HC Deb 29 May 1865 vol 179 cc996-1019

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he would ask the House, if they did not object to the principle of the Bill, to agree to its being now read a second time proformâ, as several clauses would have to be re-considered with reference to the disposition of the funds of the Hospital. If the House would consent to adopt the course he proposed, the Government would present the Bill for their consideration on a future day. He would not now enter upon the details, and his hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) had already explained the principle of the measure.

Motion made, and Question proposed,"That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Lord Clarence Paget.)


I do not understand in what position I am placed by the proposition of the noble Lord. I am sorry my hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) is not in the House, as there are several points on which I intended to ask for explanations with regard to the intentions of the Admiralty. I do not wish unfairly to delay the Bill, but I think I had better now state the points which I regard with doubt, and on which I desire to elicit from the Government some statement of what their intentions are. There are, no doubt, faults in the management of Greenwich Hospital which call for reform, and as this Bill professes to reform them, I suppose we ought not to object to it. On one point everybody is agreed: it is that the double government of Greenwich Hospital is bad, and no doubt my hon. Friend is right in putting an end to it. Another point is the intention of the Government to diminish the number of inmates and increase the number of out-pensioners. I have no very strong opinion on that, but I believe from the inquiries I have made there is a general concurrence on the subject, and I am willing to think the proposal is right. But it appears to me that the Admiralty is mistaken as to what will be the immediate effects of their proposal. They are to reduce the number to about 600, it being now about 1,400; but I believe this, upon their own showing, cannot take place until a considerable lapse of time. The proposal is to give out-pensions to all those not absolutely infirm and physically incapable of leaving the Hospital, so that they may live with their own families. This is to be done by granting pensions of 5d. per day, to be raised to 9d. per day after seventy years of age. But at present there are money allowances—in addition to clothing, board, lodging, and all the comforts of the establishment—of 3s., 4s., and 5s. per week; and 5d. per day, according to Cocker, is just one penny less than the least of these sums. I have reason to believe that not more than 100—out of the 1,400 inmates—at the utmost will be willing to accede to the terms offered by the Government and become out-pensioners. The House will see that this raises an important question as to the future government of the Hospital, respecting which I am anxious to have some information from the Admi- ralty. I find nothing in the Bill with regard to the future government of the Hospital. I may, perhaps, be told to look at the Report of the Committee, and that it is the intention of the Government to carry out its recommendations. I cannot help thinking it would have been better to have given the mode of government a place in the Bill, because that Report, although laid upon the table of the House, has no authority and gives no power. If, however, I am to draw my information on this point from the Report, I confess it involves me in serious doubt, if it be intended to place it on the same footing as Haslar and Netley, and to make it a mere hospital in the ordinary sense of the word for sheltering sick, wounded, or disabled sailors. This magnificent establishment has always been regarded by sailors who have served their country long and with distinction as a refuge for their old age; but I understand you are to have no Governor. That office, which has been so long an object of ambition to our naval heroes, is to be superseded by a captain superintendent with a staff. I confess that I regard this part of the scheme with very great doubt, and I should be glad to hear that the future government of the institution will be on a scale more consonant with what Greenwich Hospital has hitherto been. Another point on which I wish for information is the intention of the Government with regard to naval officers. My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield says the Hospital was not intended for naval officers, and that naval officers ought not to be there. I cannot subscribe to that doctrine. I cannot conceive that by the words Used in the charters naval officers are excluded; but if it were so, I think by long prescription and long usage officers have a right to a place in Greenwich Hospital. I, for one, should deprecate any change which would deprive such a deserving class of men of the benefits of the establishment. The Bill on this point does not disclose the intentions of Government. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: Look at Clause 5.] Yes; Clause 5 says that it shall be lawful for Her Majesty in Council to appoint and grant such pensions as she shall think fit to naval officers, &c, but Her Majesty had that power before, and the clause leaves the House in complete ignorance as to the intentions of the Admiralty on this subject. The Report of the Committee, however, proposes to add to the number of pensions seventy-eight additional ones of £50, £65, and £80, according to circumstances, and to flag officers £150 a year, as compensation for the rights which are to be abolished. It is a serious question whether the officers of the Royal Navy will consider that a satisfactory substitute for Greenwich Hospital. But if this plan is to be adopted and pensions substituted, I beg to remind the Admiralty that they have made a serious omission by leaving out all mention of the surgeons, and an important and growing class of naval officers, the