HC Deb 04 June 1833 vol 18 cc372-6
Sir Thomas Freemantle

presented a Petition from Mr. Beamish, who had been recently superannuated from the Navy Pay-office. The question arising upon this petition was not only interesting to this individual, but to the public at large, on account of the manner in which the superannuated pension list was filled up. The petition stated that he had been in his office for a period of twenty-seven years; he was appointed in the year 1805 to the situation of a clerk in the Navy Pay-office. During the last ten years of his service he had been at Plymouth, where he was at the head of the third class of clerks. At the time he entered into the public service there was an Order in Council, by which, after a service of a certain number of years, he would be entitled to a salary of 500l. He had, in consequence of that expectation, married, and he had brought up a family of nine children. He found, however, that the promotion he had expected had never taken place, and, indeed, notwithstanding the rule of seniority, others had been promoted over his head. In the course of the last year, a list was sent down by the Lords of the Admiralty, and without any incapacity on his part he was superannuated. He complained of the compulsory superannuation, as he was both able and willing to perform all the duties of his office, and being so, he objected to thus being made a pensioner on the public. The petitioner had presented a memorial to the right hon. Gentleman, the Treasurer of the Navy, praying for restitution to his office, or that the grounds of his superannuation might be stated—he had, in like manner, addressed other quarters, but failing in his objects, he had at last been compelled to appeal to that House to take his case into their consideration. This was the statement in the petition which he (Sir Thomas Freemantle) had undertaken to present, not with any view to cast a censure on the Government, but from a wish to assist the petitioner, if his case should allow of the interference of the House. He must say, that he should wish to know the grounds on which the right hon. Gentleman had recommended the dismissal of this petitioner from active employment, and he expressed this wish without the slightest desire to interfere with the rights of the Crown in dismissing any of its public servants. The petitioner now received a pension. In his opinion there ought to be no pension granted but on the abolition of an office, or on account of the incapacity of an individual from length of service to continue in the discharge of his duties. None ought to be granted in the case of removal for misbehaviour. The petitioner did not come under any one of these heads. How then stood the question with regard to the public economy? The salary of the petitioner before his removal was 367l. a-year. The individual who had replaced him, then, possessed a salary of 140l. a-year, making a total of 507l. The petitioner now received a pension of 226l. a-year, the present possessor of his office a salary of 300l. a-year, and a junior clerk a salary of 90l. a-year, making together a sum of 616l. a-year, leaving a balance of 109l. against the country in consequence of the change. He was indebted to the clearness of the documents connected with the offices under the control of the Admiralty for his ability to make this statement; and if the right hon. Gentleman at the head of that department was now present, he should have his (Sir Thomas Freemantle's) best thanks for the perspicuity of these official papers. The clerks in the Navy Pay-office had in number amounted to seventy-seven last year. From that number twenty-five were to be deducted as transferred to the Admiralty, which left fifty-two for the duties of the Navy-Pay-office. The number in the present year appeared to be only forty-six, but six of the senior clerks were put upon the superannuation list, and six of the junior class were promoted in their stead, so that there might be said to be twelve non-efficients added to the number, making the whole number fifty-eight, instead of fifty-two. The difference, therefore, especially remembering that there were six new appointments to fill up the vacancies occasioned by promotion of the six inferior clerks, was decidedly against the public. In the 7th page of the Estimate the expense of the last year was stated at 21,200l., from which, if the salary of the twenty-five clerks transferred to the Admiralty were deducted, the amount would remain 16,080l. In the Estimates of the present year, the expense of the present year was stated at 13,810l., but to this was to be added a charge for the non-effectives of 1,829l., and for the six newly-appointed clerks of 1,830l., making altogether an annual expenditure of 17,469l., a sum exceeding the expense of last year. These were the observations he had been led to make from the perusal of this petition. If the explanation offered by the right hon. Gentleman should be satisfactory, there would be an end to the matter; if not, the House would, no doubt, allow him to take the course which he might under the circumstances think fit.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

