HC Deb 25 February 1935 vol 298 cc787-811

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £100,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1935, to meet such of the charges for restoration of half the emergency reduction in Ministerial Salaries and Civil Service Remuneration, etc., as have not been otherwise provided (including the arrangements for consolidating the Salaries of Civil Servants).

3.42 p.m.


The Committee may wish me to say a few words in explanation of this supplementary estimate, which is in connection with the restoration of the cuts in civil service pay and Ministerial salaries which was decided upon last year. Perhaps it would be as well if I referred, first of all, to the procedure which we are following. Hon. Members will see that we are asking the House to vote £100,000, but that is only a fraction of what this decision has cost. The cost in all is £900,000, of which £562,000 was taken by the Post Office and has already been dealt with in a supplementary estimate for that department. A further £130,000 has been saved in various ways, Departments having restored the cuts out of their own savings. An additional sum of £108,000 has been taken by different departments which have for other reasons had to bring in supplementary estimates, and that has meant that they included restoration of the cuts in those Supplementary estimates. The £100,000 which we are asking for this afternoon covers various departments, and obviously it was desirable from the point of view of the Committee, as well as of the Departments—but particularly of the Committee—that we should include them all in one supplementary estimate, rather than insist upon each department bringing for ward its own supplementary estimate, which would have delayed the Committee in a very unnecessary manner. I think the present procedure will be agreed upon by all Members of the House as being the more desirable.

Perhaps it would be as well now, in regard to the consolidation of civil service pay, if I were to remind hon. Members in a very few words of the history of the matter. As a result of a report of the National Whitley Council it was decided in 1920 to place the civil service upon a sliding scale in accordance with the cost of living. In those days the cost of living was soaring pretty rapidly, and immediately after the War great uncertainty prevailed as to what it was going to be. That decision was agreed upon by all parties, but it was found not to work satisfactorily, and there has been no division of opinion that it was desirable to have this sliding scale changed to a fixed scale. A Royal Commission inquired into the matter in 1929–1931 and reported in July of 1931. One of its recommendations was that the sliding scale should be changed to a permanent scale which should be based on the cost-of-living figure of 55, which prevailed at the time. In September of the same year many events occurred, as hon. Members will remember, and among them the sliding scale figure fell from 55 to 50. In the normal course of events, in accordance with the sliding scale basis, the cost-of-living figure having fallen, the remuneration would have been reduced by that amount, that is to say down to a figure of 50. That was actually done, but, as was explained at the time by the Prime Minister, it was not done in. the usual way in accordance with the system, but as a special cut in civil service pay based upon the economy needs of the time. It was regarded as a sacrifice, and no other cut was asked of the civil service to meet the financial crisis. It was to be restored.

There were further negotiations between the staff side and the official side, and in 1932 what was called the stabilisation agreement was concluded, by which both sides agreed that the figure of 50 should continue to be the basic rate until 1934. Last year there were again negotiations between the two sides, who failed to reach agreement. The official side put forward the suggestion that the cost-of-living figure of 55 or the recommendations of the Royal Commission, whichever were more favourable, should be accepted as a future basic rate. The staff side were unable to obtain the necessary majority to accept that suggestion, but it is a fact that there was a majority of the staff side in favour of accepting the proposal. By their constitution the staff side could only accept if they had a majority of two-thirds, or two to one. In that case, the new settlement came into being without their official agreement.

I think the settlement has given general satisfaction. So far as I am aware, there have not been any complaints, and that it has conferred a real benefit upon the civil service is shown by the fact that in a full year its cost to the country is £1,200,000. It is obviously a great improvement upon the old system of the sliding scale on which the civil service would now be receiving remuneration based upon the present cost-of-living figure of 42, instead of 55. The settlement does not in any way debar those who are suffering from what they consider hardships from bringing forward their case to their departments or before the Industrial Court in the ordinary way. The very large number of cases that have been dealt with in that manner during the past nine months is surprising, and a large majority of the cases have been settled entirely satisfactorily from the point of view of the civil service. The benefits of stabilisation are now being enjoyed by the greater part of the civil service. I hope, in the circumstances, that the Committee will have no difficulty in voting the supplementary estimate for which we are asking.

3.50 p.m.


I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.

I do so in order to discuss a little more fully and completely what the hon. Gentleman has seen fit to say in his opening remarks. I was rather surprised at the somewhat cursory way in which he dealt with the history of this matter. The hon. Gentleman is a very good historian and I have much enjoyed his writings in regard to past personalities. I anticipate as much enjoyment from his writings in regard to other personalities presently. It is, however, a risky thing to treat history in so cavalier a fashion as he has done this afternoon. I should like to fill in some of the details which, unfortunately, he has omitted to present. We are asked to agree, as far as this Vote is concerned anyhow, to the consolidation of the salaries of certain civil servants, and this is, perhaps, an appropriate occasion on which to raise the whole issue that is involved in the figures presented to us this afternoon. We cannot, I think, discuss this matter unless we are quite clear as to the principle on which we are to approach the problem. How shall we view this problem as a whole?