engineers. So far as the plan of management of the property of the Hospital is revealed by the Bill, it appears to have been framed on the.principle—"open your mouth, and But your eyes, and see what the Admiralty will give you." The Bill appeals everywhere to a degree of confidence in the Admiralty, which I am afraid this House has always been slow to entertain. I believe there is a necessity for reform, but it appears to me from this Bill as if the Admiralty had set to work heedlessly to alter everything; and with one single exception—that of a want of audit of accounts and a sufficient check on the management—I am inclined to believe the management now is better than that which is proposed to take its place. It is now managed by Commissioners; but those Commissioners cannot take any important step without consent of the Board of Admiralty. This Bill sweeps away Commissioners, Admirals, and Governors, and leaves nothing and nobody but a captain superintendent, who is to be an officer of the Admiralty under their control, and liable to be discharged at any moment. If that proposition be carried out, either the property will be administered by an irresponsible officer, or the whole management will be thrown into the hands of the Board of Admiralty, which is already overwhelmed with work. It would have been much better to have appointed a body of independent Commissioners acting under patent from the Crown, but subject to the check of the Admiralty; and I must confess that the sketch of government made by Sir Richard Bromley, at the request of the Duke of Somerset, was much better. I wish also to express some doubts as to Clause 20, which provides that the cost of managing the Schools and Hospital shall be defrayed out of the sums voted by Parliament for that purpose. Reading the words of the Bill with those in the Report of the Commission, I find that the expenditure of the Hospital is to be included every year in the Navy Estimates; that the amount of that expenditure is to be voted out of the Consolidated Fund, and that the sum so advanced is to he repaid out of the revenues of the Hospital Estates. What possible reason can there be for this confusion of the expenditure of the Hospital with that of the navy? The first duty of the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty in moving the Naval Estimates will be to explain that the item under the head of "Greenwich Hospital" has no earthly connection with those Estimates. Then, again, why is this large sum to be paid in the first instance out of funds to be voted by Parliament for the purpose? why cannot Greenwich Hospital, with its enormous revenue, pay its own expenses? This expenditure will increase the Navy Estimates by about £150,000 a year, and on the other side the income, about £180,000 a year, will appear—a blundering arrangement, which appears to me to be very likely to realize the fears expressed in the Minute of the Board of Admiralty of November 28, 1864, which says that— On the one hand there will he a danger that property left for a special purpose will he merged into the general property of the nation, but on the other hand the expenditure will be subject to the revision of Parliament. I quite admit that a full statement should be laid on the table of the House of the receipts and expenditure; but I feel that as the matter is now placed there is great danger of the confusion apprehended by the Board of Admiralty in 1864. I ask the House to give its serious attention to another point, and I take the first opportunity of laying it before them. The 13th clause professes to be a general clause, and it is so very general in its terms that I doubt very much if any hon. Member who reads it without being in the secret will understand what it means. It is one that does not generally find favour in this House, and the less it is resorted to the better. The clause, though the Government has not the candour to own it, is directed against one individual—namely, Sir Richard Bromley. It is not the time for me to enter into his case, because my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) has given notice of his intention to take an opportunity of bringing the treatment of Sir Richard Bromley in a specific form before the House; but I have no hesitation in saying that this clause ought not to be allowed to remain in the Bill, and I hope the Government will in good time re-consider it. Serious differences have arisen between Sir Richard Bromley, and I will not say the Admiralty, because they have acted in a fair spirit in the matter, but between Sir Richard Bromley and the Treasury. These differences have raised a question of law, not as to whether he has been treated with generosity, but whether he has been treated legally, and the object of the 13th clause is to deprive him of any remedy he may have at law for the ill-treatment he believes himself to have received. I hope, however, that hon. Members of all parties will say that nothing of the kind ought to have been introduced into the Bill. Sir Richard Bromley is an eminent public servant, and his services have been frankly and fairly acknowledged by the Admiralty and the Treasury. My belief, in common with others, is, that the arrangement which has been made is not only ungenerous and inconsistent with a due regard for his public services, but that it is at variance with the law, and that it can be upset in our courts of justice. Whether he will resort to that remedy it is not for me to say; but I submit that the House ought not to allow a clause to be introduced into this Bill which will for one moment prejudice the right which every man thinks he has of redressing any grievance by appealing to the laws of his country. I am anxious, like many others, to see this noble charity placed on a proper basis, and I hope that what I have stated will be appreciated in the spirit in which I have made it. The observations I have made have not been dictated in any party spirit, but for the benefit of those who are the recipients of the charity.


