HC Deb 11 August 1848 vol 101 cc89-93

moved a vote of 139,350l for salaries of officers and contingent expenses of Her Majesty's naval establishments at home.


observed, that in very many of our dockyards the salaries of the superintendents and petty officers exceeded the amount of money paid to the actual workmen; and he concurred in the opinion of Sir J. Barrow that our dockyards were overstocked with superintendents and petty officers. A great deal of money, too, was spent in building ships, a great many of the ships so built never going to sea at all, but being kept rotting in ordinary.


said, the present Board of Admiralty was most anxious not to incur any expenditure without producing desirable public results. The larger class of French ships had made it necessary, looking to the possible contingency of a rupture, to make successive changes in the class and rating of our ships, so as to enable our sailors to meet a gallant enemy fairly on equal terms in case of aggression. He hoped when they again mot, hon. Gentlemen would find that every recommendation of the Committee which could be safely adopted would be carried out and acted on. Our power in sailing vessels was indisputable; but we might have an irresistible fleet of sailing vessels lying wind bound and absolutely useless without steamers to bring them to bear on a hostile force. The invention of steam had brought other countries more on a level with us; and if we had not placed ourselves in the position we now happily occupied by a large increase in our steam navy, it might truly have been said, as it was said by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden), that "the invention of steam was a curse instead of a blessing to this country." Thanks to the exertions of two successive Boards of Admiralty, we could now bid defiance to any foe.


could by no means admit that the invention of steam had placed other countries on a level with England, abounding as she did with iron and coal, which formed the chief elements of efficiency in that arm of the naval service. It was utterly ridiculous for the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty to state that the invention of steam had placed this coun- try relatively in a worse position than our neighbours.

Vote agreed to.

Several other votes agreed to.

At three o'clock,


thought it would be very desirable that the Chairman should resume the chair at five o'clock, without reporting progress, in order to avoid the discussions which might take place on the Motion of again resolving into Committee of Supply.

Chairman left the chair.

House adjourned till five o'clock. At five, House again in Committee of Supply.


having resumed his place, put the question that a sum of 557,213l. be granted to Her Majesty for the expense of naval stores, and for the building and repair of ships.


wished to call attention to the course which had been taken in Committee to-day. After the suspension of the sitting, the Chairman, without having previously reported progress, had resumed the chair. His object in calling attention to the subject was merely to afford the noble Lord opposite an opportunity of stating that this was an extraordinary case, in order that it might not be drawn into a precedent. He believed that, if the business of the House had proceeded in the usual course, it had been the intention of an hon. Gentleman near him to put an important question to the President of the Board of Trade with reference to railways.


observed, that a general desire had been expressed at the early sitting that the Chairman should resume the chair in Committee at five o'clock, in the same way as was done by the Speaker after the morning sittings of the House. He had consulted the Speaker to ascertain whether there was any objection in point of form to such a proceeding; and that right hon. Gentleman expressed his opinion that the Chairman of a Committee of the whole House might resume the chair under such circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman said, however, that he was not aware that there was any precedent for such a course, and that if there was any objection, the better plan would be not to press it. There did not seem to be any objection on the part of any Member of the House to such a course being taken; but if any objection was felt, he (Lord J. Russell) would at once move that the Chairman report progress.

Vote agreed to.

On the question that 519,740l. be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge of the half-pay of the officers of the Navy and Royal Marines.


called the attention of the House to the case of commanders and lieutenants. From the state of the half-pay list, promotion was absolutely at a stop as far as the great bulk of those deserving and meritorious officers were concerned, and they saw themselves excluded from all hope of rising to a higher grade in their profession. There were 879 commanders, 96 of whom were on full pay. The first 150 on the list received 10s. a day, the remainder 8s. 6d. The fifty commanders who retired as captains under the Order in Council, in 1840, on 10s. 6d. a day, ought to receive something-like the upper class of masters, say 12s. 6d. a day; and he would suggest that to the fifty senior commanders of the 150 who had retired as such, a similar allowance of 12s. 6d. a day should be awarded. With respect to the lieutenants, he would abolish the difference between the two classes. He would have both lists amalgamated, and to all he would grant a respectable retiring allowance. He suggested that the money now paid to admirals and captains as freight on money should be appropriated to this purpose. There was another class of officers—the paymasters and pursers—who were fairly entitled to a favourable consideration. They were 300 strong, and yet the retired list only numbered thirty. He would increase that list to fifty, and give them all a decent allowance. He threw out these suggestions with the best possible intentions, and he hoped that they would be received in a corresponding spirit.


gave the gallant Officer credit for the best intentions, but was not quite sure that his plan would be found very practicable. As for the lieutenant-commanders, he did not think that they were quite as badly treated as the hon. and gallant Gentleman appeared to suppose. It should be borne in mind that those of them who retired as commanders in 1815, did not serve one day in that capacity. They received their promotion and their half-pay allowance accordingly, in full acquittance of all claims. Of those who had retired as lieutenants, 116 had served less than one year; 102 less than three years, and 109 less than four years.


regarded this vote as one that ought to receive particular attention. It was a very serious thing to the public interest that the perpetual half-pay should be very nearly equal to the whole of the active pay; and if the ordinary service were reduced to what it was in the year 1845, the whole of the active full pay would little exceed the half-pay of the present time. By a rule of the Admiralty, passed in 1830, the promotions were to be restricted to one for every three vacancies that occurred. Now, according to a return which was laid before the House on the 30th February, 1847, it appeared that 245 vacancies for flag officers had occurred, and instead of 81 promotions, which was the proportion allowed by the Admiralty's rule, 189 had actually taken place. Why, he asked, should the rule have been broken through in this manner? Again, 316 vacancies for captains had been filled up by 365 promotions; whereas, the proportion, according to the rule of 1830, ought to have been only 105. What was the use of laying down rules if they were to be violated in this way? Again, 315 commanders had died within the same period, and no less than 685 promotions had been made; which, instead of being one for every three, as required by the rule, was actually in the proportion of two for every one that died. Again, 1,049 lieutenants had died, which, including 48 for the coastguard, would have called for, agreeably to the rule, only 397; but what was the fact? Why, as many as 1,224 had been made from the date of the order to limit the promotions. There could be little use for rules if they were to be set aside in this manner. He did not, however, blame any particular Admiralty, because all Admiralties were the same. Their political situation unfortunately obliged the Government to reward services by an addition to the pension list. Every promotion in the Navy was an addition to the pension list. The Committee had recommended that they should be reduced from 150, the present number, to 100; but the Admiralty, he understood, were not disposed to adopt this recommendation. At present only 14 admirals were actually employed; and he believed that even to leave 100 upon the list would be a larger number than was necessary.


said, the hon. Member for Montrose's figures were incorrect; and in fact the rule relative to promotions had steadily been adhered to.


said, the hon. Member for Montrose had omitted from his calculation those officers who had forced themselves into promotion by gallant services in every quarter of the globe.

Vote agreed to.

Other votes agreed to.