I shall probably carry everyone in the Committee with me when I say, for it is a fact, that the Government is one of the biggest employers of labour in the country. It exercises the function of employer on behalf of the people of the country as a whole, and we here are the custodians of the country's interests, not only financially, but in other respects as well. We are obliged, therefore, to examine meticulously any proposal that comes from the Government in its capacity as an employer of labour. I think I carry the Committee with me so far. I would also add, and here again I think the Committee will agree with me, that there is always, in my judgment, a strong claim for the proposition that the Government of the day, which undertakes from time to time the task of introducing legislation governing the labour conditions of other people, should itself be, as far as is possible, a model employer. Therefore, in examining the proposals which are embodied in these figures, we are bound to inquire how far these consolidation proposals reflect the desire of the Government to act in the capacity of a model employer. In order to establish our criticism, it seems to me that we can only compare the attitude of the Government in this matter with the attitude of employers of labour where comparable work is being done; and, in speaking of comparable employment, I mean that I want to compare the Government's attitude, not with the worst employers in comparable trades, but with the best employers in comparable trades. I propose, therefore, to address myself straight away to that point.

I think everyone will agree with me that an employer comparable with the Government in this matter is to be found obviously in the local authorities. They employ great numbers of people on the administrative side, who do work which is very largely similar to the work done by those in Government offices. What is the history of the action of local authorities in relation to their employés since the crisis which the hon. Gentleman seems to keep so tenaciously in mind? Cuts were imposed by the Government, which are being specially discussed this afternoon; and the same thing was done in—similar cases by local authorities. What have the local authorities done? I have here a return of 1,808 local authorities of various sorts—county councils, county boroughs, metropolitan boroughs, boroughs, urban district councils, and rural district councils—of whom 669 imposed deductions following the governmental circular No. 1222. Of these 669 authorities who imposed cuts, 583, up to the 4th December, 1934, had restored those cuts completely, so that clearly the Government, in advancing these proposals this afternoon, must bear in mind that a large proportion of employers comparable with the Government have fully restored the cuts that were imposed at the beginning of the life of the present National Government. I think, therefore, I can follow my comparison one step further and say that model employers, employing persons doing work comparable with that done for the Government, have already done their best to restore their employés to the position which they enjoyed before the cuts were imposed.

I turn now to the people with whom we are primarily concerned this afternoon. We are asked to agree to certain consolidation proposals; that is to say, if these proposals receive the endorsement of the House, it means that from now onwards the new consolidated figures of salaries will remain until at some future time they may be altered. We are now laying down the basis of salaries for some time to come, and, therefore, it is important that we should keep in our minds all the factors relevant to the act upon which we are now embarking. It is worth while recalling to the Committee what the state of remuneration is in the civil service with respect to very large numbers of people. I am told, by people whose business it is to record figures and facts with regard to this matter, that there are some 35,000 people in the Government service who enjoy—if I may use the word "en joy" with some apology; perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they suffer—a salary of £2 or less per week, and that £2 or less per week includes bonus. There are 183,000 people whose salaries, including bonus, are either £4 or less per week; and there are 249,000 who receive £5 or less per week. All of these figures are inclusive of any bonuses that may be enjoyed.

It is well known to the Committee, and I observe that there are members of the Civil Service Committee present in this Chamber at the moment, that these salaries are based upon two factors, namely, the basic rate and what is called the cost-of-living bonus. As the hon. Gentleman quite rightly said at the beginning, the use of these two factors together was established as a result of agreement in 1920. One of the complaints entertained, quite properly as I think, in the civil service, is that full compensation in respect of the cost-of-living figure is only granted to people who receive a certain basic wage. I think I am right in saying that only people with a basic wage up to £91 5s. per year enjoy the full compensation. People whose basic rate is between £91 5s. and £200 a year enjoy, I think, half compensation, and those whose pay is beyond that up to £400 a year get one-third compensation.

It is important to make that point, because I am sure the Committee will agree with me that whatever be the argument in relation to the rightness or wrongness, the fitness or otherwise, of applying the cost of living figure to other people—and I myself am not accepting it; quite frankly I do not accept the reliability of the Ministry of Labour index figure as being entirely applicable even to working class people; that is my own view, and I dare say it is the view of many of my friends as well—I am quite sure that it is sadly out of joint when it is applied to certain grades of people to whose case I will address myself for a minute or two. The people receiving between £91 5s. and, say, £400 per year are what we call the lower middle class people. The application of the cost-of-living index figure to them seems unjust from many points of view. This cost-of-living figure, after all, was fixed as long ago as 1904, and in those days, 10 years pre-war, it was fixed in relation to conditions which are entirely inapplicable in post-war days. But in those days the figure was based upon this consideration. There was some 60 per cent. allotted in respect of food, some 12 per cent, in respect of clothing, some 16 per cent. in respect of rent and 8 per cent. in respect of fuel, leaving only 4 per cent. for everything else.

