HC Deb 25 April 1865 vol 178 cc1002-13

said, he rose to ask leave to bring in a Bill to provide for the better government of Greenwich Hospital, and the more beneficial application of the revenues thereof. Towards the end of last Session, in a debate raised by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay), he had stated in general terms what were the views of the Government with respect to the future management of the Hospital and the application of its revenues. In a few words the position of the Hospital at that time was this—it was enjoying an income of £154,000 per annum, and the expenditure in connection with it was about £134,000, so that there was a surplus, real or apparent, of about £20,000. He said "real or apparent," because the real surplus was not so large; a portion of the income was only of a temporary nature, and provision was made for investing it. He stated the expenditure of the Hospital in connection with seamen and marines at £107,700, or £70 per head. He said that the Commissioners, in their Report, had stated that an endeavour should be made to increase the numbers in the Hospital from 1,600 to 2,300; but, in spite of every endeavour to increase the number by additional gratuities, additional advantages to married men, additional comforts in the Hospital and otherwise, instead of an increase, when he spoke in the beginning of June last year, there were only 1,508 inmates. He stated that the Admiralty had very carefully considered the whole subject, and the evidence taken by the Commission; and, having in view the opinion indicated by the Commissioners themselves—in the event of their plan to attract more men into the Hospital failing—the Government had come to the conclusion that, instead of endeavouring to attract a larger number of seamen into Greenwich Hospital by additional gratuities and the greater comforts that might be given to them, and thus only making more expensive an institution which, however suited to a past age, was of a quasi-monastic character, and not so well adapted to the exigencies of the present time, it would be better to ascertain whether the very large funds at the disposal of the Hospital might not be expended in a manner better calculated to meet the wants of the old sailors to whom those funds belonged. He stated, with reference to the recommendations of the Commission, and the notorious evils of the double government of the Hospital, that the Government had taken up the question as a whole, and as they were proposing to make a very great change with respect to the admission of seamen into the Hospital, the whole management should be treated de novo, and established on a more satisfactory basis. It was then proposed to limit the admission to infirm and helpless seamen, and to pensioners who require medical assistance of a temporary character, making the Hospital serve for pensioners as Haslar did for seamen in the service, as well as an asylum when they were unable to take care of themselves. The number estimated to be provided for would be thus reduced to 600 seamen and marines. They then proposed to apply the large and increased funds at the disposal of the Hospital to increasing the out-pensions of seamen after certain ages, and giving additional retirements to officers. The government of the Hospital should henceforth be under the same system that prevailed at Haslar; and the management of the Hospital revenues would be entirely distinct from that of the expenditure. With respect to the officers and clerks employed, the Government proposed to compensate them liberally. A great variety of details were involved, but he had promised that during the recess a joint Committee of the Treasury and Admiralty would be appointed, and that he hoped at an early period in the present Session a measure would be proposed to carry the scheme into effect. The Admiralty had complied literally with the engagement he then made. In the first instance, they had altered the regulations with regard to admissions to the Hospital, limiting them to wounded and maimed or infirm and helpless seamen and marines, and those who were in want of medical assistance. Later in the year a joint Committee of the Treasury and Admiralty was appointed, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Richard Bromley, and himself; and though the serious illness of Sir Richard Bromley had caused some delay, they had made a Report in February which had been carefully considered by the two Departments, and the measure he now asked leave to introduce was founded on that Report. He need not say that that Committee did not inquire into, nor were they responsible for, the general features of the scheme. The principles had been laid down for them in the Admiralty Minute, in which the Treasury concurred. He would lay on the table all the papers on the subject, which would show what difficulties had been experienced with respect to some of the details; as to which, however, nothing would be kept from the House. He would now state to the House what they proposed to do with respect to the management of