§ (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson, Colonel Stanley, Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ [BILL 169.] COMMITTEE.
§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)
§ MR. PARNELL
, in rising to move that the House resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill on this day three months, said, he had hoped that some explanation would have been given by the Government of the reasons which induced them to adhere to certain leading features of the Bill which to him seemed of a very objectionable character. The Bill purported to be a scheme of retirement of clerks, and of reorganization in the War Office by means of those retirements. He did not deny for a moment that there was need for re-organization in the War Office; but, in proceeding to satisfy the need of the Office in this direction, the Government would have done better if they had been more mindful of the rights of the lower division of clerks, whom they now proposed should retire compulsorily under the provisions of this Bill. The Government might say that those clerks had retired voluntarily; but in reality the retirements had been of a compulsory character, because those clerks who had retired voluntarily knew beforehand that their services would be dispensed with when this Bill was passed, and that they would not be permitted to remain on the Establishment. He did not wish to refer to the cases of the clerks who were to receive two-thirds of their salaries as retiring allowances, and who were to obtain gratuities according to the provisions of the Bill; but he desired to refer to that class of clerks who were only to receive as retiring allowances half of their salaries. That class of clerks felt themselves very grievously injured by this Bill. The Government were proceeding on the vicious principle of allowing those of their officers who were paid an inferior salary a proportionately inferior allowance. The House would admit this was a vicious principle, for it was establishing a sort of aristocracy of 1368 clerks. It was beyond question that at the War Office there was a great amount of discontent and a keen sense of injustice, on account of the reason he explained. There was a further source of discontent, and one of a very important character. At the time of the Crimean War a number of clerks of the first class were appointed temporarily; but since then they had been placed on the Establishment, and were now "supplementary" clerks. The Government did not propose to allow a single farthing of retiring allowance to these supplementary clerks, although they had been in the Service since the Crimean War, and did exactly the same work as the other clerks. The Government simply proposed to dispense with their services with very little notice. He doubted whether the Government could have known of the existence of this body when they drew up the Bill. He did not see what object the Government could have in turning out this class of public servants in this manner. It was well calculated to cause discontent in the Public Offices. The Government wanted to show a saving of a few thousands a-year. If they had dealt fairly and generously, as might have been expected, with this class of clerks, they could not have effected this saving. The Government had dealt very unfairly with a class of men the less able to bear it. They were in every case men who had received a liberal education, and if they had not gone into the War Office, they would have become barristers or medical men. Relying on the fairness of the Government, they entered into a contract with the Government, under the impression that they were to remain in the Service until superannuated. He knew it was quite impossible, for such of them as had young families who were arriving at a certain age at which the most expenditure was required, to send their sons to good schools, in order that they might receive the same liberal education as their fathers. He did not wish to oppose re-organization, which was certainly required. By reference to the Army Estimates, it appeared that the business to which this re-organization scheme applied was in perfect chaos. There were no less than 11 different classes of clerks. But he wished reorganization to be unaccompanied with injustice to men who had spent the best 1369 years of their lives in the service of the Government upon very small pay. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. Parnell,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ COLONEL STANLEY
greatly sympathized with much that had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath; but this was not a question of personal feeling alone. These matters were to be decided with regard to efficiency and the duties which were to be carried on in the Public Service, and also with a due regard to economy. Speaking in a personal sense, he was bound to say it was with considerable pain and reluctance that the Government had had to propose a measure of this sort to the House; but, as the hon. Gentleman himself had perceived, the constitution of the Office, over which he (Colonel Stanley) at that moment had the honour to preside, was in such a state as to render it indispensable that it should be re-organized on a different footing, and accordingly his right hon. Friend who preceded him had instituted a Committee of Inquiry on the subject. That Committee sat rather more than a year ago. It sat for months, and made a most elaborate Report upon the system which it recommended for the future. His right hon. Friend found the position of a portion of the clerks in the Service a most painful one. There was a large establishment of gentlemen, many of them well educated, who were doing work which might very well have been discharged by less educated, and, therefore, by a lower class of persons. There was stagnation of promotion from which there could be no recovery for many years. Therefore, the prospects which had been held out to those gentlemen on their entrance into the Public Service had not been entirely realized, and his right hon. Friend did not think those prospects were at all likely to improve. 