I say that this is inappropriate in relation to the people which whom I am concerned, namely, those between £90 odd and £400 a year. The items I have cited leave out of account many items with which those people within that particular area of salary must be confronted. For instance, everyone in this House knows that the mass of civil servants undertake a heavy responsibility, let us say, in regard to mortgages in respect of the houses they occupy, and then, of course, they get, inevitably, house repair expenses. Then there are school fees, and let the Committee remember that this Government has taken steps to see to it that above a certain region of salary school fees must be paid, and these people cannot very well escape them. Then, of course, there are doctors' fees and similar expenses, which are not inconsiderable, as I have reason to know, in London. They are very serious, especially if there is very prolonged ill-health in the family. It is a. very serious item indeed in the salary of people of this sort. Then there is another not inconsiderable item. The more London straggles out—I am speaking particularly of London—the more onerous does the task of paying for transport backward and forward become for these people. I am not sure that I am very far wrong if I say that many of these people must be spending out of their very meagre salary something round about 10s. a week in order to get to and from their work. Those elements were entirely outside the purview of those who fixed the basis of the cost-of-living figure in 1904. Therefore, to forget it now, when we are taking steps to consolidate, is, in my judgment, a grievous wrong to people who are mulcted in these very serious expenses.

Let me add another observation on a matter which is very important. Apart altogether from the mere question of paying for one's house, and so on, there is the question of rent, which is very meagrely provided for in the cost-of living figure. I have got some figures which I have had presented to me in relation to rents. For instance, there is a body called the Society of Civil Servants. They took a, referendum among their members. I believe they sent out 1,441 forms to individual members, and they got a 92 per cent. return, so that they have a fairly good picture of what precisely happens to their members in respect of the rent item. They say that of the 1,441 forms sent out, 983 were returned from those who are owner-occupiers. I, myself, am a small owner-occupier, and I know something of what this item means on the modest salary of a Member of Parliament. I know what a struggle it involves, and I can express my deep sympathy with those people who are trying to pay for their houses on their very limited and moderate salaries. There are 983 of them struggling to pay their mortgages, I take it, upon their houses. Take another group—those who have rented houses or bungalows unfurnished. There are 49 of them in controlled houses, 56 in decontrolled houses, where their rents may go sky-high without any sort of control, and 51 in new houses which have never been controlled. Those are people living in houses. Then there are the people living in flats. But I will not weary the Committee with more figures. I have indicated sufficient to show that in dealing with this element of rent we are dealing with a problem which is very real to the people of whom the hon. Gentleman speaks, for whom I am trying to plead and in respect of whom this item plays a very important part in their week-by-week or year-by-year salaries.

I say that to consolidate salaries upon a cost-of-living figure as a basic salary which does not take adequate cognisance of this item in their budget ought not to be entertained by this House. If we are going to consolidate, we must clearly consolidate on conditions which are fairly equitable. The hon. Gentleman said in his speech that the Government proposed to stabilise at something like 52½ points when the cost-of-living figure actually is something round about 40. The fact that the Government are stabilising at the moment at 52½, and the cost-of-living figure is 40, in itself indicates that the Government themselves cannot accept the index figure of 40 as an adequate basis. But, apart from that, I want to say to the hon. Gentleman that stabilisation at 52½, now, and 55 as it will be later, does nothing at all for the people of whom I have spoken, more particularly in the last few minutes.

In point of fact, when Mr. Snowden was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1929, I think it was, he recognised that even if the bonus fell below 70 points, it would produce very acute and very chronic hardship in the civil service. In order to avoid it he actually—I put it in my own way—underpinned—if I may use the expression—the bonus at the higher figure than that which was warranted by the index figure itself, and he did it simply because he knew that the conditions of the civil service would not merit being brought below the figure he had in mind at that time. It is true to say that in March, 1931, he reduced it by ten points, and it was reduced by the National Government another five points in September. But the Committee must remember that those two cuts were cuts imposed not because the salaries were excessive but they were imposed deliberately and specifically in the interests of economy. When, therefore, you restore the five points you are not entitled to regard it as a final contribution in the matter of stabilisation of the salaries of these people.

I venture to tell the hon. Gentleman that his historical survey was somewhat cursory in character. He jumped somewhat gaily from 1920 to 1931, and so jumped over 22 steps. In the interregnum between 1920 and 1931 the civil servants, I understand, have suffered 22 cuts, the 1931 cut making the 23rd. To-day actually you are restoring just the 1931 cut—half of it now—and you are doing for the £91 5s. to £400 people practically nothing else. I have had from those whose business it is to study this matter an analysis of what this consolidation actually means. I want to be perfectly clear. I am speaking now of the effect of the consolidation, disregarding, as I am entitled to disregard, the cuts, for the restoration of the cuts is to apply to all classes who were cut in 1931. Teachers, policemen, all enjoy that, and ought to enjoy it just as the direct taxpayer got his cut restored last April. Therefore, I am entitled to exclude that factor.