the income of Greenwich Hospital, That income was now about £154,000 a year, and it arose first from the interest on certain invested moneys; next from a grant of £20,000 from the Consolidated Fund in lieu of the old deductions from merchant seamen's wages called seamen's sixpences; and lastly from rents of estates in the North and in the neighbourhood of Greenwich amounting to about £40,000 a year. The Government proposed that the management of this income should be kept perfectly distinct from that of the expenditure of the Hospital, and should be placed under the guardianship of that House. The entire expenditure connected with Greenwich Hospital would appear in the Estimates, so that the House of Commons would have complete control over it. With respect to the income, they had considered it most necessary to provide that, under no circumstances, should the income of Greenwich Hospital be regarded as part of the general revenue of the country. That income was applicable to certain specified purposes which had been defined by law, and would continue to be so applied; and although the House would be able to object to any part of its expenditure, it should not have the power of applying the income to other purposes. At the same time, it was rather difficult satisfactorily to constitute a department for the management of this income. To retain three Commissioners, a Secretary, and Treasurer, with all their paraphernalia, would be absurd, nor would it be proper to leave to a single Commissioner the entire management of estates of such magnitude. It had been, indeed, proposed to associate unpaid Commissioners with a paid officer, but the experience of boards so composed was not favourable. What the Government proposed was that an officer should be appointed by law, to be called "The Controller of the Greenwich Hospital Estate," and that the estates themselves should be vested in the Board of Admiralty, and should be managed by this Officer, who would be placed under its direction. By this means they anticipated that they would obtain, on the one hand, economical management, for he need not say that the department which would be required would be a very small one; and, on the other, complete security that the estates should be kept altogether separate from other public estates of the country by being vested in a body specially responsible for the affairs of the navy. Passing from the management of I the income, what they proposed as to the expenditure was, that in the first instance the whole expenditure on account of Greenwich—that was, on account of the Establishment at Greenwich itself, and the out-pensions and retirements, which would be a charge upon the Greenwich Estate—should be provided by a Vote of Parliament, and that the arrangements as to pensions and the Establishment at Greenwich should be subject to Orders in Council, in the same way that other j arrangements under the direction of the Admiralty were subject to such Orders; that the income of Greenwich should be carried to a separate account in the books of the Paymaster General, and that at the end of the year, when the actual expenditure on account of these services had been ascertained and certified by the Commissioners of Audit, that amount should be transferred to the credit of the Consolidated Fund from the Greenwich Hospital account, so that if there was a balance in favour of that account the balance might be invested for its benefit; and if, unfortunately, there was a balance against it, the deficiency should be made up out of the capital. In that way the account of the income and expenditure of Greenwich Hospital would be kept entirely separate from that of the other income and expenditure of the country; and that House would have entire control over every shilling expended in connection with Greenwich. They also proposed very largely to extend the functions of the Commissioners of Audit. At present the details of the landed income were not audited by those Commissioners. It was proposed by this Bill to impose upon them the duty of auditing both the income and expenditure of the Hospital; the former being audited in the same way as the income of the Crown estates, and the latter like any other naval charges. The amount of the income, as estimated by the Commissioners for the present year, was £154,600. The Bill proposed that in the first place this should be devoted to the maintenance at Greenwich of a Hospital and Infirmary, providing for the accommodation of 600 seamen. A detailed estimate of that expenditure had been prepared, and it showed that the amount required for that purpose, including gratuities and all expenses of management, would be about £45,000 a year. The Schools would be maintained as at present. They now cost £22,000 a year, and the future expenditure had been estimated at £23,000, making a local expenditure at Greenwich of £68,000. It was next proposed to grant special additional out-pensions, to be called "Greenwich out-pensions," to all out-pensioners exceeding a certain age, according to a scale which he would describe to