1370 His right hon. Friend, therefore, was of opinion that he should adopt somewhat more stringent measures than would otherwise have been the case, and reorganize the Office. That would necessitate, as was usual in such cases, a certain amount of hardship to individuals. But the Committee reported what number of gentlemen they thought it was necessary to retain in the Public Service and those who should not be so retained. He was bound to say that the various grades had been very carefully considered. It was possible that here and there a case of apparent and sometimes of real hardship occurred in connection with this re-organization; still he believed that in the majority of instances the prospect of each gentleman had been very fairly met. He did not find himself in a position to propose any alteration of the arrangement which his right hon. Friend had made. Whether, at some future time, it would be necessary to carry this re-organization further, was not a matter which he at the present moment could discuss. He was bound to tell the House that as far as the Government had been able to lay the scheme before the House, it was practical and efficient for the accomplishment of the object in view. He believed it had been carefully considered by those who were most competent to deal with it, and that for the future the clerks would obtain a fair amount of promotion. He should grieve if, from any delay caused by the House, these gentlemen should be retired without deriving the advantage this Bill would confer upon them. He hoped the House would take this stage of the Bill at once.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
said, he had no wish to take up the time of the House, by going into details to show the urgent need of re-organization at the Admiralty. The Bill dealt with the subject on what he submitted was a wrong principle, and it should not be proceeded with until the House had full details. He would confine himself to the Return which had been laid on the Table, and would point out, so far as he had been able to understand its meagre details, that the figures gave a different result to that set down. By the Return, it seemed that 78 Class I. clerks were to be retired, making an alleged saving of £29,929. But he found that the average of the retiring pensions, arrived at by dividing 67 into 1371 £22,537, being the sum of £24,287, less £1,750, or 3½ per cent on £50,000 gratuities set down in the Return, would be £336; or, for 78 clerks, £26,208, to which must be added 3½ per cent on £49,450, or £1,750, as well as the cost of 50 Class II. clerks at their lowest, say, £80—namely, £4,000, making altogether £31,958, or an immediate loss of £2,029, steadily increasing year by year as the salary of these clerks increased, instead of an immediate gain, as alleged by the Return, of £2,478, and an actuarial ultimate gain of £10,000. There was another point against the correctness of the Return; it was this—there were now on the establishment 186 Class II. clerks, or lower division, costing £20,602, or an average of £110 each per annum; but he found that the additional 50 about to be engaged to fill the places of the 78 Class I. clerks to be retired, were set down to cost only £3,164, or an average of only £63 each per annum. He must confess that he could not understand a Class II. clerk, whose lowest salary was £80 a-year, engaging to serve for £63. That difference alone would make an error in the calculations of about £1,000. He had no wish to weary the House with figures; but he thought he had shown clearly that there was good ground for the Government to look more closely into their re-organization scheme before going into Committee on the Bill.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
was of opinion that if this scheme was laid before the House in its entirety, the House would come to the conclusion that no saving would be effected. It began by pensioning-off a number of clerks, and giving gratuities to a number of men who were at present employed. He admitted the necessity for some reorganization in the War Office; but he considered that something might be done to employ those men it was now intended to dismiss from that Department. It was a reproach upon the Admiralty and War Office that such a state of things should be permitted, as it was admitted on all hands now existed. There were so many grades of clerks in the War Office—according to the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Meath, as many as 10 or 12—that it was scarcely possible to ascertain what was the beginning or end of the official system. A skeleton Schedule should accompany this 1372 Bill, so that they might know exactly what the Government intended to do. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had said he approached this subject with considerable pain. He (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) thought it uneasonable and unjust that the Government should be called upon to pass a Bill in the interest of economy which was really against humanity. Great hardship might be inflicted on individuals, but in the end the economy would be found a false one. The Bill was termed a Bill to facilitate Improvements in the Organization of the Admiralty and War Office by the retirement of Clerks from the Departments attached thereto; but he thought it ought to be called a Bill to enable the Commissioners of the Admiralty or the Secretary of State for War to dismiss as many of the Civil servants of the Admiralty or War Office as they might think fit, and to supply their places either by the promotion of such Civil servants as they thought proper, or by the employment of clerks of a lower division. Now, he thought it unfortunate that there should be a lower division of clerks at all. They were taken from the same rank in society, were, for the most part, as well educated as their more fortunate brethren, only differing from them in this, that their fathers had, perhaps, not been able to pay for having them better coached before obtaining their appointments. He differed entirely from the conclusions arrived at by Mr. Knox given in his evidence before the Committee two or three years ago, and upon which this Bill appeared to have been formed, as to the advisability of having two sets of clerks—one for