If you exclude that consideration, the actual effect of the weekly advantage to these people in respect of this consolidation is something like this: Those who have a basic rate per week of 15s. will get the advantage of an extra 4d.; those who have 20s. will get 6d.; 25s., 51d.; 30s., 6d.; 35s., 5d.; 40s., 3d.; 45s., 2d.; 50s., ½d. I can only express the hope that they will not become spendthrifts as a consequence. This is a stage in the utter demoralisation, I have no doubt, of the civil service. It is denied, I believe, by the hon. Gentleman opposite. I know it is argued by the Treasury that actually the increase will be round about and is. 4d. If you like, I will give the concession. Granted that it is 1s. 4d., they cannot become wildly extravagant even on that. But leaving that out, the actual increase through the consolidation ranges between ½d. and 6d. per week. The Government really ought not to do so mean a thing as to consolidate at this particular stage of the life of these people. You are now consolidating after imposing 23 cuts. It is unfair; it is unjust. If you want to treat your civil servants on the same basis as other people, by all means do so, but you will not do it by consolidating at the time that is most convenient to the Government and most inconvenient to the people. You are consolidating really at the lowest ebb of their salaries. I think these people have a just complaint. Of course, there is something to be said for the principle of consolidation 'at the appropriate time, but I am surprised that the Government should be consolidating now if they want to do the best for their people. Are we not on the upgrade? Are not things improving? Did not the Chancellor of the Exchequer say on Friday at Bradford that we were going ahead enormously; we were getting on here and turning a corner there? We have turned no end of corners; we are doing so remarkably well. Have you not confidence in what you yourselves are saying? If so, why consolidate the salaries of these people at the most inconvenient time for them.

The hon. Gentleman said quite rightly that, even if consolidation goes through, it is still possible for separate grades to approach the Government for an improvement of their scale of remuneration. I do not deny it, but what consolidation is that? Does that imply that all these various grades—I believe there are from 300 to 400 of them—are to approach the Government separately, and, if you are going to grant them all, why not make a substantial change in the situation for all grades at the same time? If you do not, you may have from 300 to 400 separate appeals and from 300 to 400 separate replies, and you will divide the whole civil service into competing grades, perhaps mutually jealous grades, simply because one grade has been granted a concession and another has not. It is not fair of the Government to take that line for another reason. From 1920 to the present they have always regarded this bonus business as one issue. It has not been a different issue for one grade of people from another, but the bonus has been applied all the way round, and the restoration should be all the way round too. You have no right to treat them differently when you come to consolidation when you are going up from the way you treat them when you come down in the scale of salaries. The Government, therefore, are not doing the just thing, it seems to me, when they treat them in this somewhat cavalier fashion.

Everyone in the Committee believes that those in the employ of the Government should be properly and suitably remunerated. We believe that the Government should be a model employer, a leader among employers, particularly those who employ people doing comparable work. It is bad for the Government to have a discontented service. I was a little surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman say that he had heard no complaints. Perhaps he is so deeply occupied otherwise that he has no time to put his ears to the ground to listen to approaching complainants. Anway we have heard them. It is in a way technically true that, when the consolidation proposals were made by the Government, there was a bare majority in favour, but only in this sense. I am sure I speak with due authority when I say that those who accepted it, even the bare majority, did not thereby imply that they accepted the principles on which consolidation was based. I know that there were more reasons of tactics than of principle. There were those who felt that, if for the present they accepted this, they might be able to negotiate wage settlements later a little more easily. From the point of view of the principle of the acceptance of this consolidation I am told that all who are authorised to speak on behalf of the organised civil service agree that the principles of this consolidation are unacceptable. I am extremely sorry to hear the Government remaining adamant in the matter, and to register our disapproval of this arrangement, I have moved the reduction in the Vote.

4.22 p.m.


I want to make one or two points to explain the position of civil servants in the face of this proposal for consolidation. The hon. Gentleman has given, I think, a very accurate and moving picture of what the civil service is suffering in present conditions. One of the points made for the proposal of consolidation is that the 1920 agreement was accepted by both sides of the Whitley Council, but that acceptance was for a temporary and not a permanent arrangement, and it is extremely disappointing to our great civil service that during the interval between 1920 and 1931, instead of improvements, they have had something like 22 or 23 cuts, and, when the opportunity comes for making a more permanent settlement, it has been taken, not to get an agreement, which perhaps may have been impossible, but to impose a settlement by administrative action upon a very large body of servants of the Government. Dissatisfaction inside the service is clear to anyone who has eyes to see or ears to hear, and that dissatisfaction is very fully justified by the figures we have had and by the representations that have been made from time to time to Members by their constituents. The service view, in short, is that the arrangements now proposed are not satisfactory as a permanent settlement and that the cuts in wages which have been suffered in these long years have represented a sacrifice quite out of proportion to that made by any other section of the community.

