The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, it would perhaps be the wish of the House that he should, at this stage of the proceedings, state what arrangement had been made by government, pursuant to the addresses presented to the Crown upon the subject of superannuation allowances to officers retiring from situations under government. Previously to the 50th of the late king, great difficulties arose in providing for persons who, from age or debility, retired from public offices. It had been always understood, that the legal right of making provision for such officers lay in the king in council, and in the Treasury in certain cases. He must however, confess, that until the 50th of the late king, the instances in which this power was exercised by the Crown were very rare. It had been usual to provide for the worn-out servants of the Crown, by appointing them to sinecure offices (of which there then existed several, which had since been cut off), or to places the duties of which were very trifling. Another mode provision was, by obliging the successor to pay the person who retired a portion of the salary of the office. 1016 In 1782, the commissioners of inquiry recommended a system of superannuation to the House. In 1797, a committee of the House made the same recommendation. In e 1803, the first step was taken to establish something like an arrangement of provision for the retired servants of the Crown. This act was the ground-work of that introduced in 1810. It arose out of several complaints which had been made, of persons filling active offices, who at the same time were receiving superannuation allowances. By that act, certificates of service were necessary to entitle a person to a superannuation allowance. It was true, that the act of 1810 had imposed on the country a great and unnecessary expense; but it would be found that no general system of irregularity had been introduced by it. He would now advert to certain returns made in the month of May last, of the number of superannuations, the names of the parties, the amount of each allowance, and the nature of their public services: he would beg leave to refer to those returns, because they were more complete and satisfactory than any statement which he could make. He would, shortly allude to the great public offices—the Customs, the Stamp office, and the Post office. The amount of the salaries in the different offices of the revenue amounted to 1,664,463l. The number of persons employed amounted to 17,347. The number of persons superannuated amounted to 1,732, and the sums paid in the way of superannuation amounted to 154,669l.; which amounted to about 9¼ per cent upon the salaries of the different active officers in the various departments. The amount of the allowance on an average was about 89l. 5s. to each individual, little more than 4s. 10d. per day, an allowance which certainly, so far from being extravagant, was little more than sufficient to support those, who, after having exhausted a great part of their lives in the public services, retired through age and infirmity. The average amount of the period of services of each individual superannuated, was nearly 29 years.
He would now advert to offices in the great public departments, such as the Treasury, the Secretaries of state, the Exchequer, the Colonial office, the India commissioners, the State-paper, and various other offices. On looking at the state of those establishments, it would not be so easy to strike a scale of average, as in those to which hg had before ad- 1017 verted. The whole of the number of persons employed in those departments, which he should call the principal executive offices of the state, amounted to 932—the number of superannuations amounted to 70, being a much smaller proportion than the superannuations in the revenue departments. The reason was, that persons placed in offices in the higher departments of the state, whatever might be the length of their services, were in general not anxious to leave them. The salaries in those offices amounted to 205,515l.; the allowance for superannuation to 23,000l., being about 11¼ per cent. on the amount of the salaries. The average allowance to each individual superannuated, was 329l.; the average period of service completed by each individual superannuated, was about 26½ years. The total amount of salaries in the various public departments, was 1,870,000l. The number of persons superannuated was 1802, and the amount of allowances for superannuations was 177,748l. Provisions were made for persons who had served from 15 to 50 years. There could not be a regular scale established to extend to all offices, laying down the period of service which, would entitle the officer to receive superannuation allowance, because in ordinary offices persons enter at an early age; to the higher: offices persons of mature age and great experience alone could be appointed. For instance the Solicitor of the Treasury: no young man could fill that situation; the individual must be a person of great experience and eminence in his profession. Such an individual must devote a great part of his life in attaining that knowledge which alone could fit him for so responsible a situation; and could not be put on a level with a young clerk, of 17 or 18 years of age. It was clear, therefore, that with respect to the time of service which ought to entitle a public officer to receive the superannuation allowance, no fair competition could exist between these individuals. It was, therefore, intended by the bill to give to the Treasury a discretionary power to grant, in extraordinary cases, superannuation allowances; but in each instance in which the Treasury should so act, they would be bound to lay before parliament, the amount of the allowance, and the reasons which should move the Treasury to grant it. The great defect in the act of 1810 was, that it did not specify with sufficient precision the cases 1018 where superannuation allowances should be granted. Persons, indeed, who served in any of the civil departments for a stated number of years, were entitled to a certain provision, but in the higher departments of the state, it very rarely happened that persons retained office for the length of time mentioned in the act. In a schedule to the present bill, it was intended to specify the various officers in the Treasury and other departments who might be entitled to receive superannuation allowance. The persons who in ordinary cases were to receive those allowances, it was intended to make contribute to a fund out of which such allowances in future were to issue. That arrangement would operate as something like reduction of salaries; but it would be a case of infinitely less hardship to make persons contribute in the active part of their lives to a fund, which, in the decline of life and in retirement, would be a provision for them, than suddenly, and at one blow to cut down their salaries without holding out any corresponding advantage. It was therefore proposed that persons who had salaries in the various departments of 100l. and upwards per year, should give up 5l. per cent. And that those who had salaries under 100l. per year, should give up 2½ per cent. At present the average amount of superannuation provision, as compared with the amount of salary, stood at 10 per cent. With respect to certain offices, which on a late revision were found to have salaries larger in proportion than others, and greater than their duties, it was proposed that for the present those persons should be allowed to receive their salaries, but with this qualification, that they should be subject to 5 per cent. on the amount of salary to which they were justly entitled, and to 10 per cent. on the excess. For instance, if it were found that an officer received 1000l. where he ought to receive but 800l. it was proposed that the 800l. should be subject to 5 per cent. and the remaining 200l. to 10 per cent.
