HC Deb 20 May 1841 vol 58 cc676-80
Lord G. Lennox

rose to bring forward the motion of which he had given notice, relative to the report of the naval and military commission. That commission had sat for two years, at the close of which period they furnished their report. It was not for him (Lord George Lennox), to impugn, nor did he mean to impugn, the report of that commission. But what he complained of was, that the recommendations of the commissioners respecting the officers of the army, navy, and ordnance, had been attended to, and carried out by the heads of these several departments, whereas that which related to the Marines had been neglected. He hoped that the marine officers would soon be put upon an equal footing with the officers of the navy, and that the day was not far distant when a marine officer would even act as a Lord of the Admiralty. He regretted that there appeared a disposition to evade the just claims of this gallant body of men. He formerly moved for the appointment of a committee on the subject; he was met by the objection, that the proper course of proceeding was by an address to the Crown. He adopted the suggestion, and moved an address to her Majesty, and then he was informed that he should have moved for a committee. He confessed he looked for the support of the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs upon this occasion. That noble Lord had possessed many opportunities of testing the merit of the marines, and had, on several occasions, found them eminently useful when engaged on foreign service. The noble Lord must be fully sensible of the efficient manner in which the gallant corps had discharged their duty at Lisbon, in Spain, and recently on the coast of Syria. Looking to the manner in which the corps had been employed in carrying out the noble Lord's policy, they might not inaptly be called "Palmerston's Own." The noble Lord concluded by moving, that the House should resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the report of the naval and military commission, as relates to the recommendations relative to the Royal Marines.

Sir H. Vivian,

having been a member of the naval and military commission, was anxious to say a very few words upon the question. He could assure the noble Lord, and the House, that the members of that commission were actuated by a sincere desire to do justice to that distinguished corps, the Marines, and to further promotion in it. The noble Lord had complained of the small amount of the promotions in the corps, compared with those in other branches of the service; but that, he could assure him, was the result of accidental circumstances. It would be found impossible to equalize promotions by any arrangements. He would only repeat, that the commission was most anxious to do justice to the corps, more particularly after they were deprived of the assistance of a gallant officer of marines who was appointed a member of the commission.

Sir A. Dalrymple

said, he had voted with the noble Lord formerly, when he proposed an address to the Crown upon this subject; but the Queen having been pleased to appoint a commission, he would not concur in doing anything which would have the appearance of sitting in judgment on the proceedings of that commission.

Sir C. Adam

concurred in the view taken by the last speaker. It would be most inconvenient, and contrary to the practice of the constitution, to interfere with the commission. The hon. and gallant Member referred to the report of the commission, to show that great promotions had taken place since the Order in Council in 1837; that officers who were unfit for duty had been allowed to retire upon their full pay; and that the recommendations of the commission had been carried out as respected inefficient officers, every one of whom had been provided for. For his own part, though he should resist the motion, he held the marines in the highest estimation, and would do all in his power to serve them.

Viscount Ingestrie

thought, that after the report which the commission had made, it would not be advisable to take the course proposed by the noble Lord. He was of opinion also, that a committee of the House of Commons was not the proper tribunal before which such a subject should be investigated. He must, therefore, give his vote against the motion; but he hoped that vote would not be regarded as a proof that he took no interest in the welfare of the marine corps.

Captain Boldero

said, that while the pay of the other branches of the service had been liberally increased, the marines had remained unnoticed. He believed, indeed, that the recommendations of the commission had been carried into effect with regard to almost every other department, except that of the Royal Marines. Considering the brilliant services which that body of men had performed for the country, he must say that it savoured something of ingratitude, that it should be necessary to drive at those in power continually, in order to get justice done to them. For the first time they had heard of two marine officers having received a brevet rank, those officers having been in the action of the Shannon and the Chesapeake. But this neglect had gone on all through the war. He should support the motion of the noble Lord, unless the gallant Admiral would make some promise that would render a committee unnecessary.

Mr. C. Wood

believed that every one of the recommendations of the commission had been carried into effect. The number of promotions given by the Board of Admiralty to the marines in proportion to the amount of the force employed was unexampled. He looked upon the motion of his noble Friend as totally uncalled for, inasmuch as the Board of Admiralty had complied with all the suggestions made by the commission, except on the single point of prize-money. It was impossible to do more in the way of increasing superannuations and retirements, without forcing to retire men who were every way competent to do the duties of active service, which would be impolitic in the extreme.

Mr. Hume

thought that no complaint could be brought against the Government the course it had pursued with reference to the marine corps. Formerly he had thought this branch of the service much neglected; but since the appointment of the naval and military commission, it seemed that full justice had been done to them. There were, however, one or two recent instances in which he thought promotions should have been made. He alluded particularly to the case of Captain Spry and another old marine officer, who had served together in Commodore Napier's ship, the Powerful, during the late hostilities on the coast of Syria, and had partaken of all the glory which attached to the British arms on that occasion. These old officers, one of whom had served for thirty-five years, were left without promotion, although most of the naval officers who served in the Powerful had been raised to higher rank. He thought the case of these veterans highly deserving the notice of the Admiralty.

Lord A. Lennox

cordially agreed with the hon. Member, as to the propriety of rewarding Captain Spry and the other marine officer of Commodore Napier's ship. He trusted that his noble relative would not press the motion to a division, as he hoped the notice taken of the subject would be sufficient to induce the Lords of the Admiralty to do their utmost to benefit the service.

Sir C. Adam

was understood to state, that all the marine officers who served on the coast of Syria had been promoted, but that some delay had arisen in the case of Captain Spry. It was, however, fully in. tended that he should be promoted.

Captain Pechell

was ready to support the noble Lord in any motion which would benefit the corps of Royal Marines. He would, however, recommend him to withdraw the present motion, in the hope that what had been said would influence the treatment of that body.

Lord G. Lennox

replied, and intimated that, as the House was then so exceedingly thin, he should not put it to the trouble of a division.

Motion negatived.