HC Deb 20 September 1841 vol 59 cc618-20
Sir C. Napier

begged to call attention to one of the recent appointments of the right hon. Baronet. He could not conceive how the public service could be efficiently carried on in the absence of a navy officer at the head of the Board of Ordnance. He thought, also, that it was paying a bad compliment to the navy, in which there were 600 captains and 200 admirals, not to find one officer amongst them capable of being intrusted with the government of that board. Why, it would be really as absurd, he thought, to make him Lord Chancellor of England, as to place a civilian at the head of the Board of Ordnance; and he should not be at all surprised if the noble Lord who had been appointed to that office were unable to distinguish between a line-of-battle ship and a frigate. Besides, it was contrary to the usual practice.

Sir R. Peel

could only assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman, that by the appointment referred to he did not mean to cast the slightest imputation or reflection upon the profession of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman was so distinguished an ornament. It was not fitting that he should enter into a discussion upon the question on the present occasion; but he must observe, that the practice of appointing a navy officer had not been invariably adhered to. To enter into a discussion of the question at present would oblige him to refer to the constitution of the board itself, and the officers who formed part of it. He believed, that the constitution of the board gave general satisfaction to the profession. [Sir C. Napier—No, no.] And as regarded this particular appointment, he thought he should be able to satisfy the House, that it had been made upon general views, for the good of the service and the advantage of the country, although it might be a question whether the practice of placing a civilian at the head of the Admiralty ought to be adhered to or not.

Sir C. Napier

expressed a hope that the right hon. Baronet would take the first opportunity of correcting the error. He could assure the right hon. Baronet, that the officers of the navy were not content upon the subject, and Sir G. Cockburn himself had told him that the only proper way to rule the navy was by placing an admiral at the head of it.

Captain Pechell

concurred in the sentiments expressed by his hon. and gallant Friend; and could only refer, in support of what his hon. and gallant Friend had stated, to the satisfaction which his late Majesty gave while at the head of the Admiralty, because he was a naval officer, and understood the nature of the service over which he presided. When the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Launceston, was at the Board of Ordnance some years ago, he admitted the evil of not having a naval officer connected with that department.

Sir H. Hardinge

said, as he had been referred to by the hon. and gallant Officer, he could only say, that, during the five or six years he was at the Ordnance, there was no naval officer at the board, nor had any been appointed in the first instance by Lord Melbourne's Administration. The appointment of a naval officer to this department was therefore not an invariable rule, although he admitted, that advantage might arise from having a naval officer at the Board. With respect to the office of Surveyor-general of the Ordnance, his opinion was, that that office would be better filled by a military than a naval officer.

Captain Plumridge

had nothing to offer in opposition to the appointment, as regarded the noble Lord himself; but still he thought it as necessary, that the navy should be ruled by a naval officer as the army by a military one.

Subject at an end.

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