With respect to the general reduction of salaries, the greatest anxiety had been felt by ministers to promote every possible reduction. It was easy for gentlemen in that House to propose reductions of from 25 to 30 per cent. and to look for enormous saving from enormous curtailments; but he was convinced that if those gentlemen were to come in contact with 1019 the parties—were to listen to their representations, and to behold their distress and their sufferings—they would not have the heart to put in force their own resolutions. The first step taken by ministers on commencing the inquiry in which they were at present engaged, was, to lay down a general rule, which was stated in a circular issued from the Treasury to the different departments. The general rule was in substance this that a return should be made of the persons employed in: each office, and the amount of salary of each, with a view to fix as nearly as possible the standard of salaries to what they were in 1796 or 1797. Bearing that in mind, the first step taken by the Treasury, after dispatching the circular, was, to begin with itself. And here he would trouble the House with a short detail of the state of the Treasury now, and with its state in 1796. In 1796, the Treasury establishment, which was then separate from the Irish treasury department, stood thus: there were two secretaries, four chief clerks, six assistant clerks, 10 supernumerary clerks, and two other clerks, amounting altogether to 30 persons. At present, there were two secretaries and one assistant secretary, four chief clerks, 16 young clerks, 11 assistant clerks, which, with supernumeraries, amounted to 40 persons. Before he alluded to the comparison of salaries as they stood in 1797, and the salaries of the present day, he would beg of the House to consider the state of the Treasury business, and the great increase which had taken place since 1797. In 1797, the number of papers registered at the Treasury was 4,460; the number of registered papers in 1821 was 21,890; thus was there an increase in the business of the Treasury since 1797, in nearly a proportion of six to one. The emoluments of the secretaries of the Treasury, on an average, for 1769, 1770, and 1771, was 3,700l. In 1779, 1780, and 1782 they amounted to 5,100l. In 1797, they were reduced to 3,400l., and in 1800 they were raised to 4,000l. and it was now proposed to reduce them to 3,500l., nearly the amount enjoyed in1797. About the year 1781, the salary of the chief clerk amounted to 1,278l. In 1797, it was reduced to 880l. At that period the chief clerks not only had the salary he had just stated, but they also held minor offices from which they received salaries. Those offices had been since abolished and he might very fairly 1020 observe, that the salaries of the present day of those officers, were not so much as they stood forty or even fifty years ago. It was now intended that the salary of the chief clerk should stand at 1,200l., and the secretaries of the Treasury at 3,500l. It was intended to fix the establishment of the Treasury at two secretaries, one assistant secretary, four chief clerks, one additional clerk, six senior clerks, eleven assistant clerks, and eleven junior clerks: making in all on the new establishment thirty-six persons; the number in 1796 having been thirty.—With respect to the increase of salaries, it was a hard and unequal case, where a deserving individual who, because of the longevity of persons in office, or from the small number of clerks in the same department, should remain at a low rate of salary for a great number of years; whilst, on the other hand, the practice of increasing salaries might, and in some instances was carried to an unjustifiable extent. To fix a certain principle by which salaries in future might be regulated was most desirable, and formed a part of the present measure. It was now proposed that the junior clerks of the Treasury department should enter at a salary of 100l. instead of 120l.; that For three years they should have no increase of salary, and that afterwards they should rave an increase of 10l. each year, till their salaries amounted to 200l. a year. A junior clerk could therefore have, under the new arrangement, only 200l. a year, while under the former arrangement his salary might increase to 520l. An assistant clerk would have, in the first instance, a salary of 300l. a year, with an increase of 15l. each year, till it amounted to 500l., but his service as a junior clerk would not be estimated in granting this additional allowance. The maximum of the salary of an assistant clerk would thus be 500l. a year; under the old establishment, he might, by possibility, receive 720l. The senior clerks would enter upon their offices at 600l., instead if 700l. a year, with an increase of 10l. or each year's service, till they reached 800l. a year. And when it was considered how few senior clerks there were in the Treasury department, and how considerable the period of service was before they could attain the maximum of salary, he thought 800l. a year would not be considered an unreasonable allowance. The chief clerks who had now 1,500l. a year, were to have 1,200l. a year, without any increase for length of service.
