HC Deb 27 July 1859 vol 155 cc496-500

said, he would not repeat the statement which he had made to the House the other night on the subject of Greenwich Hospital. He had brought forward this question for the last three or four years, and successive Boards of Admiralty had promised amendment, but he had always been deceived. The fact was that at present the officers in the hospital were treated in one way and the men in another, and he did not think the House should delay to do what was an act of simple justice. It had been proved that the Navy was an unpopular service, and no means ought to be left untried to remove such an impression. That being so, he should persist in the Motion of which he had given notice.

Amendment proposed,— To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to ap-appoint a Commission to inquire into the Management of Greenwich Hospital, instead thereof.'


said, his noble Friend (Lord C. Paget) had been called away on professional duty, and in his absence he should be obliged to oppose the Motion, as he hardly thought the House was prepared to enter upon a course which must entail a serious expenditure. The gallant Admiral had stated on a previous occasion that the salaries of the officers of Greenwich Hospital amounted to £25,000, while the sum spent on the maintenance of the pensioners was only £33,000 a year. He had, however, omitted a great many items which ought to be included in the cost of maintaining the men, such as £5,000 for the wages of the servants, who were most of them pensioners, £6,000 for clothing, £4,000 for household stores, together with the cost of maintaining the sick in the infirmary, and two or three other items, which really raised the pensioners' account to something like £60,000 a year. He complained, too, that some of the Commissioners were nonresident, the fact being that only one of them was, and that because there was no residence for him. There might be some points in the management of the hospital which admitted of improvement, but the present Admiralty had been so short a time in office it was impossible for them to have examined the subject. During the recess, however, they would look into the funds and the expenditure, and would endeavour to carry out any improvements, which appeared desirable. Meanwhile, he put it to the House whether it was worth while to incur the expense of a Commission.


said, he did not think that in such a case the expense of a Commission ought to stand in the way of inquiry. The question had come before the Commissioners for Manning the Navy, who came to the conclusion that the question was so large a one, and the abuses were so many, that it was impossible for them to deal with them without travelling out of the proper limits of their authority. The Commissioners certainly expected that an inquiry would be made, and he thought that four or five naval officers could be assembled at small expense to give their opinion on the points at issue. The circumstance that the Government had recently come into office was no reason why a Commission should not issue.


said, he had no doubt that many improvements might be introduced into the management, of the hospital, but he did not believe any jobbing or peculation existed there, and from his knowledge of the officers he could say that a more zealous and honourable set of men never existed. Abuses did not prevail at Greenwich so much as at Whitehall.


said, he hoped that the gallant Admiral would not persevere in his Motion, seeing that the present Board of Admiralty could have had no opportunity of examining into the subject. The career of the late Board, too, had been cut short before they were enabled to inquire. Much dissatisfaction certainly prevailed respecting the management of Greenwich Hospital, and next year, failing any action on the part of the Government, he should be very happy to support the Motion for a Commission.


said, the Motion was not brought on in opposition to the Government. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lygon) admitted that great improvements were necessary, and the best way to bring them about would be to have an inquiry by a Commission. He felt disposed to hope that the hon. and gallant Member's Motion would have been passed unanimously. Upon what ground was it opposed? Why, solely on the ground of expense. But he thought that the expense must depend upon management, and he could not admit the validity of the excuse. The hon. and gallant Admiral was in earnest in his Motion, and his exertions on behalf of the navy were fully appreciated by the public. Year after year he had pointed out the abuses without obtaining a remedy; and it was high time for the House to interfere. He hoped, therefore, the hon. and gallant Admiral would divide the House on the question.


said, he wished the House to understand that the question was not whether there should or should not be an inquiry, but whether that inquiry should be conducted in the first instance by the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty and other officers of that department, or by a Commission. The question of expense certainly ought not to be overlooked, and he wished to put it to the House by which of the two ways the inquiry was likely to be more satisfactorily and economically carried out.


said, the same pro raises of reforming abuses had been made, and had invariably been broken, by successive Boards of Admiralty. It was the duty of the House, therefore, to step forward and intrust the inquiry to men who would form a strictly impartial opinion on the subject.


said, he thought the House was not then in a position to decide the question. He for one was not prepared to submit this question to four or five old Admirals. He thought the inquiry ought not to be made without more definite materials than the House had before them at present.


said, the hon. Member who had just spoken could hardly have been in the House when the hon, and gallant Admiral made his statement the other night. On that occasion so many abuses and grievances were brought forward as to convince him (Mr. Spooner) that an inquiry ought no longer to be delayed. Promises to that effect had been frequently made, but, as it appeared, those promises were never kept. He should therefore support the Motion.


said, the necessity of an inquiry was undisputed, and the only question was how it should be conducted. In his opinion it would be better to leave the question in the hands of the Admiralty, for if his noble Friend the Duke of Somerset undertook an inquiry, no man would carry it out more efficiently. He had some considerable suspicions as to inquiries by Commissions, and he was satisfied that if the House wanted the thing done well it was better to commit such inquiries to the Government. Let the Government be held responsible for the correction of these abuses, instead of transferring that responsibility to a Commission.


said, that there seemed to be some confusion as to the functions of a Commission. You did not take away the responsibility of a Government by setting a Commission to inquire. "Depend upon the Government," said the right hon. Baronet. He would do no such thing. Tell him what the evil was, and then he could hold the Government responsible for curing it, but he would not depend on the Government for telling him, and a Commission, therefore, was absolutely necessary. He recollected an inquiry into the Municipal Corporations and an inquiry into the Poor Law. Did anybody suppose that the Government could have carried out those inquiries without assistance? The fact was that Greenwich Hospital was known as a very nest of corruption, and he would not trust any but persons independent of the Ministry with the duty of inquiring into it.


said, he would request the hon. and gallant Admiral to wait and see what the Government would do. If he found that their pledges were not fulfilled, it would be time to move for a Commission. At present he (Mr. Angerstcin) was willing to support the Government.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: —Ayes 142; Noes 82: Majority 60.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee.