asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that the retiring age for civil servants is 60: whether it is the practice when making appointments in the Ministry of Pensions to ignore any evidence that an officer about to be or who is appointed has completed a period of service in another Department, and is receiving a pension adequate to live on; and whether he will in future give preference to men in receipt of pensions awarded in respect of disabilities due to war service, as in the majority of cases disability pensions are insufficient to maintain the average standard of living?
Under Clause 15 of the Order in Council of 10th January, 1910, the compulsory age of retirement of permanent civil servants is 65, but provision is made for an extension of this limit in special cases. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative, but the object is to secure the person best fitted for the work. Preference is already given to disabled men, and I may point out that, of the total male staff of the Ministry, 97.9 per cent. are ex-service men, and that of these 43.3 per cent. were disabled as a result of war service.
Is it not a fact that a number of the more highly-paid officials in the right hon. Gentleman's Department are in receipt of very large pensions, and is not that in defiance of the Civil Service regulations—not as to when they shall retire, but as to whether they shall have employment while in receipt of a pension?
Is it not the case that the pensions of civil servants are in the nature of deferred salary, and are entirely their property, and that to take them into account in connection with future payments is practically to deprive them of their property?
That is so, but I may say that the contention of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) would gravely disable ex-service men of all ranks from finding employment in the public service, because his suggestion is that we ought to take into account a soldier's pension when we are considering whom we are to employ.
Is it not a fact that, in putting these questions to the right hon. Gentleman, what has been asked has always been whether a man in receipt of an adequate pension should also draw a salary while men in receipt of no pension cannot get any work The Minister is entirely misrepresenting what I said. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I am not going to allow him to do that.
asked the Minister of Pensions whether under his supervision one of the principal assistant secretaries, late director of establishments, is responsible for staff appointments, the financial assistant secretary responsible for finance, the director-general of medical services for medical services, the director-general of awards for awards, the inspector-general for local administration, and the controller for the Pension Issue Office; whether it is necessary to have other officers in the secretariats for the general supervision and control of the Ministry machine; and whether, in view of the duplication of responsibility, supervision, and work, he will consider the early abolition of the secretariat, seeing that he could by this abolition effect an economy of not less than £20,000 a year?
I am satisfied that the result of the adoption of the hon. Member's suggestion would be the reverse of economy. The secretariat, which was introduced in its present form in 1919, has shown itself to be a distinct improvement on the earlier organisation, on lines similar to those which the hon. Member apparently now contemplates, and its officials are more than fully employed on duties which are essential to proper administration. The Departmental Committee of 1921, on which all sides of this House were represented, were satisfied of the necessity for the secretariat.
Mr. F. HALL:23.
asked the Minister of Pensions whether the figure of approximately 11,000, recently given as the highest reached for the employment of temporary women clerks in his Department, includes those employed prior to October, 1920, or at a later date on the staff of institutions and hospitals under the control of the Ministry; and, if not, what was the highest figure reached for the employment of temporary women clerks in offices attached to these?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. No exact figures were available in respect of women clerks employed in hospitals and institutions till December, 1919, when the number was 41. The highest figure reached was 118 in October, 1920.
asked the Minister of Pensions what is the average length of service in the Department of men and women temporary officials above grade I, respectively; and what arrangements will be made on their dismissal for the recognition of their service when this has exceeded five years?
The average length of service of men temporary officials is about three years, and of women temporary officials about five years. These officers hold their appointments on the clear understanding that they have no claim to permanent appointments, to compensation under the Superannuation Acts for loss of office, or to pension, and I regret that they are ineligible for a gratuity on discharge.
I am afraid it is impracticable to undertake the detailed inquiry necessary to furnish an exact answer to the question. It may be assumed, however, that the average length of service was about two years.
asked the Minister of Pensions whether, exclusive of the area offices, there is a reduction of 1,991 temporary clerks in the staff of the Ministry since 1st April, 1922; if so, would he state the number of ex-service women and the number of ex-service men included in the 1,991 temporary clerks no longer in the employ of the Ministry; and what is the number of ex-service men, at one time employed by local War Pensions Committees and whose wages were paid by the Ministry, who have been discharged since 1st January, 1922?
The net reduction since the 1st April, 1922, in the temporary staff employed on work of a clerical or kindred nature is 1,720, exclusive of area offices. This number includes 656 ex-service men and 70 ex-service women, most of whom have resigned or have been appointed to permanent posts. No particulars are available which will enable me to answer the latter part of the question.
Subject to the principle that the efficiency of the office must be the first consideration, women with dependants will be retained in my Department in preference to those who have only themselves to support. I have, however, no power to secure employment for them elsewhere when their services are no longer required.