§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ *THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. GRAHAM MURRAY, Buteshire) moved the Second Reading of this Bill.
said that the Bill proposed a novel principle. At present the assessor, whose duty it was to decide between the railway companies and the local authorities as to the rateable value of railway property, was appointed by Government; but his salary was paid by the railway companies, and now, under this Bill, he was to be given a superannuation allowance, also payable by the railway companies. These assessors had most responsible duties to discharge, and they ought to hold the balance perfectly equal. There was not much danger in the assessors receiving their salaries from the railway companies, because the amount was fixed by the Secretary for Scotland. But the superannuation allowance was a different matter. The Treasury were not concerned, and the only 585 interest which could influence the Secretary for Scotland in fixing the superannuation allowance was the railway companies' interest. The companies were interested in securing the lowest possible valuation of their property, and that consideration might weigh with the assessors, who knew that the amount of their superannuation allowances depended on the goodwill of the companies. It was a bad principle that such a responsible official should be dependent on the action of one of the parties to the cases which he had to decide.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
said the Bill was a very short and simple one. It was simply to provide for the giving of a retiring allowance, which had hitherto been impossible, to the assessor of railways and canals in Scotland, and the other officers under him. There was really nothing in the considerations which had been urged by the hon. Member who had just addressed the House. He began by contradicting himself, because his first sentence was that this was a novel departure in principle, and he went on to say what was true, that it was not a novel departure in principle—[laughter]—because it was merely carrying out, so far as superannuation was concerned, exactly what had been already fixed as far as the salary was concerned.
said he had merely said that it was a departure from the general principle that applied to all these cases.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
said it was, however, a small matter. [Opposition cheers.] He agreed it was a small matter whether the hon. Member contradicted himself or not. [Ministerial cheers and Opposition cries of "Oh!" and Mr. CALDWELL: "I appeal!"] Continuing, the right hon. Gentleman said the hon. Member had spoken as if the railway assessor had to adjudicate between the railway company and the parish through which the railway passed. He had to 586 do nothing of the sort. The ordinary assessor had nothing to do with railways and canals. So far as they were concerned, there was one general officer appointed for the whole of Scotland, who valued the whole of the railways and canals all over Scotland, and after certain statutory deductions, and having brought out the annual value, he divided the annual value by the total mileage of the railway, and he gave to each parish its proper proportion of the total. A mere statement of the case would show that there was no question of Party and Party. The assessor was valuing the whole railway system, and, therefore, unless he was a perfect Machiavelli, he could scarcely get into his head the extraordinarily complicated scheme that, in order to favour or disfavour the parish of A, he should in some way or other cook the valuation of the whole railway system throughout the kingdom. But, assuming there were Party and Party, what influence upon the assessor had the question of his having a superannuation allowance? Such an allowance was only given to a man who was going—["hear, hear!"]—and it was generally the new king one made friends with and not the old one. The hon. Member spoke as if the great point for the assessor was to keep on good terms with the railway companies in order that his superannuation allowance might be fixed in a way suitable to himself. The Bill followed the well-known scheme of the allowances which were granted in all Departments of the Government by the Treasury. The hon. Member spoke as if the railway companies had the fixing of this man's salary, but they had nothing of the sort. It was fixed by the Treasury. There was just the same check upon the salary as there always was the check of one department over another. The appointment was by the Secretary for Scotland, but the salary was fixed by the Treasury, and the superannuation allowance was necessarily upon the amount of the salary, and, accordingly, was not really 587 in the purview of the railway companies at all. ["Hear, hear!"] All the Valuation Act said was that the railway companies should contribute to the Treasury an equal sum as the Treasury paid out to this gentleman.
MR. J. COLVILLE (Lanarkshire, N.E.)
said it was obvious that the appointment was one which should not depend for salary upon one of the parties interested.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! That is not in question upon this Bill, which is only a superannuation Bill. There is no question as to who shall pay the salary or who shall appoint.
merely wished to point out that in dealing with the superannuation allowance, regard should be had that appointment in this case was of such a vague nature, and that payment was not for the Crown, but for one of the parties most directly affected by the assessment.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed for Thursday.