HC Deb 27 June 1843 vol 70 cc446-9
Captain Pechell

moved, that the petitions of Mrs. Forbes, Mrs. Ricketts, and Mrs. Purchas, presented on the 20th of March and the 10th and 11th of April, be taken into consideration. He said the husbands of those ladies were officers in the navy who had become insane in consequence of the hard duties which circumstances had imposed upon them. Prior to 1819 they were inmates of an asylum at Hoxton, where they were supported free of expense; but in that year it was recommended that all officers so situated should be removed to Haslar Hospital, and they were accordingly removed. The result, however, of the change was most detrimental to the families of the officers so situated, for immediately upon their change of residence the half-pay of every officer so situated was reduced one-half for his maintenance. Their families had calculated upon a certain income, but, without the least previous notice, they lost one-half of it; for the reduction was not confined to pay alone, it was also extended to pensions. Those orders remained in force until 1831, when the injustice of them became so manifest, that Lord Grey's Board of Admiralty altered the system and reduced the charges for all officers who were so melancholily situated, to 1s. 6d. a day; the Admiralty then acknowledged that those unfortunate persons had been overcharged to the amount of 2s. 6d. a day. The families of those officers, upon such an acknowledgment, considered that they were entitled to receive the payment of the arrears. A letter was written by the Admiralty, acknowledging the justice of the claims, but unfortunately the Victualling and the Navy Board were allowed to interfere, and that most just letter was cancelled, only nine days after it had first gladdened the hearts of those interested. The reason given for so doing was, that if one claim were allowed it would open ninety others. Now, the returns for which he had moved showed that the claims which could be made did not amount to one half of ninety; besides, that was a most unjust ground for a refusal. He believed if the Admiralty would institute an investigation into these cases, they would not refuse to do justice to the parties. A prejudice, however, was entertained against these applicants; some of whom had been urging their complaints upon the attention of the Board since 1821, and he hoped, therefore, that the House would consent to the appointment of a select committee, to institute an inquiry.

Captain Gordon

thought the hon. and gallant Member had failed to show any just reason which could induce the House to alter the opinion which it had formerly expressed on this subject. In the case of Lieutenant Forbes there was no proof that his insanity had been contracted while in the public service. Indeed, the contrary was the fact. Lieutenant Forbes served in the navy till 1815, when he quitted the service. In 1822 he obtained permission from the Admiralty to enter the merchant service, and for some time he commanded a merchant vessel. Having some dispute with the owners he relinquished the command and went to South America, where he endured great hardships, which it was stated produced the loss or his sight, and ultimately becoming insane, he was admitted into Haslar Hospital. Previously to 1831, one moiety of the half-pay of officers confined in that asylum was appropriated to their maintenance; but in that year the Board of Admiralty adopted a regulation that only 1s. 6d. a day should be deducted from the pay for this purpose. He thought this was a very moderate sum, especially when the expenses of maintaining the establishment were considered. In the case of Lieutenant Purchas, a pension had actually been granted to his wife; and he thought, therefore, in this instance there was still less ground for complaint. He felt it his duty on a consideration of all the circumstances, to oppose the motion of the hon. and gallant Member.

Mr. B. Wood

had in his possession medical certificates which would prove that the insanity of Lieutenant Forbes resulted from his exertions while in the naval service

Mr. Hume

thought the Government ought not to have deprived these ladies of a pittance of 1s. 6d. a day. If this had been a question as to the pension of a nobleman or any person possessing extensive influence, the cry of" vested interests" would at once have been raised. He recommended the Government to redress the grievances of which the petitioners complained

Mr. Corry

said, that since 1831 a deduction of only ls. 6d. a day had been made for the maintenance of the officers whose cases had been referred to. Au expense of from 9l. to 10l. a-year was entailed on the public for the maintenance of each of these officers. He should vote against, this motion.

Sir C. Napier

said, the last time this question was brought forward hon. Gentlemen acted with great indecency, for they left the House and it was counted out. He did not think that the Lords of the Admiralty had any right to doubt the correctness of the medical certificates. The Lords of the Admiralty had consented at one time to pay these arrears, and subsequently declined. Let the records of the Admiralty be examined, and he would venture to say that it would be found that a different course had been adopted when the claims of parties of power and influence were to be considered. It was, in fact, well known that a distinguished officer of rank and influence had these arrears paid to him. He never heard any Lord of the Admiralty come forward and confess that he had committed an error. He made no distinctions. All Lords of the Admiralty were alike. They all refused to admit that they had been in error. What, he would ask, was the use of the House of Commons, if they did not inquire into abuses? and what good was her Majesty's Opposition if they did not find fault? He should support the motion of his hon, and gallant Friend.