said, he had to express his gratification at the introduction of a Bill to deal with the gross abuses of Greenwich Hospital, shown to exist by the Report which was presented some time since to that House. It appeared that the number of seamen had been diminishing, while the expenses of the administration had been increasing, until at length every unfortunate seaman was condemned to suffer all the vexation and inconvenience of being in the Hospital at an expense to the charity of £60 or £70 a year, being double what he could live for in greater happiness and comfort in another place. The Government had brought in a comprehensive measure for dealing with the abuses which struck at the root of the evil, but it was so comprehensive that he wished to ask for some explanations of the measure. The Bill proposed to place the whole of the funds of the Hospital under the entire control and management of the Admiralty. They were to have the discretionary power of appropriating the income for the benefit of the officers and seamen of Her Majesty's navy. Some schemes had been laid on the table of the House, but the Admiralty, in the future administration of the affairs of the Hospital, might say that they would be guided by circumstances as they arose, and would regard those schemes as the views only of the moment. The main feature of the present scheme, it was said, was to bring back the Hospital to the original purposes for which the structure was to be appropriated—namely, a place for the reception of persons disabled in body or in mind, and not to make it a mere asylum where the men were to live under a kind of semi-naval discipline. When it was said that this great charity was to be re-constituted upon an entirely new basis, he was entitled to ask the House to consider for what purposes it was originally founded. To ascertain what those purposes were they must look to the original charter and to the Acts which were passed before the completion, of the building, or certainly before the dotation of the Derwentwater estates, which formed the principal part of the landed property now vested in the Hospital. They found that in the first instance the charity was established for the benefit of seamen in Her Majesty's service, and he could not conceive by what rule of construction they applied the word seamen to officers, as was suggested by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich. Seamen alone were intended to be benefited by the first charter. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: Are not officers seamen?] Officers were persons who commanded seamen, and the old charter showed what were called common seamen in contradistinction to officers. The year after the charter was granted an Act of Parliament was passed, which more particularly defined the purposes of the foundation, and extended its benefits to all seamen, both of the Royal and mercantile marine. The language was of the most comprehensive character, and included mariners, seamen, watermen, fishermen, bargemen, or seafaring men, who, by any wounds or other accidents, should be disabled for future sea service, and not able to maintain themselves comfortably; and relief was also to be given to the children and widows. At that time there were no endowments and no funds for keeping up the Hospital, and a provision was made whereby a deduction of 6d. was made from the pay of all seamen, whether serving the Crown or in any vessel whatever belonging to any of the subjects of England or any of His Majesty's dominions, which clearly showed that the benefits of the Hospital were to be applied to seamen of every kind. In 1697 an Act was passed which showed more conclusively that every kind of seaman was to partake of the benefits of the Hospital, and it directed, in order to prevent favouritism and intrigues, that relief should be given to seamen according to their seniority of registration. So that the seamen of the commercial marine were to have the preference over the seamen of the Royal Navy if they were older on the registry. Another Act was passed in 1723, whereby power was given to the Admiralty to select persons for the benefit of the Hospital. This was in time of war, and doubtless intended to give preference to those seamen who had suffered in the war. Those Acts were all passed before the Hospital was in working and efficient order. An Act was subsequently passed which modified the practice of taking the men from the register, and it was not considered as a necessary precedent for obtaining a pension. Therefore the question arose, what were the rights of the commercial navy to a participation in the benefits of Greenwich Hospital. Between 140 and 150 years 6d. a month was exacted from the pay of the commercial navy towards supporting Greenwich Hospital, until from that and other sources it had accumulated a fund of £2,900,000. That sum was mainly made up from the contributions of the mercantile navy, and when the Admiralty proposed to sweep it away and place it at their own absolute disposal for the Royal Navy, it was but right that that House should inquire whether some consideration ought not to be shown to the commercial marine of the country, and he thought that a very good opportunity offered for their doing some justice to that large body of deserving men who had received but light treatment from the Admiralty. By the proposed arrangement there would be more room than would be required in Greenwich Hospital, and as that building should be kept in reserve for any future contingency he thought the Government would only be doing an act of justice to the mercantile marine if they appropriated a part of the building for the purposes of the present inadequate and inconvenient floating Hospital in the River Thames. When he considered the want of such accommodation, and that most of the sixpences were deducted from the bargemen and lightermen of the River Thames, who were always ready to serve the navy, and in time of war provided many thousands of the finest men of the navy, he thought they had a claim which ought to be somewhat respected by the Government before they appropriated in this sweeping manner the whole of the endowment for the benefit of the Royal Navy. The claims of the seamen ought to be respected when the Government were so sensitive about the claims of the officers of the navy. On what ground were these funds to be directed to the use of the officers of the navy? Why, because they had been employed in mismanaging the institution, and had received the benefit of certain salaries and allowances. Now, he thought that the most shadowy claim that could be conceived. No doubt these officers might have had some claim if they had contributed their shillings or their pounds; but they had contributed nothing whatever out of their pay. He trusted that some assurance would be given that the unoccupied portion of the Hospital would be appropriated to the use of distressed seamen, and that some part of the funds would be appropriated to the maintenance of a Hospital for the merchant seamen of the port of London.


