HC Deb 21 March 1836 vol 32 cc441-4

Mr. Charles Wood moved, "That a sum not exceeding 26,370l. be granted to his Majesty for defraying the salaries and other expenses of the officers of the scientific departments of the navy.

Mr. Hume

wished to know what the scientific men did, and he should like to see a detached Report of the manner in which this sum was to be expended.

Mr. Charles Wood

there had been excellent charts made of various parts of the coast of England and America, from actual surveys; a long series also of observations on the tides had been instituted, the Observatory at Greenwich was included, and many improvements which had been made in navigation; experiments also had been made to secure timber from the dry rot, and various other objects of importance were paid for by this vote though it was impracticable to lay a detailed account of them before the House.

Vote agreed to.

On the question that 813,991l. be voted to defray the charges of half-pay to officers of the navy,

Mr. Charles Wood

explained that a portion of this sum was allotted for the half-pay of pursers, but the sum proposed to give them would be saved by an improved method of victualling the navy.

Sir Edward Codrington

thought it was a great injustice to put officers of the rank of purser, who sat at the table of the admiral, on the half-pay of only 3s. a-day. The pursers of the navy were ill-requited for their services. Formerly, they had ships to live in, with provisions for themselves and a servant, instead of being obliged to procure board and lodging. Formerly, pursers of twenty-six years' servitude got 5s. a-day; it now requires thirty-five years' servitude to entitle a purser to that sum. In 1814, a purser of ten years' servitude received 4s. now it could not be ob- tained under twenty-six years; and every day augmented the difference, so that those now on the four-shilling list must have served forty years to obtain 5s. When, in order to extend to this class some show of favour, the pensions to their widows were increased 10l.; a direct refusal was given to extend it to the widows of those whose husbands had died during the war. He must take that opportunity to make some observations on the half-pay of naval officers generally. There was no department under Government of which the clerks did not retire, though upon half the number of years' services, with double the sum of retirement allowance given to the most eminent officers of the navy. He would not mention names unnecessarily, because that might appear invidious; but to quote one example, a gentleman, who was collector of the Customs at Barbadoes, after fourteen years' servitude, has retired with 1,000l. a-year. The oldest and most distinguished admirals, who had been from fifty-five to sixty-five years in his Majesty's navy, on retiring, received only 766l. 10s, a-year. A judge-advocate-general, or first clerk to the Treasury, for fifty years' servitude, received a sum nearly equal to that received by the oldest admirals and vice-admirals on the Navy-List. The former retired with 900l. a-year. A vice-admiral (the rank he held) received only 593l. 2s. 6d. He would mention by name one individual, hoping the case would make its due impression on the House. Sir Robert Barlow, one of the most zealous, most distinguished, and, I will say, one of the most brilliant officers of his Majesty's navy, in consequence of having a large family, accepted the situation of a Commissioner of the Navy, and for that office received 1,000l. He had a House to live in, with the other advantages. At the end of sixteen years he retired, and he received 106l. a year more than he would have received had he remained those sixteen years in the active and dangerous service of his profession. He would allude to another gentleman, who was a Commissioner of the Navy, and who had held that situation thirty-three years, during which time he had always lived in a government house, and had received 33,000l. of the public money, as salary. He is now retired, with an income of 750l. a year, which is more than an admiral can possibly receive after a life of servitude. A Vice-admiral receives only 593l., and a Rear-admiral only 456l., though he may have been in active service all his life. A gentleman, forty-nine years clerk of the certificates in the Customs, retired with 700l. a-year. A chief clerk in the Alien-office had 600l. a-year retiring allowance. The same sum was allotted to the secretary of the Victualling Board; and in the department of Stamps, he found 600l. a-year given as a retiring allowance, after twelve years' service. A senior clerk in the Treasury, after fifteen years' service, received 525l. The oldest captain of the navy had but 264l. The junior post-captain only 228l., and that was exceeded by what was given to a clerk of the Navy-office, after twenty-three years' service. A clerk in the Colonial-office, for only fourteen years' servitude, received 300l.a-year; another gentleman, for ten years' services as accountant-general of the Post-office, had 276l. 18s. 8d. A landing waiter in Ireland, after thirteen years' service, retired upon 313l. 17s. a-year. An individual who had been thirteen years a clerk in the delivery-office of the Ordnance, retired with 171l. a-year—that being a situation to which pursers in the navy would be equally well adapted. He would observe that the oldest purser in the navy now received, after fifty-six years' service, 95l. 5s. per annum. After twenty-six years in the service as pursers, the half-pay was limited to the paltry pittance of 3s. per day, or 56l. 15s. a-year. The surgeons in the navy were worse off as to half-pay than assistant-surgeons in the army, the latter having more half-pay, after twenty-five years' service, than surgeons of the navy after twenty-nine years. Since 1815, 100 medical officers of the army had been promoted to ranks higher than regimental surgeons, entitling them to higher half-pay, while only one surgeon of the navy had been promoted to any higher rank, giving him any increased half-pay. The army assistant-surgeon got 7s. a-day, after twenty five years' service; the navy assistant-surgeon, if he serve fifty-years had only 3s. a-day. The second class attendant masters of dockyards were equally hardly dealt with. The full pay of these officer's was but 220l. a-year. It was no wonder that men of enterprising spirit felt a reluctance to enter the navy, when so many instances of unrewarded merit and inadequate provision could be referred to. He was astonished that the naval service of such vast and national importance, should have been so unjustly treated. If hon. Gentlemen would look narrowly into the service, they would find, that in spite of its popularity, there was increasing discontent amongst the members of the profession. He was well aware that the gallant Officers opposite, who now formed a part of the Board of Admiralty, would be very glad to see justice done to their brethren, if they had the opportunity. They felt that those who had served with them deserved the consideration of the country.

Vote agreed to, and the House resumed.