HC Deb 19 March 1889 vol 334 cc203-13

(1.) £9,500, Supplementary, Super-annuations and Retired Allowances.


I shall endeavour, as arranged, to give the House the names of the persons to whom awards have been made. The sum asked for is divided into several sub-heads. Under sub-head A come all superannuation allowances awarded as the result of services, and limited to the period of years of service or retirement from ill-heath on medical certificate. No Supplementary Estimate is asked for nnder the sub-head B—compensation allowances. It is a matter of satisfaction that this sub-head this year is not in excess of the sum voted. Sub-head C comprises gratuities awarded either to Civil servants who have not served ten years, or to higher servants under certain conditions. I will deal first with sub-head A—superannuation allowances—and I will give to the Committee the names and amount of pension which have been awarded in each of the cases which come under this sub head, in the order in which they appear in the details on the Vote. The first item is "Colonial Governors," for which a sum of £1,000 is asked. The reason for that is that a pension has been awarded to the Colonial Governor Weld, who was 65 years of age, and to whom a pension of £1,000 has been awarded. A Colonial Governor is not entitled to a pension unless he is 60 years of age, and has administered the government of a colony or colonies for periods amounting in the whole to 28 years, of which, at least, four years must have been as Governor of a colony in which the salary of the Governor is not less than £5,000. Governor Weld possesses all these qualifications, and, therefore, the Committee will agree that this pension has been well earned. The next item is for the "National Debt Office." There have been four requirements—namely, Mr. H. Court, who has been granted a pension of £833, his age is 67, and he has had 52 years' service; Mr. H. C. Cole, a pension of £353, age 69 and 49 years' service; Mr. T. Russell, a pension of £466, age 62 and 42 years' service; and Mr. Haffenden, a pension of £364, age 60 and 38 years' service. I may point out that the total of these sums is £2,017, while the amount asked for is £1,000, the explanation of which may be taken to be that pensions have fallen in, which enable the total sum to be paid with an additional Vote of £1,000. The next item is "Police-Courts." A pension has been awarded, to Mr. Mansfield, who is 75 years of age and has had 28 years' service. He is entitled under the terms of his employment to additions for professional qualifications, and he has been awarded a pension of £1,000. His salary was £1,500. The next item is the "Supreme Court of Judicature." Under this head we find—Mr. P. Marshall, a pension of £400, age 69 years, with 29 years' service; Mr. Ross, a pension of £400, age 71 with 35 years' service; Mr. W. R. Kemp, a pension of £466, age 72 with 60 years' service; Mr. T. Coghlan, a pension of £400, age 76 with 45 years years' service; Master Hodgson, a pension of £1,000, age 72 with 31 years' service, and addition for professional qualifications; Mr. T. Howard, a pension of £466, age 70 with 55 years' service; Mr. S. Richards, a pension of £466, age 72 with 45 years' service; and Master H. Pollock, a pension of £900, age 62 with 36 years' service. Two men have retired from the Pay Office which was attached to the Supreme Court. They are—Mr. Hair, a pension of £520, age 58 with 39 years' service; and Mr. Naylor, a pension of £406, age 50 with 33 years' service. In both of these cases there are medical certificates which have satisfied the authorities that both these officers are quite broken down in health. The amount of these pensions is £5,426, but only 2,300 is asked; pensions falling in making up the difference. The next item is "Prisons." The sum asked for consists of a list of small pensions too long to give to the Committee, but I think that it is a matter of congratulation that the Prisons Estimates are being year by year largely reduced, that the staff is being reduced to suit the requirements, and that none of those pensions come under any other category than that of persons entitled to pensions on retirement. In every one of these cases, except two, in which broken-down health, verified by medical certificates, was the cause of retirement, the men were over 60 years of age and entitled to retire according to the rules of the Service. In none of these cases has any addition been given except in two cases, in which the persons have been granted the additions to which their professional qualifications entitled them. Another item is the "Com passionate Fund," which appears on the Vote as sub-head C. I venture to