said, the second reading of the Bill afforded a legitimate opportunity for making some observations on the faults of commission and omission in the Bill. He thought the observations of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets well deserving of consideration with respect to the claims of the merchant seamen on the funds of the Hospital, but the hon. Member had somewhat overstated the claims of that class of men. The hon. Member admitted that by the Act of 1834 a charge of £20,000 a year had been thrown on the Consolidated Fund in lieu of the seamen's sixpences, and consequently for thirty years they had not paid anything towards the Hospital. That reduced their actual money claim to very narrow dimensions. But as the present was a great scheme for the re-constitution of the Hospital, he thought it worthy of consideration whether a portion of the benefits of the Hospital might not be extended to that body of men. He might be met by the objection that there were no funds for the purpose. But if he could show that a large saving might he effected by the plan which he was about to sketch out, perhaps the House would be inclined to listen to his suggestions. There was one thing to which he entertained a strong objection. He saw in the Bill an unmistakable attempt on the part of the Treasury to escape from the responsibility and obligations imposed upon it by law, and he thought that attempt ought to be strenuously resisted. It had been said that the Bill should be read by the light of the joint Report of the Committee, the Treasury, and the Commissioners of the Hospital. Now, as there was a great principle contained in the 35th clause, he wished to point out the objection which he entertained to it. The Treasury claimed £15 per head on the whole number of men between 600, the future maximum, and 1,400, the present average of inmates—namely, 800. The sum so saved to the country would ultimately reach the very largo amount of £12,000 per annum. He could not understand why the Hospital should be a loser by every man who was discouraged, and in fact precluded, from entering it. The Treasury had always maintained that the country was a gainer upon each pensioner who entered the Hospital to the full extent of any pension to which he might have been entitled from the country. But to save the amount of the pension to which the men had so become entitled at the expense of the Hospital funds was an unjust attempt at evading an obligation, and so strongly did he feel this that it was his intention to move the omission of the clause, and take the sense of the House upon it. He would next refer to a subject which was not dealt with in the Report, and respecting which he hoped he should receive a satisfactory assurance from the noble Lord. He referred to the livings in the gift of the Greenwich Hospital trustees, and as all those livings were in the division of the county which he represented, he took an especial interest in that subject. He was bound to say, without passing any reflection upon the occupants of the livings, who were exemplary men, that the principle on which they had been filled was not altogether a satisfactory one. They had hitherto been considered as places of retirement for the old chaplains in the navy. Now, he did not think that a man who had spent the best portion of his life at sea was always the most competent to perform the paro- chial duties of a remote district in a wild and mountainous region, cut off from that congenial society to which he had been accustomed, nor did he think such a cure an adequate reward for past services. Looking at the matter in either way, he should like to see these livings dealt with in a different manner. He thought they might be sold, and the purchase money applied to increasing the endowments, and providing a retiring fund for naval chaplains. There was one of these livings which stood on a totally different footing from the others. There were eight livings altogether in the gift of the trustees of Greenwich Hospital. Seven of them were situated in one particular district—North Tyne. Inasmuch as the estates in which those seven livings were situated had been sold to the Duke of Northumberland no moral claim strictly attached to the Admiralty as landowners in respect to them. But in regard to one of them—Alston.—their position was totally different. The trustees for the time being of the Hospital were the patrons of the living; they were the impropriators of all the tithes; they were the owners of the royalties; they were the largest landed proprietors in that part of the country, and they derived an annual average income of something like £10,000 from the mines alone. They were bound, therefore, by every imaginable tie, real and moral, to supply the spiritual wants of the population, who were the creators of their wealth. The principle of local claims had been admitted by Parliament, and forced upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He wished to call the attention of the House to the miserable position of the living of Alston, which place was the source of the mining wealth of the Hospital. The full income of the vicar was £191 a year, out of which he received from the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital the large sum of £12 13s. l½d. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: And his half-pay.] Out of that living two ecclesiastical districts had been carved. The Incumbent of Garrygill had a salary of £90, of which Greenwich Hospital contributed £30. The Incumbent of Nent-head had an income of £110, of which £45 was given by Greenwich Hospital, and £45 by the London Lead Company. The whole amount paid by Greenwich Hospital towards the spiritual instruction of the district was very little more than £100. He thought he had stated quite sufficient to show that the amount contributed to the living of Alston was far below what it ought to be. That district was a lead-mining country, and the occupation was an unhealthy one to the persons employed, and as the trustees were exempt from poor rates he thought that something more might be done for a population which contributed so materially to the resources of the Hospital. He had some time ago stated the facts to the noble Duke now at the head of the Admiralty, and trusted that due attention would be paid to the subject. He could not concur in the alarm which was felt by his right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington) respecting this Bill. The reasons which his right hon. Friend had urged against the Bill were the main grounds on which he (Mr. Liddell) had supported it. On looking into the affairs of Greenwich Hospital, he had come to the conclusion that everything there required reform. An enormous, princely revenue had been wasted in establishment charges and unnecessary expenditure, and not for the benefit of the sailors. His desire was to see the benefits of the institution extended so as to confer the greatest amount of good upon the sailor; and although some remorse might be felt at the idea of such a noble building being cut down to the level of a mere infirmary, he believed that a liberal scale of out-pension, which would enable the men to pass their days in their native places with their families and amongst their early associations, would be preferred by them to their present magnificent but monotonous residence. On these grounds, although he reserved his right to move the rejection of the clause he had referred to in Committee, he did not intend to oppose the second reading of the Bill.


