§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
My Lords, in moving that the House do now go into Committee on this Bill it might be convenient if I endeavour to explain a point which was made by the noble Marquess opposite on 1185 the Second Reading debate yesterday. His point was this—Why under Clause VI of this Bill were Civil servants whose offices were abolished entitled to receive no more than those who were leaving on the ground of ill-health? At first sight, my Lords, this does seem unfair to the former class, but really it is not an unfair proposal, as I shall try to show. It has been in the main the practice of the Treasury for over twenty years not to give what are called abolition terms to Civil servants and no great hardship, I understand, has arisen therefrom.
Perhaps I may be allowed for one or two minutes to go into the history of the matter, because this clause has really rather a lengthy history. I understand that in 1888 a Royal Commission, presided over by the late Lord Ridley, inquired into this matter. They found that these abolition terms had given rise to very great abuses and had been too often used to get rid of inefficient men. I think in the following year there was a debate in the House of Commons on this point, and a Resolution was proposed protesting against the useless burdens which were placed upon the country by these abolition terms. An Amendment was moved by the Government of the day, and the Government were defeated on this point, possibly as a result of that debate. Mr. Goschen—as he was then—in August, 1889, said that for some time past these abolition terms had not been allowed; and Mr. W. H. Smith said—It is our deliberate intention to legislate on this question at the earliest possible period next year.Then there was a question put by my noble friend, Lord Wolverhampton, on March 17, 1892. He asked whether it was the intention of the Government to introduce a measure relating to the superannuation of Civil servants in accordance with the Report of the Royal Commissions on Civil Establishments. Mr. Goschen, in reply, said that in view of possible delay before a new Superannuation Bill could become law, the Government had taken steps whereby effect had already been given to the main recommendations of the Royal Commission on the subject of Civil superannuation. He went on to say that abolition of office no longer entitled the retiring officer to a special rate of pension.
I believe it was formerly the practice of 1186 Departments to reorganise and retrench on a very much larger scale than has been the case latterly, and no doubt abolition terms were much more useful in those days than they have since become. Now-a-days it is very rarely that reductions of this kind are made in Departments, and when a reduction takes place if a man is an efficient Civil servant a place is found for him in some other Department. In the case of an inefficient man there is no hardship if the reduction takes place on the same terms as in the case of a person who is retired on the ground of ill-health. This clause really legalises what has been the practice of the Treasury, with certain exceptions, for over twenty years. I have made search, but I have not been able to find what was the view of Lord St. Aldwyn when he was at the Treasury. I have no doubt, however, that his view was the same as that of his former colleague whom I have just mentioned. I may state that this clause has behind it the weight of a high authority at the Treasury, the value of whose opinion the noble Marquess would clearly recognise, and as the provisions of the Bill have been considered immensely satisfactory by the Civil Service I hope the noble Marquess will not think it necessary to press for any alterations to be made.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am very much obliged for the explanation which the noble Lord opposite has just favoured me with. I have no doubt whatever that these abolition allowances did lend themselves to abuses, and that there were reorganisations and reconstructions which were very bad bargains for the public. Therefore I am not surprised to learn the practice of granting these special allowances has been discontinued. But I own that I still feel some doubt as to whether it is wise to deprive the Government by Statute of the power of giving special allowances when a desirable reconstruction takes place and certain offices are thereby abolished. It seems to me that unless you have the power of occasionally giving these allowances you may find it impossible to carry out a very desirable reconstruction without doing a great injustice to individuals concerned, but I will not press the matter further.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [THE EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]1187
§ Bill reported without amendment. Standing Committee negatived, and Bill to be read 3a to-morrow.