make an appeal to the Committee, which I hope will be responded to—that the Committee should vote this money to meet what are known at the Treasury as hard cases. Without this money the Treasury has no power to meet such cases. In 1887 an amending Act to the Superannuation Act was passed by Parliament. Prior to that it had been the custom at the Treasury to exercise what are known as "extra-statutory powers"—in other words, to meet exceptionally hard cases, the Treasury had exceeded their statutory powers, and had given gratuities to men who were outside the four corners of the Act. When that amending Act passed through the House, the Treasury gave a pledge that if the Act were passed they would simply confine themselves within the limits of the Act, and they had since endeavoured to confine themselves strictly within those limits. There were cases, however, which arose from time to time which, I venture to think, are those most deserving of consideration. They are the cases, first, of men who have not the requistite number of years of service to entitle them to superannuation allowance at all. Next, the cases of hired men who are entitled under the Act of 1887 to one week's pay for each year of service. I think I shall be able to show the Committee cases in which that small compensation is inadequate to the circumstances of the case. I will mention, first, the case of a man named George Frost, a postman, who, while delivering letters, slipped on some ice and fell, and was so severely injured that he was retired from the Service, and his capacity for self-support is materially impaired. That man has been given a gratuity of £33, which is the total amount the Treasury have power under the Act to give to him. If the Committee are good enough to pass this Vote, we shall be able to give him a further gratuity of £25. John Leaky, a postman, while delivering letters, was struck by lightning. He was obliged to retire, and was totally incapacitated. He was entitled to £11 17s. 3d., but if the Committee give the Government the power we now ask, he will receive a further gratuity of £25. Daniel M'Carthy, a hired Admiralty labourer, met with an accident which brought on epileptic fits. The man appeared to get better, and he was taken on again; but while at work on board a boat he fell overboard and was drowned. His widow was refused a pension because the lapse of time since he met with the original accident made it impossible to con- nect the death with the accident. It is now recommended that the widow should receive £15 for herself and £2 for each child under the age of 15. Joseph Barrett, a hired postman, while delivering letters, was struck on the head by a cricket ball, and was so badly injured that he was compelled to retire, and was unable to contribute to his own support. He will receive no gratuity, because the injury he received was not directly attributable to the nature of his employment. It is now proposed to give him £25. I may say that a sum of £500 has been asked for in the Supplementary Estimates for this purpose, and there has been placed in the Estimates of next year, for the approval of the Committee, a sum of £700. It has been provided that the administration of this sum shall be governed by the strictest rules; that the amount shall be placed at the disposal of the First Lord of the Treasury for the time being; and that the First Lord of the Treasury shall be entitled to act in these particular cases only on the recommendation of the Treasury. I hope that I have shown that, although these are cases which are outside the four corners of the Act which we have to administer, they are hard cases which deserve consideration. I wish to say that it is difficult to avoid Supplementary Estimates in connection with the Superannuation Vote, because it has been the practice—and it is difficult to avoid the practice—to make the amount up of the sums which are on charge up to the 30th November. In other words, the Superannuation Vote for the current year, which will be presented to Parliament, say at the end of February, will contain all the superannuation allowances which are known up to the 30th of November preceding. But it is impossible for anyone to estimate the number of retirements that may take place during the year, or the number of pensions that may fall out of charge during the year; and therefore it is the most difficult of all the Estimates to estimate accurately. I hope, however, that I have convinced the Committee that at any rate the Vote now asked for has not been submitted without the most careful consideration of all the circumstances connected with the matter, and that they will be justified in agreeing to the Vote.

SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)

I am sure we are obliged to the Secretary to the Treasury for the full statement he has made, but at the same time I cannot help saying it would have been infinitely better had the statement been presented to us in writing. The statement is extremely satisfactory indeed; there is only one or two observations I want to make upon it. The hon. Gentleman has told us that in two cases pensions have been granted to gentlemen entirely broken down in health, and that medical certificates were received to that effect. We were so thoroughly convinced in the discussion which took place last Session of the great abuse which had taken place in allowing officers to retire on the certificates of private medical practitioners, that we welcomed the pledge given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the practice should cease, and that in future certificates would only be accepted from public and responsible officers. I should like to know whether that pledge has been fulfilled? Again, I see that one gentleman has retired at 67 years of age, and after 52 years' service, and that another gentleman has retired at 72 years of age after 60 years' service. I should like to know whether all these years' service count in assessing the amount of pension to be given?


In no case is more than two-thirds of the salary given as pension, and in no case are more than 40 years' service counted in fixing a pension.


I will only add I think the whole House will heartily assent to the grants in the hard cases which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)

This Vote as it was presented to the Committee was open to very great objection; but I think that the most serious objection has been removed by the statement which has been made by the Secretary to the Treasury. Although I think it is a shameful thing to give very large pensions to persons who have done nothing to deserve them, and who have not been in the service of the country for more than three or four years, I admit that under the system which now exists the people who give to the public very many years of faithful and hard service are justly entitled to their pensions. On this score, therefore, I shall certainly make no objection to this Vote. I think that postmen and persons of that description get far too little after their period of service has expired. My objection to the system is that the money has gone too largely into the hands of persons who, by influence or by some other circumstances, have received large amounts without rendering any services whatever to the country. There are several points in connection with this Vote to which I should have liked to refer. I must say that it is a serious thing that these Supplementary Estimates should have been so long before the House as they have been. The period of time which has been devoted to some questions is very discouraging to Members who have objections to make to particular items; and considering the state of public business and the manifest desire which the House has shown this afternoon to arrive at the Vote on Account as soon as possible, I think I should best consult the wishes of the Committee if I do not move the Amendment of which I have given notice.

*MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne Division)

I should be the last man in the world to object to any reasonable remuneration by way of pension or otherwise to those who have faithfully served the State. What I object to is, that we do not deal with the different classes of public servants on anything like equitable terms. When we consider what paltry sums these poor incapacitated postmen and others receive, and what large sums are granted to old gentlemen on retirement, I think it will be admitted that we reward the latter on a higher scale than we do their less fortunate brethren. The Secretary to the Treasury has told us that the man Frost was only entitled to £33, that Leaky was only entitled to £11 17s. 3d., that M'Carthy was entitled to nothing at all, and that Barrett will receive nothing unless we assent to this estimate. What I want to emphasize is that we ought to have an equitable scale of pensioning—for the highest as well as the lowest of our public servants. The Secretary to the Treasury has pointed out that in the case of hired servants like postmen, dock labourers, and others, the scale of pension is one week's pay for every year's service. Now, if we take the case of Mr. Mansfield's pension of £1,000, which is two-thirds of the salary he has received annually for 28 years, and apply to it the principle we apply to the case of postmen and others, what do we find? Why, that Mr. Mansfield is entitled, not to £1,000 a year, but to £784.


The hon. Gentleman is confusing the two classes of servants. The men he refers to have not got Civil Service certificates.


What I complain of is that they ought to have. If you have poor men working hard for you for a number of years, they are just as much entitled to have their services recognized in the form of pension, if you admit the principle of pensions, as other people. You deal out one measure to poor men, and another measure to rich men. I want to see all men treated alike. But one word in respect to what the Secretary to the Treasury has said as to prisons. I was glad to hear him say that prison establishments are being reduced, but I should like to be assured that the remark applies to the Admiralty prison at Bodmin. Is the scandal as to the sinecure offices connected with that establishment to continue? If it is, it is clear we shall be asked at some future time for superannuation allowances in respect of a number of offices which everyone admits are nothing but sinecures.

MR. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton)

I think that the plain and lucid explanation of the Secretary to the Treasury has made it clear that the action of the Treasury in regard to disbursements under this Vote have been characterized by very great caution. In reference to the remarks of the learned Member for Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) let me say that the real point of inequality in regard to these pensions is the allowance of ten years for professional qualifications. This is nothing short of an abuse, and I hope it will be dealt with by legislation. In the case of barristers who are appointed to well-paid positions of £1,500 a year, I fail to see why their retiring allowances should be calculated on more than the actual number of years that they have served. With reference to the compassionate allowances, I rejoice that such a fund now exists, as there used to be cases of great hardship which the Treasury desired to meet, and which they felt sure the House of Commons would desire to meet, but which, owing to the state of the law, could not be assisted. I am glad that this discretionary power is now given to the Treasury, and I feel sure that it is exercised with caution.


I should like some information as to what are the arrangements with regard to the reception of the medical certificates.


Most careful scrutiny has been made into these certificates and in all cases where it is deemed necessary to get confirmatory evidence the Department obtain it.