said, he thanked the right hon. Baronet opposite for having raised a discussion of the Bill on its second reading, because a most inconvenient practice prevailed of reserving such discussions until the Motion for going into Committee, by which course important discussions were often evaded. The observations which he wished to make had reference to that part of the Bill which provided how the charities of the Hospital were to be expended. He did not deny that officers were seamen, but he asked whether the word seaman, as used in the charters, or in any Act relating to the Hospital, was ever intended to include officers? No doubt, Lord Nelson and Lord Cochrane were seamen, but no one could suppose that it was ever intended to benefit them by that charter. He thought all the charter meant was that seamen incapable of further service at sea were to be entitled to the benefit of the charter. He feared that, if a different construction prevailed, pensions might be granted out of funds intended originally for common sailors, to officers as well as to common sailors, and that this charity would follow the fate of other charities—the educational charities especially—originally intended for poor men's sons—and be diverted from its original purpose to purposes for which it was never intended. If once they introduced the principle into this charity of granting pensions to officers out of funds unquestionably intended for sailors, they might depend upon it that, according to what had taken place in other charities, great abuses would be the consequence.


deeply regretted that the situations of Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the Hospital were to be abolished. Speaking from his own early recollections he knew that such offices were looked upon by the young men of the navy as encouragements. The offices proposed to be abolished were important to the dignity of the Hospital as an asylum, and officers of the greatest reputation and gallantry had been selected to fill them. He might, without disrespect to others, instance Admirals Lord Hood, Sir Richard Keats, Sir Thomas Hardy, and the present possessor, Sir James Gordon. A painful feeling would be excited among the inmates if men of high character were displaced and were no longer to preside over them. He did not agree with those who thought that officers were not entitled to share in the benefits of the Hospital. The Hospital was endowed in 1694 by William and Mary, and in 1703 the first hundred persons were admitted into it. That officers were entitled to share in its benefits was proved by an epitaph on an officer who died there of his wounds in 1709— Here lies the body of Mr. PEARCE WELCH, Lieutenant of H.M. Ship Salisbury. In the year 1703, on the 10th of April, they engaged a part of the Dunkirk squadron, in which he lost his lower jaw and part of his tongue by a musquet ball, after which he lived six years, four months, and twelve days, by liquids only. He was First Lieutenant of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich, and died the 22nd day of August, 1709, aged 59 years. His appointment to Greenwich Hospital was in 1704. He died in 1709. The Hospital had been endowed by Queen Anne, George I., and by George II., and by the Royal Navy. Its land had largely increased, and its mortgages were now all paid off, with the exception of an annuity to a female of £1,000. It had been said that the navy had not contributed to the Hospital. The fact was that 5 per cent was paid by the navy on all prize money for the benefit of the Hospital, and there were certain men whose names were on a ship's books called widows' men, all of whose pay and allowances went for the benefit of the Hospital. Up to 1819 no less a sum than £400,000 had been paid to the Hospital as freight money. The sixpences of the merchant seamen did not amount to much. He could not understand, therefore, why naval officers should not be admitted to the benefits of the charity. The benefits of it ought to be given to those who were wounded or maimed, or unfit for service at sea. It was desired by the Government to turn this magnificent asylum—the admiration of the whole world—into an infirmary like Haslar Hospital. The men who went to Haslar returned, when they were able, to their profession; but Greenwich Hospital was intended for those who could never return to their profession. It was not an infirmary, but an asylum for old and meritorious seamen. He hoped he should not live to see it converted into an infirmary. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty had told them that it was intended to reduce the establishment to 600 men. It now contained 1,400 men. Unless larger pensions were granted they never would get many of these 1,400 to leave the Hospital. These men were provided with clothing, with food in abundance, and with nurses; and if they left the Hospital how could it be known whether or not they would be provided with all these things? If they were allowed to return to the Hospital his objection to the Bill would be in some degree mitigated, but if they were not allowed to return a great injustice would be done to them. He was himself earnestly devoted to his profession, and should ever deplore the day when the magnificent asylum of Greenwich should be converted into an infirmary.