could but praise the temperate tone and manner in which the hon. Baronet had brought forward this question; but complained of his having introduced the subject of the Navy Estimates, on which, of course, he (Mr. Poulett Thomson) was not prepared without notice to give any answer. He should confine himself in his remarks to the case of Mr. Beamish. It was not the least painful part of the task of a public man, to have to reconcile the conflicting duty of obedience to the public call for retrenchment, with that of a perfect attention to the feelings and comforts of individuals. It was perfectly true, that by the Order in Council of 1822, the petitioner had been deprived of his promotion; but that was a public Order, from which he was only a sufferer in common with others. The petitioner asserted, that on public grounds of economy, and on those of possessing capacity, zeal, and ability, to labour, he ought to have been continued in office, and ought to have been promoted. The House should see how that question stood. The Treasurer of the Navy was a person to whom large sums of money were intrusted and who was responsible for the disposal of them by those under his directions. The petitioner had never come under his (Mr. P. Thomson's) observation, as he belonged to the department at Plymouth, so that he could have had no personal feeling in his removal, which was to be justified upon economical as well as upon general grounds. The actual saving by retrenchment in the department to which Mr. Beamish belonged, had amounted to 404l., and his retirement was the only one made in which it had been necessary to use compulsion. There were five clerks at Plymouth, which cost 1,940l. Subsequently to the change, and without super annuations, the expense was reduced to 1,386l: to this sum were, however, to be added the superannuations, so that, the saving was not quite so great as it appeared by those figures. He was sorry to be obliged to state anything against the petitioner, but from the records in his office, and his own knowledge, he could say that Mr. Beamish, for personal reasons, could not have been retained with justice to the public service. He did not mean to impeach the petitioner's integrity—that was quite unimpeachable, but the minutes of the office showed that he had an infirmity of temper, accompanied by bodily infirmity also, which rendered him incapable of properly fulfilling his duties. Some of the allegations of the petition were so utterly void of foundation, that he could not help thinking that they were made in total ignorance of the fact. The individual complained of as having been appointed a clerk at 90l. a-year after the dismissal of Mr. Beamish, had already served for two years as an extra clerk, and was in every way unobjectionable; that appointment also had nothing to do with the dismissal of Mr. Beamish. On the ground of economy, therefore, as well as in consideration of the public service, he should have been guilty had he not proceeded as he had done in the case of the petitioner.

Colonel Davies

fully acquitted the right hon. Gentleman of any personal motive, in the dismissal of Mr. Beamish, but thought it a case of considerable hardship. He had been requested to support the petition, but did not see in what way a remedy could be applied.

Sir George Grey

bore testimony to the excellent private character of Mr. Beamish, who was one of his constituents. For a great many years, he had discharged the duties of his situation, with satisfaction to the head of the department, and with advantage to the public.

Sir Edward Knatchbull

thought that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have been able to state some misconduct on the part of the petitioner, as a reason for his dismissal, after a service of twenty-seven years.

Mr. Hume

was ready to support the hon. Baronet (Sir T. Freemantle) in a Motion for a Committee to inquire into the case, if he would bring the question forward in that shape. It was quite clear, that whenever the head of a department wished to remove one of the subordinates, nothing was more easy than to find a reason for it. In his (Mr. Hume's) judgment, no man could justly say that Mr. Beamish was unfit for the discharge of his duties, or for any new ones of the same kind which might be imposed upon him, and which he was ready to undertake, without the appointment of any new clerk, at 90l. a-year. As it was, he was dismissed at once; and, after long service, deprived of every chance of promotion. The case was well worthy of further investigation.

Sir Thomas Freemantle

believed that that right hon. Gentleman had been imposed upon, and did not well know what he was about when he dismissed the petitioner, whose case was one, not merely of severity, but in his view, of positive injustice. At the same time he imputed no blame to the right hon. Gentleman, beyond allowing himself to be ruled too much by the representations of others. He would contend, in spite of the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that the case was one of great hardship, and it would be with him matter of very serious consideration whether or not he should submit to the House ulterior measures on the subject.

The Petition was laid upon the Table.

Back to