HL Deb 28 May 1919 vol 34 cc888-90

Lords, the other Question that I desire to put to the noble Lord is whether he will state the amount of the salaries about to be paid to the new Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners of the Board of Agriculture; and whether, in fixing these amounts, regard is being had to the responsible character of their duties and the altered value of money.

I am glad to note that an advertisement has appeared recently in the leading organs of the Press, including agricultural journals, asking for those suitably qualified to apply for the posts to which I refer in this Question; and the salaries which are set out there are from £600 to £800 for the Commissioners and from £350 to £450 for the Sub-Commissioners, together with travelling and subsistence expenses. These gentlemen are expected, as announced in this advertisement, to have a thorough training in estate management—and how very few of our estate agents have a thorough training in estate management—and practical experience in the valuation of agricultural land. It is further suggested that they would receive particular consideration if they possessed the Fellowship of the Surveyors Institution. I may remind your Lordships that £600 a year, which is the salary suggested as the minimum for a Commissioner, has a value of no more than £400 compared with the value before the war, and its to the £350 suggested for the Sub-Commissioners, it would not have more than a pre-war value of £200.

Unless the maximum figures are those which are going to be decided upon by the Board—and they are none too large—I venture to suggest that the noble Lord will not get the sort of officers who will be sufficiently well qualified to carry out the very important duties that these men will be called upon to perform. It should be borne in mind that these gentlemen, in the course of their delicate as well as difficult ditties, will be brought up against estate agents, presumably well-paid estate agents—and you cannot get a good estate agent unless you pay him well nowadays—many of them with long practical experience, and if you are going to ask a man receiving no more than the equivalent of £200 a year before the war to carry out these duties and be able to succeed in discussion, and possibly in somewhat hostile discussion, with the representatives of the larger landowners in this country, I think that the lack of qualification of some of these men will very soon become apparent. Of course these men, being temporary officers as I understand, will not even be entitled to a pension. If there were a Government pension to look forward to possibly you might, by these small salaries, attract into the service of the State rising, enterprising young men belonging to the valuers' profession; but without a pension I am rather afraid the noble Lord will not get men of sufficient practical experience to carry out efficiently the very difficult and delicate work they will be expected to perform.


Lords, the Question which the noble Lord Las asked roe was an addition to his previous Question that was down on the Paper, and noticed it only as I was leaving my office to come here to answer Questions. The idea which the Board of Agriculture has is to arrange these outdoor technical officers in grades corresponding to those of the indoor staff, and we look forward in time to making all the clerks in the Board of Agriculture pass through one of these outdoor grades. That is the ultimate object which we have in view.

As to the salaries of these Commissioners, that of those who are in Grade 2 of the Civil Service—that is to say, those who would correspond with principal clerks and officers—is £850 a year. In Grade 3, which corresponds with fire first-class clerks, it is £600 to £800, and in Grade 4, which corresponds generally with second-class clerks, £350 to £450. We have pointed out, in our application for the grants necessary to pay these salaries, that as these gentlemen will enter at a somewhat later age in some instances than tire ordinary entries into the Civil Service, we should be able to give them the maximum for their grade at once.

It is quite true, as the noble Lord said, that these officers will have temporary appointments only. That is to say, they are restricted in tine case of the Land Settlement Bill by the duration of the powers of that Bill and in the case of the Corn Production Act by the duration of the powers of that Act. But we hope that for those who prove themselves of first-rate ability we shall be able to obtain permanent appointments, possibly carrying with them pensions. As to the Question whether we shall be able to get the class of man whom we want, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his warning, but I very much hope that we shall be able to do so. If we cannot secure the class of man that we want, then we shall have to apply to be allowed to pay higher salaries.