§ Viscount HELMSLEY
asked (1) what were the reasons for postponing the appointment of Assistant-Comptroller of the National Debt Office from the 30th July of last year until the present month; whether the duties of the Assistant-Comptroller have been efficiently performed by the office staff during the last 10 months; and what were the grounds for ultimately making the appointment outside the ranks of the Civil Service; (2) at what date was the post of Assistant-Comptroller of the National Debt Office offered to Mr. Soares; what were the qualifications of the late Government Whip for the appointment; what is the salary attached to the office; at what date will Mr. Soares become eligible for pension; what will be the amount of pension to which he will be entitled; and (3), whether the appointment of Assistant-Comptroller of the National Debt Office was conferred on Mr. Soares, a Junior Lord of the Treasury, because there was no one eligible for promotion in the National Debt Office or in any other department of the Civil Service; and, if not, on what grounds this appointment was made from outside the Civil Service?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
asked on what grounds the late Member for the Barnstaple Division was appointed to the position of Assistant-Comptroller of the National Debt Office; whether the late Assistant-Comptroller had actuarial qualifications and long experience in the office; whether such qualifications and experience are essential for the discharge of the duties; whether the new Assistant-Comptroller has any actuarial qualifications or any experience for the office; whether he gave ill-health as the reason for the resignation of his position as a Liberal Whip; whether, in his new office, he will be expected to keep office hours as the late Assistant-Comptroller did, and what these office hours are; whether this position of Assistant-Comptroller has been almost invariably filled in the past by the promotion of some qualified person serving in the office; if he is aware that, of the thirty-three officials in this office, no less than fourteen have put themselves to the labour and expense of qualifying as associates or fellows of the Institute of Actuaries; and whether it is now the settled policy of the Treasury to discourage ability and good service by the introduction into an office of unqualified outsiders over the heads of the qualified men of long service in the office?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
Sir Ernest Soares was appointed to the post of Assistant-Comptroller of the National Debt Office on the ground that he would bring to that post a ripe legal knowledge and training which would be of advantage to the office. The late Assistant-Comptroller had actuarial qualifications, which are a requisite in the subordinate posts he had previously held in the Department, but which are not an essential in the two highest positions. Sir Ernest did not resign his appointment as Whip owing to ill-health, and will be expected to keep the ordinary office hours, which are from 10–5 legally, but by custom in the higher posts of much longer duration. This position has been filled by appointment from outside as often as it has been filled from inside the office. The Treasury will always be willing to encourage ability wherever discoverable, but good service in subordinate appointments does not necessarily indicate ability or capacity to fill the higher positions in the Civil Service. The salary attached to the office of Assistant - Comptroller of the National Debt Office is £800 a year, rising by annual increments of £50 to £1,000 a year. Under the Superannuation Acts the holder is eligible for pension after completion of ten years' service if retired on the ground of age or ill-health. In such event the amount of the pension would be one-eightieth of his retiring salary for each completed year of service.
§ Sir A. ACLAND-HOOD
Is there no one in the National Debt Office of sufficient ability to entitle him to this promotion?
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my first question, none of the points of which have been touched?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
The reason for postponing the appointment of Assistant-Comptroller was that there was at the time no one in the office, and there is now no one in our judgment, who is fitted to do the work which is required of the second officer in the Department. It is responsible and difficult work, and it is not easy for some time to find persons exactly suited to it. The duties have not been performed by the staff during the last ten months, but by the Secretary to the Comptroller-General, who has been doing double duty.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
If it be necessary now that the person should have legal qualifications for this position, how is it that that qualification was not necessary when the appointment was last made, seeing that the late Assistant-Comptroller had not legal but actuarial qualifications? May I ask further, seeing that the appointment is under Civil Service conditions, if the ordinary Civil Service conditions in regard to examination has been complied with in this case?
May I ask whether it is not the fact that Sir E. Soares informed the Government that he could not hope to hold his seat in Devonshire while the Government intended to proceed with the Home Rule Bill for Ireland?
§ Mr. WILLIAM PEEL
Is it not the fact that this particular practice of dumping politicians on the National Debt Office will prevent competent persons from joining that office and rising to the higher positions, and, further, is it not the fact that Sir E. Soares's legal knowledge must have become rather rusty while acting as a Government Whip?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I understand that, as regards the numerous questions which have been put to me, opportunity for discussion will arise on the Motion for getting the Speaker out of the Chair on the Civil Service Estimates. That will be a very suitable opportunity for answering the questions which have been addressed to me from all parts of the House. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), I cannot say, without inquiry, whether or not a medical certificate has been given to Sir E. Soares, but from the information in my possession I can say that it would be not at all difficult for him to get one, if he has not already obtained one.