said, he could confirm the remarks of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) as to the bad condition of the parishes from which the Greenwich Hospital estate derived its revenues. In Alston, a parish of more than 30,000 acres, and with 6,000 people, chiefly employed in lead mining, only £100 a year was given out of the estate to the vicar and towards the two chapels there. Yet this parish, in which few people of position or property were to be found, produced £8,000 to the Hospital. This was a very inadequate provision for the clergy, especially as the livings were otherwise wretchedly provided for; and he hoped that out of the revenues of this great estate something more would be done to amend the condition of the incumbents.


, as a Member of the Royal Commission, said, he was of opinion that, though the words bearing on this point were general, the benefits of the charity were intended not for the merchant service but only for seamen in service under the Crown. That officers were not admissible was proved by the history of the Hospital. No doubt many had lived and died there, but they had been employed in the government of the Hospital. The fact that officers were not intended as objects of the charity seemed proved conclusively by one of the old rules, that if a seaman was promoted as master's mate he should be entitled to admission notwithstanding such promotion. He thanked the Government for the Bill. He heartily approved of the abolition of the system of double government, and had no doubt that by unity of action much good would be effected. He was satisfied that the allowing of pensioners to live amongst their friends would result in an increase of their comforts. He could not, however, but regret the superannuation of the Governor, because it would have given him great satisfaction to see some distinguished officer residing at the Hospital.


said, that the House was much indebted to the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) for bringing forward this subject. The fact that eight officers were selected out of the first 100 persons upon whom the advantages of the Hospital were conferred proved that officers were intended to share in the benefits of the institution. He should like, however, to know from his hon. Friend whether the officers who he stated were to be liberally compensated were to be placed in their former position on the Navy List. Officers of all ranks had been in Greenwich Hospital, and had subsequently by leave gone on the active list. Among the most famous examples were Lord Rodney and Captain Cook, the great circumnavigator of the globe.


said, he wished to ask the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) a question with reference to the medical officers. The Commissioners in their Report stated that there was one branch of the establishment in which no reformation was required—the medical branch. He would ask, therefore, how it was that medical officers in the navy were excluded from participation in good service pensions?


said, that almost every part of this proposal had been criticized, although perhaps the suggestions were as varied as they were numerous. He would, however, endeavour to answer each of the objections which had been urged against this scheme. With respect to the classes by whom the benefits derived from the Hospital funds would be enjoyed, the present condition of things would remain as nearly as possible unaltered. As merchant seamen had, with a few exceptions, which he would explain, never enjoyed the benefits of the Hospital, they did not propose to extend its advantages any further in that direction. The general principle of the Bill was to maintain the existing proportion between the different classes of officers and men for whom the institution had become available; but, at the same time, to extend its benefits among those classes by a more judicious and economical system of management. The present number of in-pensioners was about 1,000; and he believed that the country generally, while he was sure that the navy itself, would prefer that that number should be increased to 5,000 or 6,000 out-pensioners. They purposed acting on the assumption that Greenwich Hospital was intended, so far as the building was concerned, to be for the future an asylum for infirm, helpless, and wounded seamen, and that seamen were not necessarily entitled to be received as inmates merely because they were in receipt of pensions, and because they were unfit for longer service at sea. Starting on that assumption, their endeavour would be to apply the funds of the institution in the most economical way for the general benefit of the navy; at the same time, taking care not to disturb the existing balance of affairs between the Treasury and the Hospital. Having thus stated the general object which they proposed carrying out, he would proceed to bring under the notice of the House more specifically the manner in which that object was to be effected. Taking their past experience for guidance, they intended providing for as many infirm, helpless, and wounded seamen as they might reasonably expect would require relief. Last year there were in the Hospital between 300 and 400 seamen of this class, and at the present moment they numbered somewhat over 400. They had therefore provided for 600, and that provision they deemed to be ample. The other men, who were not infirm or helpless, would be much better in their own homes than within the walls of the Hospital. The gallant Admiral (Admiral Walcott) had asked if the present inmates, after accepting the out-pension, might afterwards return to the Hospital, and the reply he had to make to that question was this—they could return if they became infirm and helpless or required medical relief. They would give up the out-pension and be admitted.


Would the out-pensioners be at liberty to return if they desired?


