HL Deb 06 August 1857 vol 147 cc1128-32

said, that in rising to move the second reading of this Bill, he lamented that a measure of such impor- tance, affecting a large body of the civil servants of the Crown, should excite so little attention and he able to command so small an attendance. He would not say one word as to the merits of that service, for that had been admitted by all their Lordships who had had any official experience, and was admitted in the strongest torms by those whose official experience had been the longest. He was quite sure that the opposition which had been raised to this measure in the other House arose from no wish to undervalue the merits and services of the civil servants of the Crown. In sketching the history of this question the noble Lord said it was a mistake to suppose that the grant of superannuation allowances originated exclusively in a consideration for the civil service. Such a system, in fact, was as important for the interests of the State as for the interests of the servants of the Crown, because if there was no choice between continuing in office men who were worn out and incapable, or condemning them by dismissal to end their days in penury and suffering, the latter painful alternative was frequently rejected even when men were really no longer able to discharge their duties efficiently, and the public service consequently suffered. Prior to the year 1810 there had been no legitimate provision made for superannuation allowances; but the Government had at its command certain unappropriated funds which they appropriated somewhat irregularly to that purpose; for instance, the receipts from the sale of old stores, found a fund which had been so applied. It was in 1810–12 that some approach was first made towards an adequate and legal provision for the superannuation of our civil servants. Since that time changes had been made to which he would not refer, but they had been so frequent and inconsistent that the system was felt to be utterly wanting in stability. A deduction was made from the salaries of the civil servants for the purpose, as the original intention was supposed to be, of providing a fund for the payment of their superannuations. A fund, however, in the proper sense of the word, was not provided; but by reason of the sums deducted, which amounted to 2½ per cent on the smaller and 5 per cent on the larger salaries, there was a public saving effected in the ordinary expenditure, and proposed to be set against the superannuation allowances given. This arrangement, however, was full of inconsistencies, and a great injustice was done by the various and inconsistent rules which prevailed, not only in the different departments, but even in the same department. There was a capricious distinction made between two classes of officers—those appointed before and those appointed after 1829. In the latter case the civil servants were subjected to considerable reductions from their incomes, in return for which they became entitled to retiring allowances; while the retiring allowances of persons not subject to reductions were actually higher than those of civil servants who had annually contributed to the fund. The result was the excitement of just discontent. The system was on all hands admitted to be indefensible, and accordingly the present Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced a Bill on the subject. That measure differed essentially from the Bill now before the House, but still it furnished an admission on the part of the Government that the present system stood in need of reform. The Bill of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not received with much favour, and was referred to a Select Committee. That Committee came to a very important Resolution—namely, that the deductions made from the salaries of the civil servants should absolutely cease. To that Resolution an addendum was made, carried only by a majority of one, requiring the Treasury to undertake the revision of the salaries of the civil servants. That was, in fact, blowing hot and cold. In November, 1856, a Royal Commission, consisting of men admirably selected, was appointed to consider the subject, and in May of the present year this Commission reported that, after full consideration, they had come to the conclusion that, for the sake of the public service, as well as for the interest of the parties concerned, it was absolutely necessary that the system of deduction from the salaries of the civil servants should cease. Her Majesty's Government were asked early in the Session whether they intended to introduce any measure founded upon the Report of the Commissioners, and the answer was such as to induce the belief that it was their intention to do so. They, however, took no step whatever in the matter, and it was only towards the close of the Session that a noble Friend of his, a private Member of the other House (Lord Naas), introduced this Bill, which consisted merely of one clause, and was founded on that part of the Report of the Commissioners whereby the absolute repeal of all deductions from the salaries of the civil servants to form a Superannuation Fund was unconditionally recommended. It is true that further recommendations were contemplated. He hoped that in a future Session a Bill would be introduced for the purpose of giving effect to these recommendations of the Commissioners. He did not disguise from their Lordships or himself the fact that the Bill would cause a large addition to the public burdens, but he quite concurred with the Commissioners in thinking that additional burden would be more than compensated by the great improvement it would cause in the relation of the Civil Service to the public. The noble Lord concluded by moving that the Bill be read a Second Time.


said, that having been one of the Commissioners who inquired into this subject he was desirous of stating that when they entered upon their inquiry their minds were entirely free from bias, and the unanimous conclusion to which they came was founded, not upon any wish to further the private interests of the Members of the Civil Service (with whom the Government had distinctly kept faith, for they were informed of the conditions upon which they entered the service), but solely and entirely to promote the public good. He could not help regretting that this measure was not introduced by Her Majesty's Government. The Commissioners were requested last year to report in time for legislation on the subject during the present Session, and their unanimous Report was presented at a period which gave ample opportunity to the Government to propose a Bill this Session. He should be the last person to complain of Her Majesty's Government for arriving at a conclusion adverse to that at which the Commissioners had arrived. It was undoubtedly the duty of the Government to consider the subject and to take their own view of it, but it was equally manifest that they ought to have submitted that view to Parliament. He regretted that it should have been left to an independent Member to bring forward a measure of his own for the purpose of carrying into effect one of the recommendations of the Commissioners, and that when that measure was so brought forward it should have been opposed by the Government, while they wholly omitted to say what were their views, or whether they intended to propose any measure to effectuate the recommendations of the Commissioners. He said this, not so much with regard to the past as to the present, for he thought it was of importance that the Executive Government should, if they approved those recommendations, introduce a Bill with respect to them. This Bill dealt with only one of the recommendations of the Commissioners, and he took that opportunity of expressing his earnest hope that the other measures which had been suggested by them would receive the consideration of Her Majesty's Government during the ensuing recess. Some of those suggestions the Government might perhaps be able to carry into effect of their own authority, but others might require the sanction of Parliament. It was of the utmost importance not only to the civil servants, but to the Civil Service itself, that all the absurd discrepancies in the present most objectionable system should be put an end to, and he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would not imitate the negligence of previous Governments on this subject. That neglect, he believed, had occasioned the greater part of the difficulty connected with this subject, and that difficulty could not be overcome except by some temporary sacrifice. He therefore hoped that Her Majesty's Government would not fail to take the recommendations of the Commissioners into consideration, with the view of introducing next Session, on their own responsibility, such a measure as they conceived would lead to results satisfactory to the civil servants and promotive of the public interests.

Bill read 2a, according to Order, and committed to a Committee of the whole House To-morrow.

House adjourned at Eight o'clock till To-morrow half-past Ten o'clock.