The inadequate nature of the improvement which the consolidation scheme claims to have effected may be gauged from the fact that increases of pay are limited to from ½d. to 6d. per week. I should like to see the face of an employé of mine who came to me and said he was inadequately paid and I said, "I will raise you by a halfpenny a week." The statement has been made that the bare majority in the vote of the Whitley Council really means that the majority of the civil service are satisfied with the position. I am given to understand that the vote was largely determined by the expectation that, if they agreed to that consolidation, they would have the opportunity of discussing claims in the future. The reasons why the service is dissatisfied with the scheme are set out under four headings. It does nothing to ameliorate chronic and acute underpayment. It ignores the unreliability of the index figure and its applicability in these conditions. It continues the present limitation of full compensation, even on the basis of those. very meagre figures, to the first 35s. per week of salary. The fourth objection is that the scheme does nothing to remedy the disproportionately heavy fall in civil service levels of pay by comparison with wage levels in the community generally and among other sections of the State's employés. One is entitled to ask that, when the settlement is represented as being one for a considerable time, another endeavour should be made to get agreement and the arrangements which are very distasteful, and I submit not unjustifiably distasteful, should not be forced upon a section of servants of the Government.

4.29 p.m.


I want to support what I take is the appeal that is being made to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury for some reconsideration of this consolidation scheme. Speaking as a very old trade union leader who has negotiated some hundreds, if not thousands, of agreements during the last 20 years, I and the people whom I speak for would not have agreed to all these cuts in any circumstances, but I suppose the civil servants are in a rather different category. Their position is awkward. The right to strike is apparently one of the things not talked about or even thought of. I do not think that those who, by the very nature of their service, give extraordinary loyal service to the country, who are necessarily dependent upon the justice of their case as it appears to those who are their employers, should be left in a far worse position simply because they are not in a position to use the strike weapon if need be. They deserve far more consideration. I do not know what would happen to some of my trade union friends if they went to their members and said, "The best we have been able to get out of the employers is that you may, if you are lucky, get half the cut restored, plus, may be, 6d. a week or, in some cases, even a halfpenny a week." It seems so extremely small to come to the House and say, "We could not get agreement with those concerned. We have not satisfied the people who give so loyal and efficient service, and those who represent them, but we feel that this is as far as we are prepared to go." To say, "We have imposed this settlement and want the House of Commons to ratify it," is asking far too much.

The Committee should realise that they are the supreme authority so far as the civil service is concerned. Hon. and right hon. Members get up in this House from time to time and pay tributes to the civil service, declare that the British civil service is the finest in the world—probably there is a great deal of justification for that view—and bear testimony to its authority and so on, but I am astonished when I make inquiries among thousands of civil servants to find the extraordinarily low wages that are paid. The payment of high salaries to a certain few is no justification for paying far too low a salary to the great mass of the people in the civil service. We have every justification for criticising this consolidation scheme and for saying to the Government that surely this cannot be the last word and also, on behalf of those representing the civil servants, that they cannot recognise it as the last word, and that this cannot be a final settlement of the matter at all.

Something has been said about the cost-of-living scale. It is a thousand pities that wages based upon the cost-of-living scale and that any agreements based on that scale were not done away with long ago. The 1904 basis of the cost-of-living scale is absolutely out-of-date. Everybody recognises that since 1904 circumstances have changed, that rents are considerably higher, and that all sorts of circumstances which at that time were probably quite proper are now no use at all in regulating salaries and wages. In my own negotiations I have been successful all over the country in getting employers to drop what we term. the "fodder" basis for wages. We say, "Take out the cost-of-living scale altogether. Here are certain sets of circumstances, increases in rent and in food and generally all the way round, let us fix wages in relation to present day circumstances. Do not. let us fix a wage or salary which may go down a shilling or two at one time or go up a shilling or two at another time, but stabilise the whole thing, irrespective of the cost-of-living figures, for two or three years, and then, if either side is dissatisfied, they can come back and enter into fresh negotiations."

I am thoroughly dissatisfied with the consolidation scheme based upon the cost-of-living figure, which is obsolete and out-of-date and gives so little advantage. There are people in the civil service receiving salaries of only £130 a, year. It may be that they are not all married men with families—at least I hope not—but really it is an extraordinarily low figure. Many of the salaries paid in the civil service astonish skilled workmen and craftsmen, who would not be expected to work for anything like such small wages. The efficiency and intelligence required from the civil servants justify a considerably better and higher standard of living. Some of us have had experience in this matter in connection with local government. I do not think that on the whole the Ministry of Health or any Government Department can complain that local authorities are extraordinarily extravagant as far as local officials are concerned. Local authorities attempt to deal with the matter in what they think is the right way, by taking into consideration the work which their staff have to do, and, on the other hand, the ratepayers who have to find the money with which to pay their salaries. There is far more satisfaction in local government circles as far as local authorities are concerned than there is among civil servants.