They would not unless they were fit subjects for the Hospital; they must be either wounded, maimed, infirm, or helpless.


said, that was precisely what he wished.


said, he was exceedingly glad he had satisfied the gallant Admiral on that point. The next question was as to the mercantile navy. He was a little surprised at the arguments of the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell), but he might set against them those of the opposite extreme, which had recently been several times urged in The Times newspaper. However, he proposed to take the golden mean, which, perhaps, best suited that House, If by a total change of policy they threw on the Treasury an increased charge in consequence of the non-surrender of the out-pension, it was only just that they should compensate the Treasury as far as they could for the loss sustained. The Treasury took the charge at £15 per head, and in justice he did not think they could abandon their reasonable claim to compensation. But it must not be supposed that merchant seamen had no advantages from the Hospital. At the present moment the men were in receipt of very considerable benefits. First of all their children were admitted to the schools. In the second place a sailor who had joined the navy—supposing he came within the rule as to Greenwich Hospital—if he was wounded or maimed or became helpless he would then and there be entitled to the whole benefits of the Hospital. Besides, by a recent rule the benefits of Greenwich Hospital were granted to the members of the Royal Naval Reserve, either after belonging to it ten years, or after having served three years in the navy. With respect to merchant seamen, it was clear that Greenwich Hospital had never been intended as a retreat for them. The charter distinctly laid it down that those coming within the benefits of the Hospital must be "seamen serving on board the ships or vessels belonging to the Royal Navy," or "by reason of age, wounds, or other disabilities incapable of further service at sea, and unable to maintain themselves." The words of the charter were theso— Whereas it is our Royal intent and purpose to erect and found an hospital within our manor of East Greenwich, in our county of Kent, for the relief and support of seamen serving on board the ships or vessels belonging to the Navy Royal of us, our heirs, or successors, or employed in our or their service at sea, who by reason of age, wounds, or other disabilities shall be incapable of further service at sea, and be unable to maintain themselves, and for the sustentation of the widows and the maintenance and education of the children of seamen happening to be slain or disabled in such sea service; and also for the further relief and encouragement of seamen and improvement of navigation. The Act which appropriated the income of the Derwentwater estates to Greenwich Hospital, in 1735, was no less distinct and decisive. After detailing the attainder, the Act proceeded in par 2— And it is hereby further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that all sums of money, collected and received by the respective receivers of the rents and profits of the said premises so forfeited and vested in His Majesty aforesaid which were not paid into the receipt of the Exchequer on or before the 25th day of March, in the year of our Lord, 1735, and all arrears of rents and profits of the same premises, due and owing from the several farmers, tenants, and occupiers of any part or parts thereof at or on the said 25th day of March, 1735, and all the rents, issues, and profits of the said premises which shall from and after the said 25th day of March, 1735, grow, accrue, or become due and payable for and during His Majesty's said estate and interest in the said premises (subject in the first place to the payment of the said annuity of £100 a year as the same shall grow due, and of all principal and interest due and to grow duo upon the several incumbrances hereinbefore mentioned), shall be issued and applied, and are hereby appropriated and applied to the uses and for the purposes following—that is to say, in the first place for and towards the finishing and completing the building of the said Royal Hospital for seamen at Green, wich, and after the building of the same Royal Hospital shall be completed and finished for and towards the support of the said Royal Hospital for the better maintenance of the seamen of the said hospital, worn out and become decrepit in the service of their country. That description applied to the navy, and to the navy only. But the Merchant Seamen's Fund Act of 1747 was still stronger on the point. The preamble of that Act was perfectly precise on the subject, for, after reciting all the Acts with respect to Greenwich Hospital, it used these words— And whereas the said hospital is not capable to receive nor the income thereof sufficient to provide for the seamen in the service of the Royal Navy who are wounded, maimed, or worn out by age, or otherwise entitled to the benefits thereof, so that the seamen in the merchants' service maimed and disabled in fight have seldom, if ever, been admitted into the said hospital, though entitled thereto, and proper objects of charity. And whereas there is no provision at all made by either of the said Acts for such seamen in the merchant service as are maimed or disabled by accidental misfortune, or for those worn out by age, or for the widows or children of such men as shall be killed, slain, or drowned in the said service. It was therefore distinctly recited in that Act of 1747 that no provision had been made for any merchant seaman unless he was maimed or disabled in fight repelling the enemy. That was conclusive on the subject. He might also cite the Out-pension Act of 1762. The preamble of that Act was in these words— Whereas by several Acts of Parliament, sundry estates, rents, and sums of money are granted and specially appropriated for and towards the finishing and completing the building of the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich, and for and towards the maintenance of the seamen in the said Hospital worn out and become decrepit in the service of their country. He might also refer to the very interesting debate which took place on this subject in May, 1834. Mr. Lyall said— Merchant seamen were zealously excluded from the benefit of Greenwich. Mr. George Frederick Young Said— The Act of William III. was an unjust one, and it was the duty of the House to redress the wrong committed under its sanction. In Greenwich Hospital merchant seamen had no interest at all. Mr. Poulett