1021 He should now state the aggregate effect on the official establishment. In 1796, the total amount of salaries in this department was 19,923l. It was now 56,753l., partly composed of original salaries, partly of allowances for length of service. The minimum, according to the old establishment, was 46,000l., though, as it was impossible that the establishment ever could be at that minimum; for it would suppose, that none of the clerks had any claim for length of service. The maximum was 61,430l. Under the proposed establishment the minimum was 41,900l., and the maximum, in round numbers, 48,000l. The reduction of the maximum was 48,000l., as compared with 64,000l., and the maximum, it was to be observed, was much less likely to be attained than under the old establishment. Without reckoning in either estimate the salary of the board, the reduction was from 50,000l. to 33,000l., being a reduction of about 34 per cent on the subordinate parts of the Treasury department The other offices, it was true, could not be reduced in any thing like the same proportion, but to all a similar principle of reduction had been applied. As to the Secretary of state's office, however he would state what was intended. The office of the secretary of state for the foreign department had consisted last yew of 31 clerks; this year there were only 30. The minimum of charge for that office would remain, as it was, 18,000l.; but the maximum, which was now 28,000l. would fall to 21,000l., exclusive of the superannuation reduction of 5 per cent, which would apply to the new salaries as well as to the old. A similar revision had been carried through all the departments of government. In some of these departments even a greater reduction than that which he had just detailed was effected; in some cases there certainly was less; but he was not overstating the result of the revision, when he stated the eventual reduction on salaries in the principal departments of the state at 20 per cent. The revenue department were already in a course of investigation. It would have been impossible for the Treasury to enter personally into details so extensive as those of that department; and he begged to acknowledge with gratitude the assistance which ministers had received from the heads of the different departments. Without such aid, the task imposed upon a single department of ge- 1022 neral inquiry would have been too invidious. It was a task which could hardly have been executed, unless by the exertion of all branches of the government, backed by the authority of the Crown, and the countenance of parliament; and although the public had heard much of complaint and remonstrance, it was but just to say, that there were instances of persons to whose assiduity and diligence too much praise could not be given, and persons without whose attention and assistance those details could not have been furnished which were now submitted to the House.
He should now come to the amount of the general reductions proposed. A statement was preparing for the inspection of parliament, in which the various points of reduction would be fully described, as far as the revision had gone; but, with respect to the regulation of the great revenue departments, government, from the mass of local inquiry necessary, had felt itself incompetent to form any final opinion. All that ministers had been enabled to do was, to call upon the heads of departments to suggest any alteration which might to them appear expedient; and some reductions so proposed had actually been carried into effect. For a more complete and beneficial revision, they trusted to the board of commissioners appointed last session for the Irish revenue. Those commissioners would be authorized to extend their inquiries from the Irish to many branches of the English revenue; and their investigations, which had already produced considerable advantage, would no doubt effect that assimilation and regularity so desirable to both portions of the united kingdom.—Before he went to the point of aggregate reduction, there was one point which be was anxious to make the House understand. The 5th of January last was the date at which certain alterations were to commence; but ministers had not ordered the salaries of clerks to be reduced from that date, except by the superannuation charge of 5 or 10 per cent. In fact, ministers had not felt themselves called upon by parliament to expose those clerks and their families to privation and difficulty by an immediate reduction of their pay. He could not agree with those who held that the measures already taken as to those clerks had gone beyond justice and law. He did not admit that a clerk appointed to an office under government 1023 had a right to look for the continuance of his emolument, whatever it might be, or that it was hard to abridge the value of those offices to which, by promotion, he might look forward. On the contrary, he held that a government must have the power of abridging that emolument, which it could, at pleasure, take away altogether: still he felt, that the power was capable of being employed tyrannically; and he assured the House that he had never felt the weight of responsibility heavier than in his attempt to apply the present principles of reduction. He did trust that, whatever irritation might be felt in the first moment, the parties would at least be convinced, that government had endeavoured to discharge its duty with impartiality and fairness; and that it had carried into effect the wishes of parliament with as much attention as possible to the feelings and comforts of the persons concerned. Nothing could be more injurious or impolitic than to drive diligence and merit from any of the public institutions, or to make persons in public offices, if not unfaithful, at least lax and negligent in the performance of their duty. He knew that the power of selection might be supposed to open a door for the exercise of partiality; but the responsibility attaching to such selection could not fail to render the party very guarded who might possess it. The danger was far greater of encouraging laxity, by suffering every advantage to arise out of the simple circumstance of greater length of service.