drudgery, and the other for intellectual labour. He (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) contended that it was a false step and false economy to establish a service of drudges. A clerk entering the upper division knew he had the opportunity of raising himself and living like a gentleman; but one in the lower division, although, perhaps, socially his equal, knew that, do what he would, he could never rise above a certain dead level. He argued that power should be given to promote clerks from the lower to the higher division, and then everyone would take an interest in this work, and the Department would be more efficient. He regretted to say it but 1373 he believed this measure was essentially of a retrograde character, and one that should not be encouraged in these days. He did not intend to act in opposition to the Bill getting into Committee, when the various Amendments on the Paper would be discussed; but he thought the Government would do well to consider the whole measure before bringing this Bill into operation, which would have the effect of pressing hard upon some of the public servants.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he was not an advocate of the present arrangement for an upper and lower division of clerks. At the same time, he did not think that the whole clerical staff should consist of those who were called "gentlemen." When, some years ago, it fell to him to re-organize—and a very troublesome and painful process it was—the expenditure of the Clerical Establishments of the Admiralty, he found—and he did not think he was at all exaggerating the case when he said so—that there were twice as many officers as were wanted. The result was, that during his two years of office some 117 out of between 300 and 400 clerks and superior officers had been reduced; and, since 1868, not one single new clerk had been appointed—that was to say, all the vacancies which had since taken place, either by reason of retirement or death, had not been filled up by fresh appointments, the superfluous numbers being so great. Now the First Lord came down and proposed in this Bill to carry the reduction still farther—by retiring 67 officers, making altogether just about the reduction which might have been carried out, had he (Mr. Childers) had the advantage of such a Bill as the present. During his time they had succeeded in meeting every case of hardship, though he had not been able to go as far as he wished; but the result, he might be allowed to state, had been an immense increase in the efficiency of the Admiralty. With respect to the War Office, it would be necessary to carry out still further reforms. He therefore supported the Bill which merely carried further what he had been so much attacked for doing partially; and he thought that what a former Government had done was more than justified by what it had been considered desirable to do since. He would suggest to the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) that it was not 1374 desirable to throw out this Bill, which was really a boon to the officers who would be retired under it, but to allow the House to go into Committee on the Bill, and, when there, to propose Amendments to carry out the two objects he had particularly in view.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, no one who knew the War Office could fail to appreciate the importance of this Bill. Nothing could be more painful than to see the stagnant state of the promotion for the clerks in that Office. For nearly 20 years no new clerk had been introduced in the Office, the evils engendered were the result of mistakes of more than 20 years ago. The cry then was for educated clerks to be employed; and men of University education, many having taken honours, were put into the Office to perform duties which a far less trained class were fully equal to. The amalgamation of several departments under one head—that of the Secretary of State for War—and the large increase in clerks, consequent on the war with Russia, had, with other blunders, entailed on the War Office many difficulties; but this Bill would effect a change which was exceedingly desirable, and he hoped care would be taken that the most capable were retained, and that fair treatment to those dispensed with would be practised. He suggested the employment of soldiers and sailors in the two Offices, and he could say from his own knowledge that the Government would never regret having employed them. He was in hopes that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) the Chairman of the Committee on the Employment of Soldiers, would support the suggestion to increase the number of soldiers in the War Office then employed in clerical work.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he did not rise to oppose the progress of the measure, but to say that there was a general impression that these re-organization schemes meant that men who were competent and without patrons would be sent adrift, while inferior Civil servants who had patrons would be retained. He did not attribute this to any Government in particular; he gave the impression which prevailed. Only a strong British Government could stand such a state of things as had been described. The Government ought to say what they were going to do. What was their 1375 scheme? Could they say who they were going to retain? Did they mean to touch the clothing department of the Army, where abuses were known to exist, and where men with small salaries retired with large fortunes? If ever there was a department which wanted reforming, that was the department; for it had long been a nest of imposition, peculation, and oppression. The changes effected in the Admiralty had worked admirably; but just the reverse was the case in the War Office, where there was want of management, and corruption. He was speaking of what was known to Members of the Ministerial Front Bench. There was undoubtedly a necessity for this Bill, but he wished to know whether the purchasing departments of the Army and Navy were to be re-organized?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Award of Gratuities.
§ Clause 1 (Power to pay gratuities to retiring clerks in the Admiralty and War Office).