Sir J. Graham

said, when he was connected with the Board of Admiralty, in 1832, the practice was this, with respect to lunatic officers, one-half of their half-pay was retained to defray the expenses of their maintenance during their confinement in the hospital, and the other half was made over to their families. That was the rule at present in operation with respect to the army. When he was a member of the Board of Admiralty, the question arose as to the real amount of cost incurred in the treatment of officers confined in Haslar Hospital—whether it amounted to half of the half-pay? It was found that it did not, and in consequence of that the charge was reduced for the maintenance of the officer from half of his half-pay to 1s. 6d. per diem, allowing his family to receive the difference. In consequence of that decision, the navy was placed in a more favourable position than the army. If he understood the case of Mrs. Forbes, it was this:—the husband of Mrs. Forbes went into Haslar Hospital in 1826, where he remained till 1832, during which period, agreeably to the rules of the service, half of his half-pay had been deducted. Mrs. Forbes now demanded, that 1s. 6d. per diem being deducted for his maintenance, the remainder of the half of his half-pay should be paid over to her. He did not consider that that claim was an equitable one. [Sir C. Napier: Do you remember the petition of Mrs. Bevan?] He admitted that that case was similar to Mrs. Forbes's. It was proposed to accede to the request in that particular case, but upon consideration it was found that much inconvenience would result, and the idea was abandoned. Taking into consideration the whole of the particulars of the case which the hon. and gallant Member had brought under the notice of the House, he did not think that the House ought to consent to the committee, and he therefore should oppose the motion.

Captain Pechell,

in reply, remarked, that what the petitioners complained of, was, the breach of faith on the part of the Admiralty. The Board had raised expectations only to dash them down, and the misery it had thereby entailed was more than he could describe. He contended, that the committee ought to be granted, if only to remove the doubts which some hon. Gentlemen appeared to entertain as to the genuineness of the medical certificates; but, at the same time, he expressed his readiness to withdraw his motion, if the Lords of the Admiralty would only hold out a hope of relief.

The House divided:—Ayes 47; Noes 96:—Majority 49.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Borthwick, P.
Aldam, W. Bowring, Dr.
Barnard, E. G. Brotherton, J.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Muntz, G. F.
Christopher, R. A. Murphy, F. S.
Clements, Visct. O'Connell, M. J.
Dalrymple, Capt. Plumridge, Capt.
Denison, W. J. A.C
Ponsonby, hon. C. F. Duncan, G. A. C.
Dundas, D. Scholefield,
Ellis, W. Seale, Sir J. H.
Esmonde, Sir T. Sibthorp, Col.
Ferrand, W. B. Smith, J. A.
Fulmer, Sir E. Stuart, Lord J.
Gill, T. Tancred, H. W.
Hatton, Capt. V. Thornley, T.
Hervey, Lord A. Trelawney, J. S.
Hindley, C. Wallace, R.
Hollond, R. Wawn, J.
Howard, hon. J. K. Williams, W.
Hughes, W. B. Wood, B.
Flume, J. Worsley, Lord
James, W.
Langton, W. G. TELLERS.
Mitcalfe, H. Pechell, Capt.
Morris, D. Napier, Sir C.
List of the NOES.
Acton, Col. Gladstone, Capt.
Adderley, C. B. Goulburn, rt. hon. H.
Alford, Visct. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Affix, J. P. Greene, T.
Antrobus, E. Grimsditch, T.
Astell, W. Grimston, Visct.
Baird, W. Hampden, R.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.
Beckett, W. Henley, J. W.
Blackburne, J. I. Hodgson, R.
Boldero, H. G. Hope, G. W.
Boyd, J. Hussey, T.
Bramston, T. W. Jermyn, Earl
Broadley, H. Jervis, J.
Bruce, Lord E. Jolliffe, Sir W. G.H.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E
Cardwell, E. Knight, H. G.
Clerk, Sir G. Lennox, Lord A.
Colvile, C. R. Lincoln, Earl of
Copeland, Mr. Ald. Lockhart. W.
Courtenay, Lord Lowther, J. H.
Cripps, W. Mackenzie, T.
Damer, hon. Col. McGeachy, F. A.
Darby, G. Martin, C. W.
Dickinson, F. H. Masterman, J.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Meynell, Capt.
Drummond, H. H. Mildmay, H. St. J.
Du Pre, C. G. Morgan, O.
Egerton, W. T. Mundy, E. M.
Eliot, Lord Neeld, J.
Escott, B. O'Brien, A. S.
Estcourt, T. G. B. Patten, J. W.
Farnham, E. B. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Fellowes, E. Peel, J.
Fitzmaurice, hon. W Pollock, Sir F.
Flower, Sir J. Pringle, A.
Forbes, W. Rashleigh, W.
Forman, T. S. Richards, R.
Fremantle, Sir T. Rose, rt. hn. Sir G.
Fuller, A. E. Seymour, Sir H. B.
Gaskell J. Milnes Smith, A.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Somerset, Lord G. Verner, Col.
Stanley, Lord Wellesley, Lord C.
Sturt, H. C. Wodehouse, E.
Sutton, hon. H. M. Young, J.
Talbot, C. R. M.
Tennent, J. E. TELLERS.
Thesiger, F. Gordon, Capt.
Thompson, Ald. Corry, rt. hn. H. T. L.
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