It has been said that the Government who employ a tremendous number of people should be model employers. There is an old joke about the man who claimed to be a model husband. His wife looked up the dictionary to find out what the word "model" meant and found that it meant an imitation of the real thing. I do not know whether or not the Government were to be referred to as model employers in that sense, but surely they should recognise that, in their treatment of the civil servants, the country expects them to deal fairly and squarely as between the civil servants and those who find the money. The nation as a, whole expects a square deal. The joke about the civil service is that the vast majority of people think that if a man has a job in the civil service he is there for life and is all right, because, they say, "He has got a Government job." Some of these Government jobs would not be touched with the end of a long pole by workmen and craftsmen or even by labourers in many instances. The case for reconsideration of the scheme has been made out on the figures produced and on the ground that the Government should set a decent example to other employers throughout the country. I do not say Government employés should necessarily expect to be treated better than the best employers are prepared to treat their workpeople, but they should be treated as well and as fairly. It must be within the knowledge of those concerned that the proposed consolidation scheme satisfies nobody and that it will not be the end of the discontent, which will rear its head again, and quite rightly, because if those people do not keep on kicking sure enough they will not get anything at all.

It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman opposite to say, "I have heard no complaint, and as far as I know the people are satisfied." He is not likely to hear complaints. People do not go down to Whitehall and state their complaints to the hon. Gentleman. But if it were possible for those who advise the hon. Gentleman to go among the rank and file of the civil servants, he would realise that there was a great deal of complaint, and that when men open their minds and hearts to him there was really serious ground for complaint. I have said to employers, and I will say it to the hon. Gentleman this afternoon, that a contented staff is a very great asset indeed to everybody concerned. It is an asset to an employer, and to the Government if they are the employer. It means that you get far better and more efficient work, and a thing that is very desirable and should be encouraged. Surely, in the year 1935 the time has come when the remuneration of civil servants should be put upon a scale which would be satisfactory for some years to come at any rate. This is an attempt to put them on. a scale, but it should be a satisfactory scale. It does not give satisfaction, and, in fact, hardly even does justice either to the Government, on the one band, or to representatives of the Government like the hon. Gentleman opposite who has come here to put this scheme before the Committee. I hope that sufficient will be said—I do not think that it is confined to these benches—from all quarters of the Committee to enable the hon. Gentleman to go back to his department and see whether it is not possible to get a far more satisfactory scheme and one that will bring content to those employed in the civil service.

4.41 p.m.


The very small Committee this afternoon shows that the average Member of this House does not really appreciate the issue at stake. The general impression of this particular Vote is that here is £100,000 going to members of the civil service, and in these hard times people are not inclined to scrutinise this figure very much. The hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary is an example to other Ministers from the point of view that he is always brief and never embellishes his speeches with unnecessary adjectives, but in his very short speech he pointed out to the Committee that the sum of £100,000 comprised in this Vote is for two definite purposes. The first—a very gratifying thing—is to restore, what was foreshadowed in the last Finance Bill, half the emergency reductions made in the autumn of 1931. Sandwiched in with that is quite another story—the very much larger issue of the consolidation of the arrangements made generally for a permanent scale for the civil service. That raises a very much bigger issue, and I am informed that the speech of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) dealt with that matter in great detail. Although there are some grades of civil servants who are satisfied, scattered here and there and mixed up between all these various grades are a large number of hard-working, intelligent and well-educated people whose salaries are quite insufficient for the position and status they have to keep up as the black-coated workmen carrying on the civil organisation of this country.

The very fact that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) intervened in the discussion accentuates the position. Why does he intervene? I do not say that his heart is not large enough to include all the members of society, but he always intervenes, naturally, on behalf of those men and women who have gone to the expense, time and trouble of getting a university education. It will come as a surprise to many Members of the Committee to find that there are hundreds of well-educated people who have had the advantage of matriculating and going through a university course and taking a degree who, compared with persons in local government organisations, are very insufficiently paid. It is a very significant thing, and it is perhaps known to a few Members of the Committee, that members of the civil service are now being recruited by organisations like the London County Council and local authorities because of their higher grade of salaries. We naturally speak of being proud of our civil service as being the finest in the world. It has esprit de corps and tradition. Yet the middle grade section—not the men who have reached the very top and been through the higher civil service examinations—but the middle grades who are university men, still have very moderate salaries. It would be unfortunate that a supplementary estimate dealing with the restoration of cuts, which is quite another question, should be made an excuse to consolidate at 55 per cent. the pay of this great body of public servants. It would be unfortunate, after the very meagre speech of the Financial Secretary and after the very meagre information we have at our disposal, that we should come to that conclusion. We do not want this to be the last word. These people are patient, long-enduring members of society. They are not very vocal, and it is not in the interests of society that civil servants should be vocal. It is our tradition that they should be seen and not heard, and because they are so patient and so little vocal we have the greater responsibility in protecting their interests. I hope that the Committee will feel that we are particularly responsible and that what is being offered does not really meet their very substantial claims. It does not meet their claims. It is merely restoring to them, along with the teachers and the other employés of the State in local authorities, the cuts made in 1931 in a national emergency, and does not touch the larger question of the bigger claims for pay as civil servants.

4.47 p.m.


With the Committee's permission—I cannot speak again without it—


Yes, you can.