He had now, though imperfectly, given a sketch of the revision of the public offices which had been effected, however painfully, not dishonourably to the government, and not uselessly to the country. As to Ireland, a revision of the same nature was in progress there, as to the revenue departments, with the assistance of the revenue commission, and as to the other departments with the assistance of the Irish government. From the distance, and other circumstances, the arrangement was not so forward as in this part of the kingdom; but he hoped it would not be long ere he should be enabled to lay it before parliament. He had already stated, that another species of reduction was contemplated, namely, a reduction of salaries in the higher departments of the state. Such a reduction could not be grounded upon the fact, that the offices in question were of 1024 recent introduction; for, in fact, all the great departments of the state were of considerable antiquity, and the emoluments attached to them had not, for a great many years, been increased. By way of illustration, the establishment of the Treasury might be taken. He had chanced not long since to look at a war rant of the time of Charles 2nd, in which the then salaries of the officers of the Treasury were spoken of as "the ancient and accustomed allowances." Now those allowances, "ancient" in the days of Charles 2nd, were less by nearly one-fourth at the present day, by the operation of the 4s. land-tax, and of the 1s. 6d. duty. The same observation as to antiquity of existing emolument might be made with respect to other great departments of the state; nor could it be, said, that the salaries taken were greater than were necessary for the becoming discharge of the duties imposed. On none of those grounds, therefore, could reduction be demanded; but it was felt, that in a time of heavy pressure upon the most valuable interests of the country,—at a time when ministers were called upon to enforce rigid retrenchment upon those subordinate to them, it would not become them to shrink from their own share of the general burthen. Still less would it be becoming in them to take such a course, when an example from the highest quarter was set them to the contrary; for he had received the king's command to inform the House, that his majesty had given directions for a reduction to the extent of 10 per cent upon all those departments of the royal household which contributed more immediately to the personal comfort of the sovereign. The departments to which this measure would apply were the privy-purse, the lord chamberlain, the lord steward, the master of the robes, and the master of the horse; and the whole charge of those offices amounting to 300,000l., the reduction for the service of the public would amount to 30,000l. The paternal care thus shown by his majesty demanded the warmest gratitude from the House. His majesty had gone further, indeed, in taking burthen upon himself, than his servants could go. The servants of the Crown had, in general, private fortunes, which would enable them to provide against any deficiency; but the king had nothing upon which he could rely but the provision made by parliament in the 1025 way of civil list; which civil list, it would be remembered, could not now have been touched, except by the especial command and generous feeling of his majesty [Hear, hear!]. He was also bound to say, that, whatever might have been the personal inclination of the sovereign, he, as a faithful servant of the country, could not have advised a more considerable reduction; because he trusted never again to see those painful, if not disgraceful, investigations of debts and; difficulties, which had arisen when the revenue of the civil list had been placed upon a narrow and insufficient footing. His majesty had, however, farther directed a reduction of 10 percent upon the salaries of all offices held during his pleasure, the salaries of which were 500l. a-year and upwards. Parliament would probably be of opinion that it ought not to be carried lower; and, to places held by patent, it could not, without a special act of parliament, apply. To this reduction of 10 per cent, which was to continue for five years, the lord chancellor, the cabinet ministers, and the great officers of the household, both in England and Ireland, would be subjected. He trusted it would not henceforward be said, that ministers had thrown burthens upon their inferiors to avoid bearing them themselves. Though this accusation had often been urged, they had never thought it worth contradicting; convinced that the effect which it might produce for a time would not fail to be dissipated when the truth should come to be known.
He should now bring the whole saving proposed before the view of the House—a saving which, to some gentlemen, might appear inconsiderable, but which he trusted the country would appreciate as it deserved. He would first state the reduction which would take place in the present year; and next, that which would follow when the operation of the measures proposed should be complete. It was expected to obtain immediately, by the deduction for the superannuation fund in the different offices, 12,000l. a-year. He took the government offices at the rate of 6 per cent, on 200,000l., because in some instances the deduction would be 10, and in others 5. The percentage in the revenue department, he put only at 4½, because many of the salaries being under 100l. a-year, would pay only two and a half; but the deductions for superannuation in that department would amount to 66,000l. The new salaries 1026 commencing under arrangement on the, 5th of January last, would give a reduction of 15,000l.; it might be stated at 20,000l., but he wished to keep within the mark. The reduction of 10 per cent upon principal offices gave 20,000l. The reduction of the household, and on the civil list, would produce 25,000l. more. Lastly, there was his majesty's gracious donation of 30,000l.; making, exclusive of Ireland, a sum of 163,000l. Ireland might be put at 32,000l., because her establishment, with respect to the revenue, was in the proportion of one to three as compared with England; upon England and Ireland together, therefore, there was an immediate saving of 200,000l. In future, he had reason to believe, the amount of reduction would be still more considerable. In England, the civil offices, exclusive of the revenue, would give a further reduction of 30,000l.; the revenue would probably give 100,000l., making, exclusive of superannuation allowances, 130,000l.; Ireland would give 43,000l. more, making a sum of 173,000l. Upon the whole, therefore, it would not be extravagant to expect a saving, present and to come, of 373,000l. a-year. How far such a reduction would be satisfactory to the expectations of the Hose, it was impossible for him to say; but as the estimates came before the House, they would have an opportunity of discussing and deciding on all the details. In the meantime he hoped that ministers might take credit with the House and the public, for diligence, for impartiality (and for zeal, as far as it was applicable to such a duty), in carrying into effect the wishes of parliament. He trusted that government had sufficiently evinced its disposition to relieve, as far as retrenchment could give relief, the distresses of the people. It should be remembered, however, in looking at the amount stated, that the whole reduction turned upon an establishment not exceeding 2,000,000.; therefore, when it was represented, that immense sums might be saved by deduction, gentlemen should always remember, that they could take no more from a thing than the thing itself amounted to. Ministers, in the present reduction, had gone as far as they could go; but that would be a subject open to future consideration. They could not expect the House would think they had been right in every point of their arrangement; but they hoped to 1027 have credit for discretion, economy, and attention to the public interest. The right hon. gentleman concluded with moving, "That for the purpose of forming a moving, to provide for the Superannuation Allowances which have been, or may be granted to persons who have held, or may now, or at any time hereafter hold, certain offices and emoluments in the civil departments of his majesty's service, the salaries and emoluments of all such persons shall be charged with such deductions or payments as are hereinafter mentioned; that is to say: Upon every salary and emolument which shall in the whole amount to 50l., and be less than 100l., a deduction after the rate of 2l. 10s. per cent:—Upon every salary And emolument which shall amount to 100l. per annum and upwards, a deduction after the rate of 5l. per cent per annum upon so much of such salary and emolument as may have been, or may hereafter be, fixed as the future salary of such office or employment; and a deduction after the rate of 10l. percent upon any excess of salary and emolument which any such officer or person may be allowed to continue to receive, in respect of such office or emolument; and all such deductions which shall be made upon the amount of salary and emolument shall be applied towards creating a General Superannuation Fund."