the House. The pensioners at present varied in age from about forty to about eighty years of age. The Government proposed to take fifty-five as the age at which pensioners should be entitled to some additional boon, and to provide that, at that age, an additional pension of 5d. a day should be granted to them, provided that they had been on the list for five years. At seventy they proposed that the pensioner should receive 9d additional instead of 5d., but that this addition should be given to those only who had been on the pension list for ten years. The total number of out-pensioners, according to a Return which the Admiralty received from the War Office at Christmas last, was 11,909. Of these there were over seventy years of age, who had enjoyed their pensions for more than ten years, 1,352, and over fifty-five years of age, who had been in the receipt of pensions for five years, about 2,965; so that the number of out-pensioners who would receive the additional Greenwich out-pensions would be 4,317. To that must be added a sufficient allowance for those who, under the present system, were in-pensioners of Greenwich. There were at present in Greenwich Hospital 356 men over seventy, and 429 over fifty-five years of age, who would be out-pensioners if they chose to leave the Hospital. Altogether, they calculated that provision should be made for 5,000 out-pensioners, at a cost of about £48,000. In addition it was necessary to make a fair provision for the loss which the officers of the navy would sustain from the change in the arrangements. He was aware that he was here treading upon disputed ground. The members of the Commission rather tended to the opinion that the funds of Greenwich Hospital were intended solely for the benefit of seamen, and that it was unjust to apply any part of them to the relief of officers. The Admiralty did not entertain that view, and they therefore proposed that fair consideration should be given to officers as well as to seamen. There were at present out-pensions to officers—called "out-pensions of Greenwich Hospital," formerly chargeable on the Hospital funds—payable to ten captains, fifteen commanders, fifty lieutenants, and fifteen masters, in all ninety. They proposed to add to these, pensions to six captains, nine commanders, thirty lieutenants, and five masters. They also thought that it would be fair, considering what other ranks would lose by the change, to add fifteen pay-masters and nine warrant officers. This, altogether, would give out-pensions to seventy-eight additional officers, at a cost of £3,990, and they proposed to charge these on the Hospital funds. In addition to that they proposed to make the following arrangement with reference to flag officers. At present flag officers were in receipt of considerable advantages from Greenwich Hospital. The Governor and Deputy Governor were distinguished Admirals, and he need not say anything of the great merits of those very distinguished officers. If Greenwich was to be managed like a hospital there would be no necessity for having these officers, and they proposed to make the following arrangements. There was a list of reserved flag officers called the "A" list, upon which no officer was placed unless he was seventy years of age or had received some great injury in the service. These officers were in receipt of an extra good service pension of £150 in addition to their half-pay. It was proposed to increase the present number by six. On the other hand, whilst making this addition to the "A" list, it was proposed to reduce the "active list" by six flag officers. There was also attached to the "A" list, and in one sense forming part of it, the reserved flag list of Greenwich Hospital, which contained at present four names. As vacancies occurred in this list it was intended to add to the "A" list, so that in the end that list would consist of twenty instead of ten. The addition, however, of the six would be spread over three years—that is, two a year; and the reduction of the active list would be of four Rear Admirals, one Vice Admiral, and one Admiral, beginning with the Rear Admirals. The whole plan would make provision as follows—for flag-officers £1,500 a year; for 78 officers, in the shape of out pensions, £3,990; and for 5,000 seamen in a similar manner. £48,000. It was also their duty to make an equitable arrangement between the Treasury and Greenwich Hospital, because, as the House was probably aware, a sailor, on entering the Hospital, resigned his out-pension so that from the entry of each sailor into the Hospital the Treasury received a certain advantage They now proposed, therefore, that the Treasury should receive out of the funds of the Hospital £15 a head for the number of inmates falling short of an average of 1,400, so that when the numbers were ultimately reduced to 600, the credit to the Treasury would amount to £12,000 This would act as a set-off against the £20,000 which the Hospital received from the Treasury. With respect to the widows' gratuities, they proposed to continue the present system, under which the