§ CAPTAIN PIM
said, he wished to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, if he would give an explanation of the point to which he (Captain Pim) had called attention before going into Committee? Instead of there being an immediate saving of £2,478 under this Bill, it appeared to him that there would be an immediate loss of £2,029; and that that loss would increase year by year. Unless some explanation was given, he (Captain Pim) would feel it his duty to move to report Progress.
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
said, he believed it to be a perfectly correct calculation that the saving would be something like £2,500. That was independently of pensions; and when they fell in, there would be a further saving of £10,000. He might say that saving had not been the principal object in view; but that the principal object aimed at had been efficiency. There was no ex- 1376 cessive saving, or undue reduction; and, in fact, there was not a single class of officers at the Admiralty, whether higher officers or juniors, whose position would not be improved by the Bill. The responsibility of the officers would be increased; but their pay and prospects would be increased pro ratâ.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
said, he was not finding fault with the Return, beyond pointing out that the figures were actually wrong. There was no question about their being wrong; he had gone into the matter very carefully. Another point to which he wished to call attention was that the in-coming clerks were coming in on an average of £63 a-year, and he was not aware that at the Admiralty there were any clerks under £80. As he had not had an explanation of the discrepancy between the Return and the statement which had been made, he would move that the Chairman report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Captain Pim.)
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he had looked very carefully at the calculations, and he could not agree with the hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down, as to the conclusions to be drawn from them. It seemed to him that the cost of the present establishment was £146,000 a-year, and the cost of the proposed establishment, with pensions, would be £144,000 a-year.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
said, that 78 clerks of the higher division were to be retired, saving £29,929; but the average of the retiring pensions would be £336, or for 78 clerks £26,280; to this must be added 3 per cent interest on £50,000, and the cost of 50 clerks of the second class at the lowest amount—he would say £80. This made £31,958, or, in round numbers, £32,000. If the right hon. Gentleman would look at those figures, he would see that there was a loss of £2,029, and that that loss would steadily increase, as the salaries of the clerks increased. The alleged gain was £2,478, with an ultimate gain of £10,000. He did not know whether the hon. Gentleman opposite had been able to follow those figures; he would give them to him if he liked.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
said, he was quoting from Return No. 231, printed by order of the House, dated June 14, 1878 (Admiralty Re-organization).
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he really was not able to follow the figures of the hon. and gallant Member. The Paper in question had been most carefully calculated from precise data, and the Government had the facts, while the hon. and gallant Member was proceeding on assumption. Under the contemplated reform there would be a charge altogether for the higher division of £96,344 for the year 1878–9, and for the lower division of £23,766; a total of £120,110. The pensions would amount to £24,287. The immediate saving, therefore, was £2,478. That was a statement of facts which had been ascertained, and certainly it might be taken as much more reliable than the statement of the hon. and gallant Member, who was really not acquainted with the extent of the intended reform and the salaries to be paid. As much reliance might be placed on these figures as on an actuarial calculation. The statement was made on the responsibility of officers who were well tried, and on whose good faith the utmost reliance might be placed.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
said, he had the figures in the Return, and from them made his calculations. He was as capable of adding up and subtracting these figures as any actuary, and he was certain he was right. He did not care if 50 actuaries said the contrary.
MR. C. BECKETT-DENISON
said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman had himself shown how the difference occurred; for he had made his calculation on the basis of salaries of £80, while the Government calculation was made on the basis of £63.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
said, this question of £63 was a second point, showing how doubly wrong the Government statement was, for he took it for granted that his right hon. Friend would not tell the Committee that there were any clerks at the Admiralty on a salary of £63 per annum.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he had heard the explanation offered by the right hon. Gentleman, and he did not clearly under- 1378 stand it. He had not had the opportunity of seeing the case of the hon. and gallant Gentleman; but it seemed to him that there were going to be 50 new clerks at the Admiralty, and he did not know how they were going to be paid. A number of gentlemen in the War Office, and at the Admiralty, were to be put to inconvenience and loss, without, so far as he understood, any corresponding advantage arising from the change. Unless some explanation was given why this alteration was to take place, and what the scheme of retirement and pensions was, he did not see why the Committee need go on any further in the discussion.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, he had not heard any explanation by the First Lord of the Admiralty; he had merely heard an assertion by the First Lord that his paper was based on most irrefragable and inviolable statistics, and that a certain statement which had been made on the other side was an assumption. It was perfectly possible, in a statement which would not occupy more than seven or eight minutes, to set the figures before the House in such a way that hon. Members could understand them, and then the discrepancy might disappear. He thought there had been an inconsistency in dealing with the objections of the hon. and gallant Member. In the first place they were told that his statements and inferences were unintelligible; and, in the second place, they were told that these had been fully explained, and shown to be erroneous. This showed in what an unsatisfactory position the matter was, and he thought the House was entitled to have a more complete explanation.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman, if he would carefully look at Paper 231, would see the explanation he asked for. The existing establishment of the higher division of clerks was 279, costing £126,273; the new establishment was 201, and would cost £96,344. The existing establishment of the lower division of clerks was 186, some of whom would disappear under the present arrangement, and the new establishment was 236, costing £23,766. Putting the higher and lower divisions together, the cost would be £120,110, as against £146,875; the saving in salaries, therefore, was £26,765. The pensions were £24,287, making a 1379 total of £144,397, or an immediate saving of £2,478.
