds of order if I said more than that. There is, however, one matter which arises definitely out of the remarks of my right hon. Friend, and that is the question of the restoration of the salaries of His Majesty's judges. I was horrified to heas how glibly he dragged in His Majesty's judges with other civil servants, and was equally horrified—without offence to my right hon. Friend—when I heard him sandwich the judiciary between the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the. Comptroller and Auditor-General. Many of us complained of this when the original Order was made, when the judges, with other civil servants, were treated holus bolus in this matter to this very ruthless and casual method of readjusting their salaries which are said to have been fixed by the Act of Settlement. By Resolution of the House this particular Government can give back to the judges £500 a year, just as in 1931 this particular Government took away from the judges £500 a year. Many of us think that it is not decent, that it exposes the judiciary to just that kind of fluctuation of remuneration at the hands of the Executive which the Act of Settlement was designed to eliminate. When the Act of Settlement expressly stated that judges' salaries were to be established, it was to avoid this kind of fluctuation of remuneration at the hands of the Executive owing to the fact that they were included in the Order of 1931, and although I did not subscribe to the view expressed on high legal authority that that was an unconstitutional Act—I do not think that that is a tenable proposition—nevertheless it does in spirit, at any rate, conflict with what was intended to be done when the Act of Settlement was passed.
The hon. Member who spoke last referred, I thought, in rather unfortunate terms to the rate of remuneration of His Majesty's judges which was being partially restored as a result of this Resolution. It is never a popular thing, in distressing times like the present, when one can always point out the parallel of a 46 man having 25s. a week, and so on, to say anything in defence of a salary of £3,000 or £4,000 a year, but that is not the correct aspect from which to approach this matter. His Majesty's judges, even if we pass this Resolution, will be receiving something like half the salary of a buyer for Woolworths and about one-sixth or one-seventh of the remuneration of the great leaders of the Bar at the present time. That is the scale we have to go by, and no Government ought to be content to leave the position of His Majesty's judges in such a state that it is not able to command in the prime of life the services of the very best leaders of the Bar.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That matter goes beyond this Resolution. I do not think that on this Resolution we can discuss the question of salaries generally. It is limited to the question of the restoration of abatements.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I bow to your Ruling, and will pursue the point no further than to say that the partial restoration that this Resolution will give to the judges does not, in the opinion of many of us bring them within range of what would be a reasonable remuneration for the services which they render.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer one question in regard to this Resolution. As I gather, the right hon. Gentleman wants power to deal with the whole of the cuts, not half, that is to say, that on the 18th July the restoration of one-half of the cuts will come into operation and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is also taking power to deal with the remaining half. Is it the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to deal with the remaining half during the present financial year? If not, I am at a loss to understand why it should be considered necessary to get this further power unless full restoration is to take place during the present financial year. I can understand that it may be necessary to take action to anticipate blessings that are to come, but I cannot understand why this power should be required if it is only to be applied in the next financial year.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
I desire to emphasise what has been said by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell). It will be very reassuring if the Chancellor of the Exchequer will state specifically whether it be the case that without coming to this House again he has full power to restore the full amount of the cuts made in 1931? It will be very reassuring if he can make a statement to that effect.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. COVE
In view of the general interest which is taken in this question, I should like to put one point to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There was a general impression that we should be able to have a discussion on the restoration of the whole of the cuts, but that is not the case. I want to put one question, which I hope will be in order. Am I right in assuming that it will be possible to restore the other cuts of civil servants, teachers and other people, without any legislation of a particular kind; will it be possible for their cuts to be restored by administrative action on the part of responsible Ministers? I should like to have that point cleared up because of the great interest which has been aroused.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Perhaps I may briefly reply to the questions which have been put to me. The position, I think, is quite clear. All the cuts can be restored by administrative action except those which are dealt with by this Resolution, and the effect of taking power to restore the remaining half of the cuts by the Bill which will be founded on the Resolution is to put us in the same position with regard to them as we are in regard to other salaries. Therefore, it will be seen that there is nothing sinister or inconsistent in the action we are taking. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) said that he could not see why we required this full power unless we had some intention of making a further restoration during the present financial year. I have made my position in this matter absolutely clear. My position has been that the cuts in salaries form part of one whole, that whole being the measures which were considered necessary in order to deal with the 48 national crisis in 1931. That has always been my attitude and will remain my attitude, and if it should fall to me to deal with this matter in the future I should regard myself as absolutely precluded from making selections, picking out this or that section of those who were affected by the measures of 1931 for different treatment from that of the others. Therefore, I can say at once to the hon. Member for the Scotland Division that there is no intention to restore the full cuts in the case of these particular salaries in the present financial year. They will have to wait their turn until full restoration can be made everywhere, when they will all come together. I speak for myself, I cannot speak for the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell). He wanted to know whether if he or one of his friends were Chancellor of the Exchequer in my place he would have the power to restore these salaries and yet keep back the other 5 per cent. from the teachers, police or Service forces.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I can only say that he would have that power. With regard to the general question of the judiciary, I do not think it is desirable or indeed proper to enter upon that here, but, without expressing any view as to whether the judges are paid an adequate salary or not, I will merely say that I am glad it has been found possible now to make some further approach to the ideal of the hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor).
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
May I ask whether the case of the Law Officers of the Crown, who suffered the most severe cuts of all His Majesty's Ministers, is capable of administrative action?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes. We shall propose to do exactly the same with the Law Officers of the Crown, who, of course, have to be consulted in the matter, as in other cases, that is to say, restore half the abatement made from their salary.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.