widows of seamen drowned or killed in Her Majesty's service were entitled to gratuities from the Greenwich estate; but instead of setting aside a fixed sum to form a fund, those gratuities would be paid out of the Votes by Parliament, but charged in the same way as other charges in the settlement of the account with Greenwich Hospital. The result of these charges would leave a surplus on the total income of the Hospital, amounting to £154,000, of something over £13,000 a year, which would be left for accumulation in precisely the same way that the funds of Greenwich Hospital were at present left to accumulate. He must point out to the House that during the first two years of the new system they did not anticipate that the number of men in the Hospital would be reduced to the 600 for which provision was made, as the ultimate establishment. In order to meet this, they proposed the first year to limit the number of extra out-pensions to seamen to 3,000, and in the second to 4,000, bringing the number to the maximum of 5,000 in the third year. In the same way they proposed that only two of the six additional flag officers' out-pensions, and twenty-six of the additional officers' out-pensions should be granted the first year, similar additions being made in each of the two following years. The anticipated saving from this arrangement would, in the first year, amount to nearly £30,000, and in the second to nearly £15,000, and as the whole expenditure of the Hospital would be £45,000, he thought that would be a quite sufficient sum to provide for the gradual reduction of the seamen in the establishment. There could, he believed, be no doubt that the reduction would take place very rapidly. He had watched very carefully the change which had been effected by the regulation of last year. When he addressed the House in June 1864, upon this subject there were over 1,500 pensioners in the Hospital, but the number was now about 100 less. That change had been effected merely by restricting the admission to infirm and helpless seamen, and he had no doubt that the increased out-pension would bring about a far more rapid reduction. He also proposed under this Bill to give power by Order in Council to the Admiralty to grant to those now in the Hospital who might elect to leave not only the amount of the new out-pensions, but also something in addition, not to exceed the amount of the money gratuity they receive in the establishment, with respect to the future numbers. The total number of infirm and helpless men in the Hospital was now something under 450; and he did not expect that, under ordinary circumstances, 600 would ever be exceeded. He might add that they proposed leaving the Commissioners and the military officers in the enjoyment of precisely the amount of salary and emolument which they now received. He believed that it would be unadvisable to swell the superannuation list for this purpose, and they therefore proposed to purchase at the Government Annuity Office, out of the capital fund of the Hospital, annuities equal in value to the amount of the salaries paid to those officers, including of course the value of their residences, and other allowances. The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor would both have the option of leaving the Hospital on these terms, or of remaining in the enjoyment of their titles and of the residences in which they at present dwelt. The compensation would be made by the investment in annuities of about £170,000 or £180,000 out of the capital stock of the Hospital, which amounted altogether to nearly £3,000,000. With respect to the clerks, many would continue to be employed, either at Greenwich or elsewhere, and provision would be made for the superannuation of the rest. He had now gone through the general features of the measure. Some of those arrangements would be provided for in the Bill, others were within the competence of the Admiralty. The Bill provided for the management of the income of the Hospital; it gave power to the Queen in Council to make the necessary orders with respect to the establishment and to the additional pensions to officers and men; it charged those pensions on the Hospital funds, but provided that they must first be voted by Parliament. It also provided for the auditing of the accounts. He believed that the proposal which he had detailed to the House would be regarded by the service as advantageous. If the House would consider the general effect of the measure—that, instead of the advantages of the Hospital being confined to 1,400 men, their enjoyment would be extended to 6,000, he believed that the proposed alterations would generally be deemed satisfactory, and suitable to the present condition of affairs. As they had striven for the attainment of only one object—the best application of the funds to the purposes for which they were intended, he hoped that the measure would he received by both sides of the House with the favourable consideration which had been exhibited on a former occasion. The hon. Gentleman then moved for leave to introduce the Bill.