§ Motion negatived.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Limitation of amount of gratuity).
§ CAPTAIN PIM
, in moving, in page 2, line 13, to leave out from "in" to "section," said, that perhaps the best explanation he could give was to read to the Committee a Petition which had been sent to the Admiralty by the senior clerks, in which they set forth their own case. He did not suppose the right hon. Gentleman would have any objection to his taking this course. The Petition was as follows:—To the Right Honourable the First Lord of the Admiralty.—The memorial of chief and senior clerks——
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
rose to Order. He said he must ask the Chairman, whether it was in Order for an hon. Member to read a document of that kind, which was, or ought to be, considered confidential. It would be subversive of good order and good government if Papers of such a nature from the Department were placed in the hands of an hon. Member and made public.
said, he was not aware of any Rule of the House by which an hon. Member was precluded from bringing such a matter forward. At the same time, he would point out to the hon. and gallant Member that the course which he proposed to take was one of grave responsibility, and he believed it was one of an exceedingly unusual character.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
replied that he did not see the slightest impropriety in reading the Memorial which had been sent to him by post, and was signed by 70 of the senior clerks in the Admiralty Department. The object which he had in moving his Amendment was that the time qualification of these clerks of very many years' standing should be calculated from the commencement of their service. It was a very hard case that some of these gentlemen, notwithstanding their long services, but because, as juniors, they had lower pay than the present scale, should, under the present scheme, have a poor retiring compensation of not exceeding £600 or £700, while others of 1380 less service but more pay had £1,000. He was sure his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) desired to do justice to those gentlemen, and he (Captain Pim) wished that he might have placed their case clearly before the Committee by reading the Memorial rather than by explaining its object. The omission of the words, as proposed by him, would afford those gentlemen the opportunity of receiving their proper gratuities on retirement. He was as anxious as anyone that the clerks in the Civil Service should retire with contentment, and his object was, therefore, to remove any cause for discontent. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would assent to his Amendment.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he was sorry that he could not accept the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member. The Government already possessed powers to enforce retirement from the Public Service; but as the administration of the two Departments proposed to be dealt with under the Bill was of a special character, the House was asked to pass a piece of special legislation. The Bill imposed on Government a responsibility which was absolutely indispensable to the efficiency of the Public Service. They did not think it necessary to go beyond the powers asked for by the Bill, and to do so under pressure from individual clerks, or departments, would be to set up a principle exceedingly injurious to the Public Service. He trusted that the Committee would accept the provisions and limitations of the Bill on the responsibility of the Government, whose desire was to have a contented and thoroughly efficient Service. He thought the proposed terms of retirement were liberal to those concerned, as well as necessary to the interest of the Public Service, and calculated to accomplish the end which was desired.
§ MR. CHILDERS
did not think the mere fact of a Memorial being signed by certain clerks, and not even explained by the hon. Gentleman who had a copy of it, sufficient ground for making any change in the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member had not told the Committee what would be the effect of the Amendment, neither had he shown in what way the clerks in whose behalf it was proposed would be affected. He, therefore, asked the hon. and gallant Gentleman, why it was necessary to make the proposed change?
§ CAPTAIN PIM
said, the effect of the Amendment would be an outlay of something like £3,000, which would give contentment to those senior clerks in the Admiralty Department whose length of service averaged 25 years; but who otherwise would get a smaller gratuity than those with less service.
