HC Deb 06 July 1837 vol 38 cc1831-5
Captain Dundas

moved that an Address be presented to her Majesty, that previous to the estimates of 1838-9 means should be taken to ascertain the number of effective and non-effective officers of her Majesty's navy, with a view of forming a retired list to benefit old and meritorious officers who served during the war. The hon. and gallant Member was understood to express a hope that the Government would without delay see the necessity of infusing new energy into our naval service, which would be effected by removing those from the naval list who were not effective, and by the promotion of young officers.

Sir E. Codrington

seconded the motion, he would take that opportunity of calling the attention of the House to the condition of the officers of the navy, as compared with that of the members of other departments of the public service. If a full admiral retired after forty or fifty years' service, he could not obtain more than 700l. a-year for half-pay and allowance. Now, for not nearly the same length of service, a general officer would get more than double this income. The condition of the naval officers was different from that of almost any class of men in her Majesty's service. Look at the situation of a flag officer. When he went out to command on a foreign station he was in reality in the situation of an ambassador, yet he was not allowed table money, and on his retirement from office he was in a much worse condition. The widow of a full admiral was entitled to a pension of not more than 120l. a-year; but seldom or never obtained it. The fund, however, from which the widows of other naval officers received their allowances was formed from a deduction made from the pay of each officer; but over the distribution of this the officers had no control, for it was totally under the management of the Admiralty. He would refer the House to the case of Sir Manley Dixon, as an illustration of the unjust mode exercised by the Admiralty in the distribution of widows' pensions. That gallant officer left a widow, and two daughters by a former marriage. The two latter ladies, in consequence of their not being able to obtain any allowance from the Admiralty, were obliged to apply to the navy charitable fund, which allowed them 25l. a-year to save them from starving. He knew another officer who had died and left a widow with eight children to support on 60l. a-year, and on her making application for employment for two of her sons, the Admiralty appointed them to situations, but subtracted in lieu of it 36l. from her pension. After these cases he would put it to the House whether they would not allow a small increase of the widows' fund so that an additional allowance might he made to the widows and children of officers who had long served their country? Again, the widow of a commissary-general was allowed 120l. a-year, which was the same amount as was given to the widow of the most distinguished admiral, and the latter would not obtain her pension unless she took an oath that she had not an income of 200l. a-year. To show how the navy was managed, he would direct the attention of the House to the condition of Greenwich Hospital, and ask why should three civilians have the management in that establishment? He could mention another instance of injustice in the ordnance, in which a deserving naval officer was forced out of his situation to make way for a civilian. Again, he would ask, was it proper that the Duke of Wellington should be placed at the head of the department at Dover for the examination of persons wishing to become channel pilots, and having to determine on the merits of pilots and pilotage? This undoubtedly was an office which required, to fill it properly, the judgment of a person acquainted with maritime affairs. Strange also to say, the noble Duke had Lord Carrington for his deputy in this office. He was prepared to admit that the noble Duke was the most distinguished general in Europe, but it did not therefore follow that he was the best judge of maritime affairs. When the pension-list came to be revised, he hoped the House would direct its attention to such a meritorious class of men as the half-pay officers of the navy, and more especially the lieutenants. He did not believe that any class of men were so ill-used by the country as the naval officers. By the arrangement of the pension-list at the Admiralty, a young man with interest would be entitled to a pension after ten years' service, while one without it would be under the necessity of serving double that time. He did not ask the House to believe a single word that he stated—all that he required was, that the House would look at the documents and see whether his statements were not borne out by them. He would quote the case of Captain—, who had to serve upwards of thirty-four years before he was promoted, while a person who had interest got promoted before he had served half that time. Assistant-surgeons in the army had more pay after ten years' service than assistant-surgeons in the navy had after twenty years' service, He thought the board of Admiralty ought to come forward and state boldly what was due to the navy. He, for his own part, would not be satisfied without the strictest investigation upon the subject. If he had the honour of a seat in that House in the next session, he should certainly bring the subject again under the attention of the House, as hitherto he had been always jockeyed out of doing so. The navy had been always put in the back ground, and his doctrine to them would be, "agitate, agitate, agitate." With reference to the motion of his hon. and gallant Friend he gave it his most cordial support.

Mr. Charles Wood

said, with respect to the motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Devizes, he certainly did expect when that motion was made, the hon. and gallant Member would have stated some plan to the House. He thought, however, that the officers of the navy would rather forfeit their chance of promotion than undergo that examination which had been proposed. Such a plan would be any thing but agreeable and popular among the higher officers. He was ready to admit there were a great many officers on the list who were not equal to the active discharge of their duties, and if any scheme could be laid before the Admiralty, they would give it their favourable consideration. The country was suffering, and the navy was suffering, in consequence of having had a very large force during a long-continued war. The only means of supplying employment to such a large body of men as the naval officers on the half-pay list would be by a war, but as there was now peace, they must submit with patience like persons in other professions which were overstocked. On these grounds he thought it was perfectly unnecessary to bring forward such a motion. With respect to the statements of the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport, they were merely a repetition of the arguments brought forward by him previously. To these statements he had on former occasions given an answer, which it was unnecessary for him now to repeat. With respect to the allowances made to the widows of officers, he would only observe that it was always a matter of regret to the department to which he belonged to refuse claims of this kind; but it should be recollected that the Admiralty had only a limited fund to deal with, and was necessarily obliged to select those whose cases appeared the most pressing. It was a mistake to suppose that no admiral's widow with more than 200l. a-year was entitled to a pension. The Admiralty, in all cases of the kind, exercised a discretion. The fund for the children of naval officers was only 14,000l. a-year, whereas it would be easy to distribute 60,000l. amongst most deserving objects. With respect to the three civil officers connected with the management of Greenwich Hospital, they were persons who had the management and control of the estates belonging to the hospital. He denied that there was any ground of complaint as to the 300 lieutenants that had been promoted to the rank of commander without additional pay. The proceeding was in direct conformity with the order in council.

The House divided:—Ayes 21; Noes 19: Majority 2.

List of the AYES.
Bannerman, A. Pechell, Captain
Barnard, E. G. Richards, R.
Berkeley, hon. F. Robinson, G. R.
Elley, Sir J. Sheppard, T,
Estcourt, T. Vere, Sir C. B.
Fector, J. M. Vigors, N. A.
Goring, H. D. Vivian, J. E.
Gresley, Sir R. Wallace, R.
Hume, J. Young, G. F,
Lennox, Lord G. TELLERS.
Mangles, J. Dundas, Captain
Maxwell, J. Codrington, Sir E.
List of the NOES.
Baring, F. T. Jervis, J.
Bridgeman, H. Melgund, Viscount
Brotherton, J. Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Buller, E. Paget, F.
Dillwynn, L. W. Palmerston, Viscount
Ebrington, Viscount Pusey, P.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Russell, Lord J.
Fergusson, rt. hon. R. Wall, C. B.
Hector, C. J. TELLERS.
Hindley C. Adam, Sir C.
Howard, P. H. Wood, C.
Mr. Hume rose

for the purpose of bringing forward his motion respecting Upper Canada, when the House was counted out.