Moved, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the better government of Greenwich Hospital and the more beneficial application of the Revenues thereof.—(Mr. Childers.)


said, that with a great deal of what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman every body must agree. Having himself had an opportunity some time since of examining into the affairs of Greenwich Hospital, he had arrived at the conclusion that in order to effect the most good with the funds at the disposal of the Hospital a larger number of out-pensions should be granted. Circumstances and habits had greatly changed since the time when the Hospital was first established, and pensioners were able to obtain a greater amount of comfort in their own homes than they could obtain at the same cost in the Hospital. He had listened with some anxiety to the statement of the hon. Gentleman in order to obtain some information upon two points. He was desirous to know what the duties of the Controller of Greenwich Hospital were to be, for if it was intended to make the establishment merely a Department of the Admiralty, and that the administration of its affairs was to be yearly considered by Parliament, he thought that was a subject upon which much difference of opinion might be expected. He also wished to know what was to be the ultimate destination of the magnificent building at Greenwich. It was proposed to retain only 600 pensioners there, and he wanted to know how the remaining accommodation, which was sufficient for 2,000, was to be employed. He thought it would be a useful application of the surplus accommodation to provide naval barracks, which were much wanted, and by so doing set Haslar free.


said, that representing the landed property which formed the bulk of the Hospital estate, he felt a great interest in this subject, and was glad to be able to express his approval of much that had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers). At the same time, while approving generally of the scheme, he must guard himself against approving all the complicated details until he had an opportunity of considering the Bill. As to the future use to be made of the buildings at Greenwich they must not overlook the possibility of a future naval war, when a necessity for extra accommodation for wounded seamen would arise. It would therefore be necessary to keep many of the wards in a state of preparation for such contingency. With regard to the present surplus of the Hospital funds the amount of £11,000 a year did not exactly represent the real amount, as £2,000 was expended for insurances, and the remainder was funded to meet the contingency of an exhaustion of the minerals upon the Hospital estates. He understood that the future surplus under the proposed scheme would be only £13,000. The margin of £2,000 between the two surpluses seemed to be rather a narrow one to provide for the increased accommodation that would be required in case of our being engaged in a naval war. With regard to the very large extra amount of allowances which it was intended to bestow upon officers under the new scheme, he thought they were entitled to participate in its advantages, but it did not appear to him to be just that the State should profit by throwing upon the revenues of the Hospital any greater amount of retiring allowances than the officers would have been entitled to had the institution been kept up in its entirety.


said, he wished to give his general concurrence to the scheme, but he agreed with some of the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell). It seemed to him that the Treasury should not be relieved to the extent of £14,000 a year out of the £20,000 how paid by the country towards the maintenance of the Hospital. That would be appropriating charity money to State purposes, which he thought the House would not sanction. He thought the reduction in the flag list of officers was in the right direction, but he did not think that the cost should be paid out of the Hospital revenues. The sum to be paid back into the Treasury ought, in his opinion, to be funded in order to meet the possible increase of accommodation that might be required for wounded seamen in time of war. All these, and other points which had been referred to, were matters of detail, and could be better considered at a future stage of the Bill. He was glad to find that the monastic seclusion to which seamen had been condemned in Greenwich Hospital would be done away with, and that they would be allowed to enjoy their pensions at their own homes.


said, he thought it would be convenient to defer any explanation of details until the Bill had been printed. He would only observe in answer to the question that had been asked about the disposal of the building at Greenwich, after the reduction in the number of inmates, that, as had been remarked by another hon. Member, in case of a naval war additional hospital accommodation would he needed, and the building would be reserved for that purpose. The hon. and gallant Officer opposite (Sir John Hay) seemed to think that the revenues of Greenwich Hospital were to be saddled with allowances to flag officers, but what was intended was to grant a certain number of out-pensions from the Hospital funds, and the officers would receive their half-pay as before. There would be a certain reduction in the active flag list and an increase in the reserved flag list on half-pay.


said, he had not risen to offer any opposition to the first reading of the Bill, indeed he should have thought any BUCII intention unseemly—he, however, though abstaining from entering into the details of the measure, which had been with such clearness and succintness set forth by the hon. Member (Mr. Childers), could not refrain from expressing the surprise and regret he felt at the proposition for displacing the Governor and Lieutenant Governor from the positions they now held. The position of those officers, in his opinion, added greatly to the comfort and advantage of the Pensioners and the general resources of the Asylum. The inmates had immemorially been accustomed to regard these officers with reverence, either in having gallantly led them into action or from having been disabled or maimed like themselves in their country's service, and to maintain discipline and ensure the efficiency of the Institution. He would further observe the public had always associated these officers with the names of distinguished and successful Naval Commanders. He therefore trusted this matter would be re-considered before the Bill was submitted for a second reading.


said, that those officers were expressly excepted; that they were to have the option of remaining where they were, and that that exception was mentioned in the Bill.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to provide for the better Government of Greenwich Hospital, and the more beneficial application of the Revenues thereof, ordered to be brought in by Mr. CHILDERS, Lord CLARENCE PAGET, and Mr. ADAM.

Bill presented, and read 1°. [Bill 113.]