§ MR. CHILDERS
replied, that merely giving 70 gentlemen £3,000 a-year among them was hardly a reason for altering the provisions of the Bill, although it might be a very pleasant one. In order to justify the alteration, it should be shown that the sum named by Government was unfair and inadequate to the end in view. The hon. and gallant Gentleman should show that, and the Committee would then consider his proposals.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, that no reason had been given for the Amendment, nor had the grievance of the clerks been explained to the Committee. With regard to the suggestion of the First Lord of the Admiralty, he thought it was very desirable that something like an understanding should be arrived at; for the right hon. Gentleman not only said that the Committee were not to discuss Memorials which had been addressed to the Heads of Public Departments, but actually limited the right of Members of the House to discuss the amount of compensation to which public servants were to be entitled on compulsory retirement. One reason why, in his opinion, the subject should be fully discussed was that although the Bill only dealt with the Departments of the Admiralty and War Office, it was generally felt that its principle would be made applicable to every branch of the Public Service. It would be a very serious thing if such a principle were to be applied without discussion, and hon. Members were to have no voice in the settlement of the question.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, the responsibility of granting to clerks retiring from the Public Service gratuities over and above what they would have been entitled to under existing regulations rested entirely with the Government, who were, therefore, the best judges of the amounts to be awarded. It was not for the clerks themselves to go to Members of Parliament and call upon them to advocate their claim for larger gratuities. He thought the Com- 1382 mittee should be limited by the Government proposal as a maximum. They might cut it down if too much; but it was not competent to a private Member to add to the expenditure in a case of the kind now before the House.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
objected to the laying down of doctrines which certainly ought to be protested against by the Committee. His hon. and gallant Friend had proposed to read a Memorial from certain clerks, and when he proposed to put their case in decisive words, they were told that such a course was improper. He (Mr. E. Jenkins) failed to see any impropriety in so doing. He presumed that the gentlemen concerned had stated their case in a temperate manner, and if any injustice had been done them, he concluded that they had shown wherein that injustice rested. If that were so, it seemed to him very proper that their case should be brought under the notice of the Committee, who would not be relieved by the discussion as to whether it was right or not that they should listen to the reading of a Memorial. He thought that the Memorial should be read, so that the Committee might be made aware of the effects of the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend (Captain Pim); and he protested against the doctrine of the First Lord of the Admiralty, that the Government should exercise its discretion and decide the principle on which that proposal should be made.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
had not understood his right hon. Friend in any way to restrict the Committee in its power of discussing the point raised by the Amendment. Under the existing law retirement was compulsory, and the terms were limited to a lower scale than was fixed by the Bill; but in consequence of its being considered necessary in the interest of the Public Service that a certain number of clerks should retire in order to facilitate the work of the Admiralty and War Offices, the First Lord and the War Minister had decided that special terms should be granted in place of those applicable to ordinary retirement. These special terms were embodied in the 2nd clause of the present Bill, which was then under discussion; they were exceptionally favourable, and in that respect constituted a distinct boon to the parties concerned, who, if the Bill 1383 were not passed, would be liable to compulsory retirement, which the law as it then stood in the Superannuation Acts rendered possible, upon the terms laid down in those Acts.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
thought that the Committee required a little more information than it possessed, both with regard to the clause itself and the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member which proposed to leave out from the clause certain words relating to the qualification of clerks as defined by the section. The House required to know the object of the qualifying clause, which appeared to him to be the exclusion of a certain body or category of clerks from the operation of the Bill. He thought, also, that the application of this part of the Bill was not to be confined to the Admiralty; but would affect that particular body of clerks in the War Office called "supplementary," to which the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) had referred. It was possible that there was a similar class of clerks at the Admiralty, and he believed that the object of the Amendment was to exclude them from the operation of the Bill. The clause raised the point whether a certain body of clerks should be excepted, and he thought it would assist the Committee in coming to a conclusion if the Government or the hon. and gallant Member opposite would tell them what class of clerks was to be excepted and the reasons for their exception.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
, referring to the Memorial in the hands of the hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend, said, it had struck him that in his recollection a similar document had been presented to the House; it had also occurred to him that the House had a right to be made acquainted with all the circumstances in the case of servants of the Crown desiring to make an appeal. He found, upon inquiry, that he was correct in his opinion, and would read from Hansard, Session 1873, a short extract, relating to the Post Office employés, in which the First Lord of the Admiralty himself said—He wished now to bring under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman Memorials, recently sent to the Postmaster General from the officers of the minor Post Office Establishments in London. These Memorials were adopted at meetings held with the cognizance of the Postmaster General, who, in his Report, which was just circulated, said the men generally had acted in 1384 a very proper and praiseworthy manner."— [3 Hansard, ccxvii. 1112.]The right hon. Gentleman was not censured by either side of the House; he read the Memorial and commented upon the value of the men's services; in fact, there was Hansard to show that he did in 1873 the very thing which he now condemned so severely.