expressed his sense of the liberal donation from the Crown. With respect to some of the details which had been stated, he could not altogether concur with the right hon. gentleman. He was not quite satisfied with the reduction of salaries in aid of the superannuation fund. In cases where, from the depreciation of money, salaries had been increased, he saw no reason why they should not be reduced to their former level. He could not understand why a young man, going into a government office, was to be exempted from those chances to which men in other professions were subject? The arrangement proposed, certainly went too far; since it gave to a man superannuated, under some circumstances, the whole amount of his salary. In his opinion a plan of so much importance, ought not to be decided on in haste. The right hon. gentleman had, it appeared, placed all the salaries of individuals in classes. Now, he should like to know what increase had taken place since the year 1810. Generally speaking, he con- 1028 ceived that larger deductions than those now proposed might be made from the more extensive salaries, and that a smaller sum should be subtracted from those of a lower denomination. He was willing to give the right hon. gentleman every credit for his efforts in devising this plan. He could easily feel and appreciate the difficulties which he had to encounter. He was well aware of the truth of what had been stated on a former occasion, that it almost required some degree of hardness of heart, to propose a reduction of salary to men who had long performed useful and arduous public duties; but still the state of the country required economy, and feeling must give way to duty.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that nothing was further from his wish than the hurrying this measure forward. In his opinion, the best way would be to give leave to bring in a bill; after which, the various objections might be stated, in the course of its different stages.
condemned the system which was now acted on, in the various departments of the state, of regularly increasing the salaries of all the clerks, at certain fixed periods. This rule, which made them independent of their superiors, to whom they ought to be made to look up for advancement, destroyed all incentive to emulation, and exertion. It made no distinction, between merit and no merit—between activity and no activity. The existing system of superannuation was most important. The intended improvements did not remove his objections to that system. The question came to this—whether the plan of superannuation was not so radically bad, as to call for its abolition? To judge of this question correctly, they ought to be in possession of an account of all salaries granted to the civil servants of the Crown, and the superannuations voted to those servants, since the passing of the 50th of the late king. The right hon. gentleman had given a statement of the amount of superannuations in some departments, and had argued that those superannuations were only in the proportion of 9½ or 10½ per cent on the sums paid for actual service. But the account to which the right hon. gentleman had referred, by no means gave a fair view of the whole expense. A paper was laid on the table on the 13th of last month, giving an account of the superannuation, pensions, and salaries of the 1029 different officers in the Navy and Victualling-office, The whole amount of expenditure was 543,000l., and he observed amongst the items a number of contingencies, comprising stationery, parish rates, taxes, firing, postage, and he knew not what else. But, independent of these charges, there were upwards of 400,000l. for salaries; and the superannuations, pensions to commissioners, secretaries, clerks, and others, in the civil department, amounted to 126,772l., making 25 per cent on the amount of the whole sum, instead of 10½ per cent. This expense had grown up since the year 1810, under the act then passed. At that time, the superannuations in the Custom-house were about 4,000l. per annum, whereas they now amounted to 100,000l. If this superannuation system were suffered to go on, it would be as bad as a second set of Poor-laws. How, then, were they to deal with the system? In investigating it, two parties were to be considered—the clerks themselves, and the public. The clerks remonstrated loudly against what they called the undue profits which the chancellor of the exchequer intended to make at their expense. They had sent forth a pamphlet, to which were appended long calculations founded on Dr. Price's statements, by which they laboured to prove, that a sum of 188,000l. would be taken from 508 clerks. They declared that they could do much better for themselves than parliament could do for them; and requested that they should be left in possession of the 5 per cent of which it was intended to deprive them. They argued, that the accumulation of that sum at compound interest, or the laying it out on a life insurance, would furnish a better provision than was now contemplated for themselves and their families. He believed this to be the fact; and he knew not on what account parliament should set about making a provision for all the clerks in the different offices. Why should they not be left to the dictates of their own prudence, as other individuals were? Why should they not be allowed to lay by, in the time of health and strength, that which would be sufficient for their maintenance in the period of age and infirmity? He knew no right they had to force men to adopt a system of economy. Individual morals were not the object of- legislative interference. But, they were now called on to agree to a measure which would absolutely prevent 1030 men from becoming provident, and would tend to make them selfish. The legislature would by this measure compel a man to provide for himself; but at the same time they left his wife and family destitute. The clerk must, according to this plan, make a provision for his own