§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD TEMPLEMORE
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Stanhope, who usually conducts the business of the Treasury in your Lordships' House, it falls to me to move the Second Heading of this Bill. It will be within the recollection of your Lordships that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget speech on April 17 last, informed the House of Commons that it was the intention of the Government to restore, as from July 1 next, half the cuts in the salaries defrayed from public funds which were imposed by the second Finance Act of 1931. This Bill, your Lordships may be aware, deals only with salaries which are actually laid down by Statute. In all other cases these half cuts can be restored by administrative action. I think there is only one Ministerial salary among all the Ministers of the Crown which is affected by this Bill, and that is the salary of the Minister of Agriculture, actually fixed at £2,000 a year. In addition there are the salaries of the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and the Governor of Northern Ireland. The cost of restoring the cuts on fixed salaries for the present financial year will amount to £21,000, or £28,000 in a full year. It will be observed that in subsection (1) of Clause 1 the Government have taken power to remove the cuts altogether, thus avoiding the need for further legislation should they, as they hope to do later on, see fit to restore the other half of the cuts. This Bill is a certified Bill under the Parliament Act. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Templemore.)
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, as the noble Lord has pointed out, this is a Money Bill, and therefore outside our competence. These occasions are, 30 however, very often used by your Lordships to express criticisms of official policy, and it is in the name of my colleagues who sit on these Benches that I venture to add a few words to the criticisms which the Government will receive during the course of the debate. We cannot congratulate His Majesty's Government, on the generosity which they claim for restoring half the amount of the cuts in the salaries of public servants from the month of July. We maintain that the whole amount of the reduction in the salaries of these public servants should have been restored, and not merely from a future date, but immediately. We agree entirely with the contention of the Government that, owing to the returning tide of economic prosperity, and owing to the fact that the country has proved its national solvency, the moment has come when those who were called upon to make sacrifices during the national emergency in 1931 should have their reward. We agree entirely with the Government on that point, but we maintain that they have not behaved in a generous fashion in giving public servants only half of what they lost owing to the financial crisis, and we urge that, as the Income Taxpayer has received the complete restoration of every farthing of sacrifice that he was called upon to make, the same treatment should have been accorded to those in the public service.
It appears to us, to speak quite frankly, that the satisfactory surplus which the Chancellor showed in his Budget speech has been used to benefit the more well-to-do section of the community, rather than the poorer section. The sum employed in order to restore half the amount of reduction in the payment of Government servants represents a part of the £30,000,000 surplus and a part of the approximate sum of £10,000,000 of that surplus which it is fair to say goes either to the lower middle class, or to the artisan class, or to the labouring class, or even to the unemployed. But we cannot agree that that distribution is in any sense fair—that one-third only of the total surplus of £30,000,000 should have been used to improve the position of the poorest members of the community and that the remaining two-thirds, approximately £20,000,000, should have gone into the pockets of the Income Taxpayer, and, mind you, of the comparatively well-to- 31 do Income Taxpayer as against the man whose income ranges from £300 to £600 or £700 a year. The argument that this is the greatest possible stimulus to industry is not one that we share, because exactly the same benefit would accrue to industry if the distribution of the budgetary surplus had been made in a different fashion and if the middle and lower classes had received a fair share of the national profits. That is our view, and it is a view that we would urge your Lordships seriously to consider.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.