HC Deb 16 July 1844 vol 76 cc986-8
Captain Pechell

rose to bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice respecting the claims of the Naval Officers in the Lunatic Asylum at Haslar. He said that no doubt it was well known to every hon. Member that an asylum had existed for a great number of years at Hoxton, in which Lunatic Naval Officers were afforded shelter, and maintained at the public expense, the Vote for which had always formed a part of the Navy Estimates. It appeared, however, that without any Order of the House the Officers placed in Hoxton Asylum had been removed to that of Haslar. He was not aware that any person complained of the change so far as treatment was concerned, because he believed the treatment at that asylum was of the first kind and worthy the institutions of this country. But the complaint which he had to make was, that none of the relatives of those Officers had been made aware of the change, and that they had only gained a knowledge of it when they found that one-half of the half-pay which they formerly received at the Navy Pay Office was withheld. To those who know the small income of half-pay Officers, the deprivation of that income would appear a tremendous sacrifice. The practice which existed for eight or nine years was to deduct half of the half-pay for the expense of maintaining the Officer in the Asylum, but when the right hon. Baronet opposite agreed to lower the charge to a fixed sum it was proposed that the Government should pay back the arrears. The Board of Admiralty of those days communicated to one of the parties that such was their intention; but in nine days afterwards, on the 20th of June, 1832, they intimated, greatly to the consternation of the parties, that they were not disposed to consent to pay the arrears in consequence of the large amount of the sum which would be required. The hon. and gallant Officer opposite stated on a former occasion that he approved of the order issued by the Admiralty for cancelling the order for the payment of these arrears on account of the large expenditure which would be required. He had since then investigated the claims, and found that in number that they did not exceed forty, and that in amount they fell short of 3,000l. He was sure that the hon. and gallant Admiral, when he reflected on the misery which was caused by the withholding of this small sum, would reverse the decision which he had come to on a former occasion. The hon. and gallant Member then alluded to the case of Lieut. Forbes, who, he contended, had become insane in consequence of the severe hardships which he underwent when he served on board the Vengeur, at New Orleans. The hon. and gallant Admiral, in 1822, stated, in answer to Mr. Buxton, that he considered the Officer who lost his reason in the service of the country as much entitled to a pension as the Officer who lost a limb; and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would admit not only that Lieut. Forbes was entitled to his pension, but that the other Officers were entitled to their arrears. As the Admiralty had always met this Motion with a negative, he had no other resource but to press the matter on their consideration.

Sir G. Cockburn

said, this case had been so often before the House, that it would only be necessary for him to allude to it very briefly. The placing of patients at the Haslar Hospital was perfectly voluntary on the part of their friends, and they could be removed at pleasure. This being the case, it was not reasonable to ask for a return of any portion of the sum paid for their maintenance, because the charge had been subsequently reduced, and particularly since the original sum was not sufficient to defray all the expenses. He had the greatest sympathy for Mrs. Forbes, whom he believed to be a most respectable lady. But after a most searching investigation into the case he could not find any ground for believing that Mr. Forbes acquired his malady in the service, or that it was his duty to assent to the Motion. He was therefore reluctantly compelled to oppose it.—Motion withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter to one o'clock.