subsistence; but, if any accident occurred to him, his wife and family would be left without support. He would now consider the case with respect to the public. There was one plain cause for an alteration of the system; namely, the abuse of the 50th of the late king. That act had been interpreted in a way which parliament never intended. The meaning evidently was, that a man should not be provided for by the public, until from age or infirmity he was rendered incapable of performing the duties of his office. But, was that the way in which superannuations were granted? Certainly not. He knew no man, whose acquaintance was in any degree extensive, who could not reckon amongst that acquaintance several persons who were superannuated, in the parliamentary sense of the word. There were many young men at present walking about in idleness, who were supported at the public expense. He would suppose a young man of 15 or 16 entering a public office: at the end of 15 years, circumstances might have enabled him to improve his fortune in a very great degree. A man thus situated would rather play for a part of his salary than work for the whole. He was immediately seized with a headache, or fancied he had one; or he pleaded that he was assailed by some other trifling complaint; and the same power that got him into office was effectually exercised to get him out, with a handsome superannuation allowance. By this system three men were often paid for walking about, while the active service was performed by one. This was the system under the act of the 50th of George 3rd. When a man went out of office superannuated, one would suppose that he was incapable of doing any thing. But if, in a few years after, a better situation was offered, the superannuated individual frequently went to business again, and became as able and efficient an officer as any in his majesty's service. It appeared to him that the deduction of 5 per cent was too much for what ministers proposed to do for the clerks; and on the other hand, that superannuations to the amount of 25 per cent were by far too 1031 much for the public to pay. It struck him, that it would be wiser to give up any attempt to amend a system so liable to abuse, and to adopt the plan pointed out by the clerks themselves.
§ Mr. Hume
agreed, that the House ought not to decide on a proposition of so important a nature, until they were in full possession of all the particulars connected with it. What the hon. member had stated with respect to the Custom-house, was extremely important. At the time the 50th of the late king passed, the superannuations in that department were very moderate; but from that period they had increased in a ratio of about 10,000l. a year. The system of superannuating various individuals, in quick succession, was exemplified in a very extraordinary degree at Plymouth; in which town there was a clergyman who now received 500l. a year for preaching to a few persons, at the same moment that two individuals, who had successively given up the situation, were each receiving a superannuation allowance. If provisions, in the shape of superannuatuions, were made fairly and equally, he could see no objection to them; but, those who deserved a proper allowance to retire on, were not the persons who received it. If ministers wished to act correctly, they would reduce, as much as possible, that patronage which procured superannuations for one set of persons, in order to place others in their situations. He must say, that the comparative smallness of the deductions which ministers were about to make, did not meet his ideas on the subject of retrenchment. Now what saving was to be effected in the present year? Why, including Ireland, there was a calculated saving of 200,000l. on a gross sum of 4,200,000l. appropriated for the civil expenditure, including the collection of the revenue, and various other items. If they added Scotland, and Ireland, it would form a total of 5,300,000l., on which a saving, of 200,000l. was to be effected. Now this was not such a reduction of expenses as they had a right to expect. But what was the eventual reduction to be? He understood it would go to the extent of 400,000l. But, when they looked to the enormous increase which had occurred in the amount of salaries, that saving was by far too little. Were they to be content with a deduction of about 4 per cent when the value of the currency was so greatly increased? He, for one, was quite disap- 1032 pointed at the right hon. gentleman's statement, With respect to the superannuation system, the fact really was, that the allowances were granted, not in proportion to a man's services and necessities, but in proportion to the number and power of his friends. The system of superannuation was an encouragement to expense, entailed a heavy and unnecessary expense on the country. It would be most wise to abandon the practice of granting superannuations, unless where an extreme case was made out. He put it to ministers, whether it was just, to make the same deduction from a man who had only 150l. year, and from one who had 500l.? Evidently the burden would fall on the junior classes, and it was unfair to press heavily on those who could so ill afford it. The chancellor of the exchequer, after having stated that 30,000l. were reduced from his majesty, and 25,000l. from other officers, said that this would prevent the disgrace and pain of examining the accounts of the civil list. He could not refrain from expressing his surprise at such language. The House had passed resolutions, reserving it to themselves to investigate and control this branch of expenditure, and they had at several times exercised this right. He could not therefore see what pain or disgrace could result from thoroughly examining the accounts of the civil list; and he hoped the House would consider it due to the country to examine them. He trusted they would feel the necessity of deducting equally from all salaries, the highest as well as the lowest.
§ Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, he felt highly grateful for the communication made to the House, with respect to the gracious intention of his majesty. He would not however, pledge himself to support the whole plan. It. would be quite impossible for the House to pronounce an opinion until such time as the details were before them. There was a great deal, he thought in what had fallen from the hon. member for Sandwich, with respect to the principle of superannuation.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, it had been asserted, that the superannuation act had been studiously abused. Now, he did not say that it was not open to abuse; and that, in the great many cases which were connected with it, some abuses might not be traced. But his right hon. friend had stated a case which was prima facie calculated to repel the insinuation of abuse. He had stated, that of 1,800 per- 1033 sons superannuated from the revenue and political offices, the average number was nearer 30 than 29 years of service; and that the ages of those who were in possession of superannuation allowances averaged 65 years. These facts did not render particular abuses impossible, but they repelled the insinuation of studied and general abuse. The hon. member for Sandwich had argued, that the superannuation act ought to be got rid of, and liberal salaries given to clerks, leaving them then to their own moral prudence, and their sense of moral fitness, to make provision for their retirement. But suppose they had not this sense of moral fitness, and that they had arrived at a time of life when they became very bad clerks, what was the government to do? Were they to turn them loose with nothing to live upon? Was there any thing more abhorrent to every sound feeling, than that a man, who had not had the prudence to lay by a purse, should be turned adrift after a service perhaps of 50 years? General theories were not very good things, nor could a government safely act upon them. If they acted upon the theory of the hon. member for Sandwich, the consequence would be, that they could never turn out their old servants, however inefficient and useless they might become. The hon. member had talked of a vast number of vigorous and healthy young men who had retired on a convenient allowance, and were to be seen daily promenading the streets. Now, he could assure the House that it had been the anxious endeavour of government, to ascertain that individuals were unfit for service before they were permitted to retire. He admitted, that the system of superannuations was one which it was extremely difficult to execute, and that the principle by which it was regulated required to be controlled by a countervailing principle. The system at Ceylon was exactly a case in point. By that system a general fund was created by the parties themselves out of their own emoluments; the great advantage of which was, that it did not leave it to the moral feeling or prudence of the parties to provide for future exigencies by private savings. It having been ascertained by a series of years, what sum would afford a reasonable allowance on superannuation, that sum was taken as a fixed and unalterable which was in no case to be exceeded. By this arrangement the administration of the fund would be placed under the observation of the clerks 1034 themselves, whose interest it would become to prevent their own claims from being defeated by fraudulent or undue applications. The hon. member for Sandwich had made some statements which appeared to contravene those of the chancellor of the exchequer. His right hon. friend had said, that the average charge of superannuations did not exceed ten per cent and the hon. member for Sandwich had referred to certain returns, from which it appeared, that the charge was 25 per cent. These returns, however, beside the superannuations for existing offices, contained many for offices that had been suppressed. The hon. member for Aberdeen had entered his protest against the measure, and with a view of damping the tone of congratulation which he saw rising in the House, had declared, that he was by no means satisfied. He could not help remarking, however, that the hon. member was lower in point of tone than he had been since the commencement of the session; it was, in fact, his first blank evening; and he must say, he had never before heard him in so small a key. It was evident that the hon. member was rather surprised or damped by what had fallen from his right hon. friend, and that he found he had not so strong a case against ministers, as he had expected. The hon. member complained that a sum of 200,000l. was an inadequate reduction on a fund of 5,000,000l. but the hon. member had laid out of his calculation the great expence of collecting the revenue, which would deprive him of more than half his argument; for out of 4,000,000l., only 1,600,000l. was applicable to the present question. He would not deny that very large reductions might be made in the collection of the revenue. Committees were at that moment sitting on every branch of the revenue. It was true that the reductions proposed did not quite come up to the standard of the member for Aberdeen. That hon. member, when he had no better reason for a proposition, immediately jumped at a conclusion, and maintained the necessity of making a reduction of 25 per cent. This was the infallible remedy, which he proposed as regularly as the evening came. This was not the way to animate the servants of the Crown in the work of retrenchment. The more they did, the more they were reproached; and the appetite of hon. gentlemen opposite seemed only to increase with the sustenance it received. But he trusted the House did 1035 not participate in the feelings of the hon. member for Aberdeen. The hon. member complained, that every thing had not been reduced to the standard of 1797. Now, since 1797, the business of the Treasury had increased six-fold. Was it extraordinary, then, that there should be an increase of nine officers in this department, especially when it was considered that the Irish Treasury was annexed to it? His right hon. friend had stated that, in this single department of the Treasury, there was an actual reduction of 33 per cent, exclusive of the 5 per cent applied to the superannuation fund. The civil list had afforded the hon. member another opportunity of indulging in that rich repast of detail with which be had on so many former occasions regaled the House. Whatever might be the hon. member's taste, the taste of parliament was of a very different description. It was neither the practice nor the province of parliament—he had almost said, it was not within the competence of parliament—to enter into the question of the civil list, except at the instance of the Crown. He would refer the hon. member to the language of Mr. Fox, who had uniformly declared, that he would never suffer this question to be entertained with his consent, unless the Crown applied to parliament for some modification of the contract which it had made, or for the discharge of any debt which might have accumulated. With respect to the communication of his majesty's gracious desire to share in the difficulties of his subjects, he could assure the House, that if his majesty had indulged his own feelings, they would have had no limit but that of best contributing to the wants of the people. His majesty's servants would, however, have practised a gross delusion, if they had led the House to suppose, that as large a sacrifice could have been advised, as his majesty's paternal feelings would have induced him to make.—Had they advised such a course, they would have involved the Crown, the parliament, and the country, in the greatest of all perplexities—that of having the debts of the civil list brought under the consideration of parliament.