I will say a few words in reply to the eloquent pleas to which I have listened from Members belonging to the three parties. I have nothing to complain about in regard to anything that has been said, that it was unfair and that it does not represent the facts, except that I do not think it is correct to maintain that there have been 22 cuts since the agreement ' was come to, that is, the last agreement which was come to as completely satisfactory by both sides. These so-called cuts were reductions following upon the terms of that agreement, owing to the sudden, rapid and extreme fall in the cost of living. Every one of those cuts was accepted before it was made, and it is not fair, therefore, to say that there have been 22 cuts. The hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) expatiated on certain cases where the restoration of the cuts of three years ago means only 6d. a week, or even smaller sums. It is always easy on these occasions to say that the restoration of pay or improvements in the conditions of work mean improvements in a very small degree. But those arguments cut both ways.

We were told when the cuts were imposed that they we-re inflicting terrible hardship upon everybody. We now learn that to many people they meant only a reduction of one halfpenny a week. When cuts are imposed hon. Members must not always cry out so loudly about the hardships and then when the cut is restored sneer so indignantly because the restoration means so little. They cannot have it both ways. There is a large basis of agreement in the Committee. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Ban-field) was very eloquent about the undesirability of maintaining a sliding scale of the cost of living. He wants us to get rid of it and settle down to something permanent. That is exactly what we are doing. Although I was very glad to hear his eloquence, because it supported the scheme which we are putting before the Committee, it does not carry us any further. We are all in favour of consolidation. The question is whether we should do it now. The hon. Baronet the Member for Bethnal Green, South-West (Sir P. Harris) and the hon. Member for London University seemed to think that this is not the time to do it, but from the point of view of the civil servant surely this is the time to do it, because the cost of living is still falling, and it may not rise. I see no sign of it rising in the near future. Under the old system the pay would go down with the cost of living. Therefore, the Government cannot be accused of avarice in selecting this time for consolidating pay. Everybody is really agreed that the sooner there is consolidation the better.

Hon. Members have maintained that the pay should be a little higher. It has been alleged that we are not showing ourselves to be model employers, and that we do not bear comparison with the best of private employers. There has not been one single jot of evidence produced by any single speaker in support of that statement. I am always interested to hear any such evidence. I have had to deal with Whitley Councils in another department, and I have heard this accusation often brought forward, but I have never found any satisfactory evidence on behalf of it. I would remind the Committee that we are to-day consolidating civil service pay on the basis recommended by the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission was set up by the Labour Government, and it reported while that party was still in office. Therefore, it should have been a commission which included their view. The Commission reported: After weighing the evidence we are satisfied that the present standard of remuneration of civil servants is reasonable in the light of the wage levels now prevailing"— so much, for the allegation that we are underpaying the civil service— and calls for no substantial revision. Since that day the cost of living has fallen from 55, at which it stood when the Royal Commission reported, to 42. We are disregarding entirely that fall and are consolidating on the cost of living at the rate which the Royal Commission advised in 1931. While I sympathise with all hon. Members who ask for higher wages for anybody, civil ser vants or anybody else, I do not think that they have a very powerful case this afternoon.


This is a point at which I might intervene. I do not think that I can make any complaint of the brief references that have been made to the pay of civil servants, and equally I cannot make any objection to the Financial Secretary replying to them, but we cannot discuss at length the basic pay of civil servants on this supplementary estimate dealing with consolidation of cost-of-living bonuses.

4.53 p.m.


I do not think this matter ought to be entirely disposed of without asking the Financial Secretary to consider again at least one statement which he made in his second speech. If it were left as it stands, it might create a very serious misconception of the position, at any rate as I see it. He argued, if I understood him aright, that it was foolish for civil servants to bring forward the case that the effect of the consolidation is to give an increase in the majority of cases of something between ½d and 6d. a week. He said that if it were true that this arrangement is only giving that small amount back, then hon. Members were wrong in complaining of the previous cuts, because obviously those cuts were just as small and insignificant as the restoration. I submit that that is not the fact. The halfpenny rise which the fortunate civil servant is going to get as a result of this long discussion and cogitation on consolidation is not the restoration of the cuts that he suffered, but merely the amount which is going to be added to his pay by reason of this consolidation agreement. That is quite a different thing. If the Financial Secretary would again treat the Committee to another of his somewhat terse orations, it would be just as well for him to say that the impression which he created was not in accordance with the facts. The real trouble with this business is that the civil service expected, and I think it had every reason and right to expect, that this question of civil service pay would be considered in its broadest aspects.


The hon. Member is now coming to the point which I said could not be discussed.


I am most anxious to keep within the rules of order, but, as I see it, and I should be glad of your guidance, this consolidation is a consolidation of the bonus. The bonus was added to the salaries and wages, and alterations have been made from time to time ever since the War. The intention of the agreement is to consolidate all these things into a permanent settlement. I submit that in these circumstances it would not be out of order to discuss any of the factors which enter into the consolidation.


I cannot agree with the hon. Member. This is a consolidation in order to get rid of certain bonuses which were being paid in connection with and on a sliding scale calculated according to increases or decreases in the cost of living.