§ DR. KENEALY
said, he could not conceal his astonishment and indignation at what had been suggested by the First Lord. That House was the great tribunal of the nation, established for the purpose of hearing wrongs and appeals from wrongs; and whose authority to hear Memorials of this kind had never been questioned till then. He joined in the protest which had been made. He reprobated fully this attempt to stifle discussion. The language of the Memorial which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gravesend (Captain Pim), was about to read, when he was stopped, was either true or false. If it was true, they ought to hear it; if it was false, let the First Lord prove that it was, and not endeavour to exclude it from consideration. He did not like what he had sought to do. The hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend read a summary of accounts which showed that the country would lose several thousand pounds a-year by this transaction. The First Lord was challenged twice to answer that summary. He had endeavoured to do it, but in a way that no Member who heard him could understand, and in a manner that conveyed to his mind that the right hon. Gentleman did not understand the accounts himself. That was not a very dignified part to play; it was not satisfactory to hon. Members, who were there to do their duty. The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) stated that the most scandalous corruption prevailed. He had also proved by precedent that the First Lord was wholly without excuse, for the attempt which he made to shut out the document which the hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend was about to read. He advised that hon. and gallant Gentleman to read it in full to the House, so that hon. Members might clearly understand what the clerks of the Admiralty sought, and what they complained of.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
protested against any injustice being 1385 done to public servants without an appeal being allowed to the House. It was no new thing to have the claims of public servants brought before the House. Had there not been Petitions from officers of the Army, and had not the House been deluged with claims from the officers of the Indian Army? Why, then, were they to be silent as to the wrongs of subordinates in the Admiralty and War Offices? He was sure the First Lord would not sanction such inconsistency; and from what he knew of the character of the Secretary of State for War, he might rely on his desire to deal fairly with those under his authority. If these clerks in the two Offices had complaints, why should they not be investigated by a Commission of Inquiry? The Memorial of the Officers of the Army had been taken into consideration, and two Commissions of Inquiry composed of men in high office had been held on them, and the country had been put to a vast expense in not only meeting the claims; but in investigating these claims which the Memorialists substantiated. If the hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend would afford some explanation, he (General Sir George Balfour) would support his Amendment.
§ MR. BARING
said, it had been argued by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (General Sir George Balfour) that "when there was a wrong, there must have been a right." It was not admitted that these gentlemen had any right, and in their case there could be no claim to any such thing as a gratuity. There might, however, be a sort of moral claim in cases where gratuities had become customary. As far as he understood the case, these gratuities were to be given in order to relieve the Public Service of persons whom it was considered desirable for the public benefit to remove; and it was, therefore, absurd to say that persons receiving a higher salary whom it was not proposed to remove should have a claim to gratuities, to which nobody had any right but those who intended to retire.
§ MR. BIGGAR
remarked, that if he had rightly understood the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baring), he contended that these gentlemen were not entitled to any gratuity, although the Bill proposed to turn them off.
§ MR. BIGGAR
replied, that the scheme was compulsory. At any rate, the Government claimed the right to turn off gentlemen who had been for a long time in the Public Service. If that did not constitute a hardship, he (Mr. Biggar) did not know the meaning of the word. He believed that if this Memorial had been read, much time would have been saved to the Committee; but as the matter then stood, he was sure every Member of the House was thoroughly mystified. He presumed that the Petitioners knew what they wanted, and if the Memorial were read, the Committee could form its own opinion as to the justness of their case. He suggested to the Committee that the document be read, and that they should not allow themselves to be bullied by officialism, which, according to his ideas, was most objectionable.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
said, he was quite sure that it was the earnest desire of the First Lord of the Admiralty to do justice to the retiring clerks. He would offer as a compromise, to read one part only of the Memorial which closely touched his Amendment. It was as follows:—The consequence of this proviso "—that wag the clause as it then stood—"will be, that while the clerk who has completed 20 years' service in the present junior class find has attained only £400 a-year, will receive a gratuity of £1,000; those of your memorialists who have not reached £400 a-year, but who have completed nearly 30 years' service, will not receive more than £600 or £700.In reply to the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), he begged to point out that the Admiralty only proposed to retire one class—namely, the senior class, and that was the only class at which his proposal aimed.