contended, that the resolution distinctly pledged the House to support the principle of superannuation, which was in itself extremely objectionable. He could see no hardship in official men being obliged to maintain, them selves when they retired, out of their 1036 savings while in office. That was the common lot of men, and he could see no principle upon which persons in official situations should be exempted from it. There were in the salaries to be reduced many points worthy of consideration. It was not fair that the first lord of the Treasury, whose salary was 6,000l. a year, should only suffer a reduction of 10l. per cent, and that a junior clerk, who now had a salary of 125l. a year, should be reduced to a salary of 100l. a year. Besides some of the inferior clerks were not paid too much at present; 125l. a year was not more than many of them deserve to have; but 6,000l. a year was more than ought to be paid to any first lord of the Treasury. If an opportunity were given, he would vote for the reduction of the salaries of all the great offices of the state. In the present distressed circumstances of the country, all of them were too high. The salary of the noble lord opposite was greatly too high. Many offices in the household; for instance, those of lord chamberlain and lord steward, as they were offices of great honour, ought to be performed without any emolument. He could not help expressing his surprise at hearing the noble marquis maintain, that as the civil list had been once settled, the House was not competent to make a fresh arrangement of it, and at his quoting a speech of Mr. Fox in corroboration of that extraordinary doctrine. Now, the present was not the first time that those who never could be brought to listen to Mr. Fox's warning voice when alive had quoted his words after his death, though not exactly in the sense which he had used them. For his own part, he recollected that upon one occasion, when lord North came forward, to deny the right of the House to inquire into the civil list, except when the Crown came to ask for an addition to it, Mr. Fox had explicitly declared that the House had a right to examine into it at all times—to augment it, if any augmentation should be found necessary, and to diminish it, if the Crown appeared to draw more from the people than the circumstances of the people warranted. Indeed, in the year 1780, Mr. Fox had put a question to sir Fletcher Norton upon that very subject, and obtained an opinion from him, that the House had a right to inquire into every circumstance connected with the civil list.* Where* See Parl. History, vol. 21, p. 258.1037 the noble marquis had caught up that shred and patch which he had quoted, he could not tell; but this he would say, that it was belied by the whole of Mr. Fox's public life. He would now only state his objection to the plan generally, as it would be impossible to go into the details until the necessary papers were before the House.
§ Sir W. De Crespigny
said, that ministers were only taking off the lighter portion of the burthens of the country, whilst they allowed the heavier weight to press upon them.
§ Mr. Warre
inquired, whether the same reductions were to take place in Ireland as in England, and whether the allowances to foreign ambassadors were to be reduced? He thought it would be better, if the salaries afforded to public men during their service, were to be considered as their whole remuneration; and that they should regulate their expenditure accordingly.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, that the civil list of Ireland would be subject to the same regulation as that of England; and that the reduction of 10 per cent was also to extend to the salaries of foreign missions.
maintained, that the principle of superannuation was most important, and argued, that it was necessary to vest the heads of departments with the power of superannuating such servants of the public as had exhausted their best faculties in its service. Honourable gentlemen had spoken as if superannuation was an object of desire to those to whom it was granted. Now, the contrary was the case the faculties of individuals in general giving way long before they themselves discovered it. As a proof of this assertion, he quoted the case of the great lord Mansfield, who had held his situation five years longer than his talents fitted him for it. To show that there was no fair reason for presuming that the principle of superannuation would be abused, he stated, that thirty was the average number of years served by the persons now superannuated, and that sixty-five was the average of their respective ages. As to the plan of-making such clerks as had not laid up a provision for old age petitioners for the bounty of parliament, he condemned it in unqualified terms. Whilst the country continued a monarchy, its servants were hound to look to the Crown for remuneration: if they once looked to 1038 parliament for it, there would be an end of the monarchy, a republic would be established, and all our ancient institutions would be swept away for ever. Alluding to the opinions of Mr. Fox with regard to the civil list, he declared that he had heard Mr. Fox, in the year 1802, say, that it was the practice of the constitution to allow the bargain made with the Crown, at the commencement of the reign, to remain fixed and unaltered; and that too upon two grounds; the one, that the Crown might not be brought into an improper dependence upon parliament; and the other, that it might not run into debt from an expectation that parliament would come forward to discharge them. Nothing was more likely to diminish the reverence due to the Crown, than a continual scrutiny into what was its just and necessary expenditure.
§ Mr. P. Moore
said, that as the committee was called upon to vote without evidence, and as he wished to have the papers printed before the House agreed to the resolutions, he should move that the chairman do report progress.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
said, he would concur in the resolution, as he understood it did not pledge him to support the details of the bill which might be founded upon it. He admitted that superannuation ought not to be on a scale which might induce gentlemen in office to retire, but at the same time it was proper, when an individual had spent the greater part of his life in the public service, that the public should not desert him When he was incapable of further service.
said, he was a friend to the principle of superannuation, but he would object to the proposed reductions, if they went to affect those who held situations as low as 50l. or 100l. a year. He, however, would say, that the proposed saving of 200,000l. and a contemplated saving of 200,000l. more, ought to be viewed with satisfaction by the country. He could not help expressing the satisfaction with which he had heard the communication from the throne, that 30,000l. was to be given from the privy purse for five years. Some gentlemen might think this too large, and others too small, but it was the principle which he liked, and even looking at the sum, he thought it was as much as, under all the circumstances could be expected, and was sure it would give great satisfaction to the country.