I will endeavour to keep within your Ruling. The case put forward by the staff side in the negotiations was, I think the Financial Secretary will agree, the case for an improvement in civil service pay. They felt that this long-awaited consolidation was an opportunity for achieving that end, in consolidating these various factors in remuneration, but, so far from that being the case, the Government have shown themselves to be the meanest of all public employers in dealing with a like problem. Not only have the Government been meaner than any of the local authorities or equivalent employers, but they have singled out the civil servant for the harshest treatment of any Government employé. The Financial Secretary might explain why it is that the police, the teachers, the Navy and the Army have all been treated more liberally in this respect than the civil service itself. He might also explain why it is that the local government authorities, with resources more slender than the resources at the disposal of the Government, have consolidated their employés' remuneration on the figure of 80, whereas the Government have consolidated at the very much smaller figure of 55.

These things seems to me to go to the very root of the matter, and it is idle for the Financial Secretary to presume or pretend that the civil service accepts this settlement with open arms and with satisfaction. It would be true to say that never since the War has the civil service been so dissatisfied with the position as it is to-day. They feel that this settlement, which has been so long awaited, has been forced upon them without the slightest justification, and without an adequate case being made. The civil service has a right to have its case heard. I submit with all respect

that it has a, right to expect that the Minister in submitting the supplementary estimate would at least explain why it is that what appear to many hon. Members to be just and proper demands have been brushed on one side And the service has been forced to accept a dictated settlement.

Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £99,900, be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 48; Noes, 191.

Division No. 59.] AYES. [5.1 p.m.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Banfield, John William Grundy, Thomas W. Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)
Batey, Joseph Hail, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Maxton, James
Bernays. Robert Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Ztl'nd) Paling, Wilfred
Cleary, J. J. Harris, Sir Percy Parkinson, John Allen
Cocks. Frederick Seymour Hicks, Ernest George Rea, Walter Russell
Cripps, Sir Stafford Hoidsworth, Herbert Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Daggar, George Janner, Barnett Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Thorne, William James
Edwards, Charles Lansbury, Rt, Hon. George Tinker, John Joseph
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Lawson, John James Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Leonard, William Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Gardner, Benjamin Walter Liddall, Walter S. Wilmot, John
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) McEntee, Valentine L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Mainwaring, William Henry Mr. John and Mr. Groves.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Cooke, Douglas Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Cooper, A. Duff Heligers, Captain F. F. A.
Albery, Irving James Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Henderson. Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Apsley, Lord Cranborne, Viscount Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller
Assheton, Ralph Crooke, J. Smedley Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Cuiverwell, Cyril Tom Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Davies, Ma).Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Davison, Sir William Henry Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Dawson, Sir Philip Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Denman, Hon. R. D. Ker, J. Campbell
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Denville, Alfred Kerr, Hamilton W.
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.) Dickie, John P. Kirkpatrick, William M.
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Donner, P. W. Knight. Holford
Bonn, Sir Arthur Shirley Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Knox, Sir Alfred
Blindell, James Duggan, Hubert John Lamb. Sir Joseph Quinton
Boulton, W. W. Duncan, James A, L. (Kensington, N.) Lambert, Rt. Hon. George
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Eden, Rt. Hon, Anthony Leckie, J. A.
Boyce, H, Leslie Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter Leech, Dr. J. W.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Broadbent, Colonel John Elliston, Captain George Sampson Levy, Thomas
Brockiebank, C. E. R. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Fermoy, Lord Lindsay, Noel Ker
Buchan, John Fraser, Captain Sir Ian Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Ganzonl, Sir John Lloyd, Geoffrey
Burnett, John George Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C)
Burton, Colonel Henry Walter Glossop, C. W. H. Loder, Captain J, de Vere
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Gluckstein, Louis Halle MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Goodman, Colonel Albert W. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Gower, Sir Robert McLean, Major Sir Alan
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Maitland, Adam
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Grigg, Sir Edward Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Grimston, R. V. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J.A.(Birm., W.) Gunston, Captain D. W. Marsden, Commander Arthur
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston) Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hanbury, Cecil Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Meller, Sir Richard James
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Conant, R. J. E. Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale Remer, John R. Stewart, J. Henderson (File, E.)
Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Rickards, George William Storey, Samuel
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Ropner, Colonel L. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'tles) Rosbotham, Sir Thomas Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Morrison, William Shepherd Ross Taylor, Waiter (Woodbridge) Taylor, Vice-AdmiralE.A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)
Muirhead, Lieut. Colonel A. J. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Munro, Patrick Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Nunn, William Salmon, Sir Isidore Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney). Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham) Watt, Major George Steven H.
Orr Ewing, I, L. Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard Wayland, Sir William A.
Peat, Charles U. Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D. Weymouth, Viscount
Penny, Sir George Savery, Samuel Servington Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Percy, Lord Eustace Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Perkins, Walter R, D. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertl'd)
Petherick, M. Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv.,Belfast) Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston) Skelton, Archibald Noel Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Pike, Cecil F. Smithers, Sir Waldron Womersley, Sir Walter
Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor) Worthington, Dr. John V.
Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Soper, Richard Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Reed, David D. (County Down) Spencer, Captain Richard A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland) Sir Victor Warrender and Lieut-
Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

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