§ MR. THOMSON HANKEY
said, he did not understand the nature of the compromise proposed by the hon. and gallant Member. Although the explanation given had mystified them more than ever, yet the case seemed to him to be very clear. By Act of Parliament regulations were provided, by means of which clerks, under particular circumstances, might be retired; and the same Statute had also fixed the retiring pensions. The Admiralty thought it would be an economical thing to retire a certain number of clerks; but they felt that a rigid application of the rule would be a hardship, and therefore they asked the House to sanction an increase of the 1387 retiring pensions. If the statement of facts given by the Government was to be accepted, it seemed to him to be as clear as possible that the House ought to sanction the proposal, unless it could be shown that any clerk had fair ground for coming to the House and saying that he was aggrieved, and asking for an inquiry into his particular case. He was, on these grounds, quite ready to support the view of the Government.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
explained that the compromise he had proposed was that he should only read the clause of the Memorial which related immediately to his Amendment, instead of reading the entire Memorial of the senior Admiralty clerks.
§ MR. CHILDERS
wished to call attention to the inconvenience of the course taken by the hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend. Hitherto the rule had always been that when Memorials were presented to the Government by its Civil employés, these documents could only be brought under the notice of the House by means of a Motion for their production being placed upon the Paper. When a Memorial was thus moved for, and the Government produced it, if there were an answer to it, that also was placed before the House, which was then in a position to judge whether the view of the Government was a sound one. There was no instance within his knowledge in which the application made by Civil servants to the head of their Department had been brought before Parliament in the manner adopted in the present case. It would be extremely awkward if the House were prejudiced against those gentlemen in consequence of their case having been presented in an irregular way.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
understood the Question really before the Committee to be, whether the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member should be adopted. The words, as they at present stood in the Bill, provided that the allowance to any clerk should be estimated according to the period for which such clerk had served. The Amendment proposed to strike out the general words, and to qualify them by making a distinction between the different classes in which the clerk had served; and he thought there was a great deal to be said, primâ facie, in favour of that course. The Amendment, in his opinion, 1388 was very intelligible, and he should support it.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that if the clerks, to whom the hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend alluded, knew what was going to happen to them, they would not have been so discontented as they were represented to be. He wished to correct a misrepresentation into which the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury had fallen, that the Government were possessed of very extensive powers of compensating clerks that retired. The provisions of the Act of 1859 only gave power to the Government to give compensation according to a certain scheme, and power was also given in the case of any person retiring from the Public Service in consequence of the abolition of his office or a re-organization of his Department, to add such special allowance by way of compensation as upon full consideration should seem fit to the Commissioners. That gratuity was to be in addition to the compensation given under the ordinary circumstances. In the present case, the limit of compensation exceeded that given to clerks under the original Act, and the gratuity permitted to be made on compulsory retirement, in the ordinary course, under the Superannuation Act, 1859. By this Bill the Government contemplated retiring a large body of clerks compulsorily, and not in the ordinary course of superannuation assumed by the Act. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had hinted that the Government would proceed to re-organize the Department without this Bill if unusual impediments were thrown in the way of its passing before the end of the Session. The right hon. Gentleman must, however, know that the extensive re-organization of the Department desired by the Government could not be effected under the Superannuation Act of 1859. If, therefore, it was necessary to reorganize the Department, this Bill must be carried. It appeared to him that there was a very considerable distinction between giving gratuities to clerks whom the Government desired to retire compulsorily, and giving the like gratuities to clerks whom the Government wished to retain. He gathered from the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty that it was the intention to retain the clerks in question, and not to 1389 retire them. If the clerks desired to retire, they surely should not receive the gratuities that were only payable on compulsory retirement.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that if the language which had just now fallen from him had been at all coarse, it was quite unintentional on his part. Perhaps the Committee would allow him to remark that he felt the responsibility of Ministers of the Crown in those matters to be very great. They were charged with the custody of the public purse, and it would be a great crime if they paid more than was necessary for thoroughly maintaining the efficiency of the Public Service. He felt it was a dangerous thing, in the interests of the public, that representations should be sprung upon the House and the Department, on the part of those who desired to be included in pecuniary advantage, which the Government of the day did not think it necessary, in the interests of the Public Service, to afford them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath had referred to the effect of the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gravesend. The effect of that Amendment would be to authorize the Government to grant gratuities on a larger scale than that which the Government considered necessary; and it was on that account that it resisted the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
proposed two verbal Amendments, which he explained were necessary to make the clause unambiguous. The hon. Member was in the act of reading his Amendments, when—:—
§ It being now ten minutes to Seven of the clock, Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.