May I ask whether in view of the case of Mr. Wise, which occurred last year, the Bill which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to introduce is intended to apply to Ireland?


We shall certainly apply to Ireland the provisions we apply to England. We shall see we get confirmatory evidence in the case of all pensions which are granted.

*SIR J. SWINBURNE (Stafford, Lichfield)

Instead of getting confirmatory evidence would it not be better to have all officers applying for pensions examined in the first instance by the Government medical officer? It is very well known that no doctor likes to say that a brother officer has given a certificate which is not exactly correct.


That is in the main the intention of the Government; but it cannot always be carried out because in many cases distant from London it is not possible to get examination by a central officer. We have been in communication with medical officers and have taken great pains to ascertain whether we can find anyone possessing the necessary qualification to undertake the work. We think we have done so, and we are about to make arrangements whereby in all principal cases the gentlemen applying for pensions shall be examined by a Government medical officer.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £7,000, Supplementary, Pauper Lunatics, England.

DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)

I de sire to point out that although the number of lunatics has decreased of late years the number chargeable to the poor rates has increased in each year. The number chargeable in January, 1888 was 72,486, but last year the number shows an increase of 1,602. Besides this there is the fact that in all cases the treatment of these unfortunate people is certainly not what any humane man would allow to pass without inquiry. Last year my hon. Friend the Member for North Fermanagh called attention to the case of John Stickley, a man aged 68, who was removed from the Hammersmith Police Court to Colney Hatch on the Saturday previous to the day on which my hon. Friend brought the case before the House. The poor fellow was said to be in a feeble condition but perfectly quiet. As a rule when patients are removed from a police-court or a workhouse to an asylum, they are certified to be violent; but this man was certified as perfectly quiet. On the Monday he was seriously ill, and on the Tuesday he was dead. At the time of his death it was discovered he had a broken jaw and that one of his teeth had been knocked out. At the inquest the jury found that the man's death had been accelerated by the injuries he had received, but nothing had since been done to arrive at the truth. It has not yet been shown how the man sustained the injuries. Surely the police who conveyed the man from the court to the asylum would have noticed that Stickley was suffering from these injuries if he had sustained them at the time. Certainly I should have thought that the Government would have granted an inquiry into the case; but instead of that the representatives of the Local Government Board fenced with all the questions which were asked upon the subject. I have here a list of 15 or 16 cases which demand some reply from the Minister in charge of this Vote; but I will not delay the Committee further, since friends of mine tell me there are many matters that are more deserving of public attention. I will, however, say I hope the Government will take into consideration the remonstrances addressed by responsible medical officers in the asylum service, as to the asylums being undermanned, in consequence of which the medical officers are quite unable to do their duty by the unfortunate creatures submitted to their care. Surely, in an asylum of 300 patients, one medical man, one assistant, and two clinical clerks are not enough to pay attention to the cases committed to their charge. The mere writing out of the charts of the cases would take all the time of such a staff. I have no intention of dealing with the matter at any length, but I sincerely hope the hon. Gentleman opposite will bring the matter before the Department under whose supervision these unfortunate people are, that they may be dealt with in the way humanity demands.


I am sure the Government and the Committee are quite ready to listen to the suggestions of the hon. Member, but I hope I shall not be misunderstood when I say that the Department responsible for this Vote has no control over the administration of these institutions. The sole duty of the Local Government Board in connection with this Vote is to ask for this money and to see that each charge made is substantiated by the Board of Guardians, and this is the last occasion when it will be the duty of the Local Government Board to ask for this money. Any remonstrance with respect to administration should be addressed to the Lunacy Commissioners. The hon. Member has made some strictures upon the administration of those pauper lunatic asylums. For my own part, I have no doubt that there was some foundation for charges brought forward in various cases; but, as a whole, those institutions are very carefully looked after. The fact of a small Supplementary Vote being necessary is owing to the fact that the figures on which the original Estimate had been founded were somewhat misleading. I am sure that the remarks of the hon. Member will receive due attention in the proper quarter.

DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)

Allow me to say that when public money is voted, then is the time for calling attention to defects in administration of any department concerned in the expenditure. As a medical man I thought it my duty to bring this matter forward.

Vote agreed to.

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