Thompson observed— It had been said merchant seamen were not benefited, but what quibbling was that when after one day's service in the navy they had a title to the Hospital? Lord Sandon also said— Merchant seamen had no interest in the fund, or at best so remote an interest that they could not comprehend it. On that ground—that they had no interest in the Hospital—the demand for the merchant seamen's sixpences was abolished, and a contribution from the Treasury substituted. That was perfectly conclusive on the subject that merchant seamen had no claim whatever on the funds of the Hospital unless wounded or hurt in repelling the enemy. He might go further, and say that Parliament should pause before it gave merchant seamen a title to be maintained in their old age by the public. They were not dealing with 50,000 or 60,000, but with about 300,000 sailors, and if they laid down the rule that seamen of the merchant service were entitled to maintenance in their old age at the public expense, there would be no end to the claims they would have to meet. As well might spinners or weavers or any other class demand a similar provision. It was quite a different question whether a portion of Greenwich Hospital might or might not be applied temporarily to their benefit; although on that point he declined giving any positive opinion. He had very strong doubts whether such an arrangement would not be objectionable; but that was a different question from what they were now discussing. The regulations as to the admissions to the Hospital would remain in statu quo. The right hon. Baronet said the arrangement as to the Vote for the Hospital in connection with the expenditure was a clumsy one, but he did not see how it could be altered. It was a wise principle that the money to be expended on the navy in the form of pensions should come within the view of Parliament; and, though the process might be complicated under which expenditure from separate funds should be provided by the Votes of the House, it was a sound arrangement, which he hoped to be able to justify in Committee. The right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) objected to the 13th clause as affecting a particular person, which he said the Admiralty had not the candour to own. The effect of the 13th clause was that any person who might be employed in the Hospital or receiving a salary there, and who might also be in the receipt of a superannuation, should be entitled to receive the same amount that he at present received from his emoluments and superannuation combined. That clause, he believed, would be found only to apply to one person, and, therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman raised the specific point in Committee the Government would be prepared to state how the clause would affect the interests of that person. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed a doubt whether the in-pensioners would take advantage of the option to be offered under the Bill, but a pensioner of the Hospital who now surrendered 10d. or 1s. a day would be entitled under the new scheme to, if above seventy years of age, 9d. per day additional, and if over fifty-five to 5d. a day; and under a clause of the Bill, in consideration of certain gratuities they now received, the income of some of the pensioners would amount to 2s. a day. He could not but think that many pensioners would prefer these out-pensions to remaining in the Hospital. He had been inundated with letters from pensioners and sailors from all parts of the kingdom, and he had no hesitation in saying that they were satisfied with the new scheme, and that so far as the word "popular" could be used in such a matter the recommendations of the Admiralty were popular in the navy. The hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) had asked whether the Admiralty proposed to carry out the recommendations of the Commissioners in regard to the sale of the livings of Greenwich Hospital. There had not been time to prepare a clause on this subject, but he intended to move that the Bill be committed at once pro formâ, and he would introduce clauses providing that these livings should ultimately be sold. The proceeds would be divided into two funds—one to improve the retirement of naval chaplains, and another to be applied to increase the value of the livings, some of which were very ill-endowed. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Angerstein) had asked whether the present officers of the Hospital who were lieutenants and commanders would not be allowed to go back to the active list and to get the benefit of a rise to higher rank. He thought that the officers ought to elect one of two things. The Admiralty were going to give them every shilling they now received from the Hospital, and those who now received payment subject to the performance of any duties would be exonerated from those duties. The House would not have approved a scheme which gave these officers all their present emoluments and also all the privileges of the active list. That would be a most outrageous and extravagant proposition, and one which the Government were not prepared to make. The hon. Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy) had truly stated that the medical officers had been favourably reported upon by the Commissioners, and the Admiralty were not going to take away any part of their employment. On the contrary, they would probably be more fully occupied than at present. But that was no reason for giving more pensions to that class. As to the number of additional officers who were to receive out-pensions, he would state that while they were going to provide out-pensions for 5,000 seamen, the total number of additional officers who would receive a similar benefit would be only seventy-eight, from captains downwards, and ten flag officers. That proposition was not at any rate unjust to the men, and if any complaints at all were made he rather expected it would be said that the Government had not made sufficient provision for the officers. He had also been asked whether the Government did not intend to maintain the posts of Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the Hospital. Now, he trusted that the House would resist the idea of maintaining these sinecures at Greenwich, and appointing a Governor and Lieutenant Governor who had nothing to do but fly their flag there. It was the very principle of the Bill to replace a most expensive staff by the staff actually required for the active business of the Hospital, and to employ the money so saved in increasing out-pensioners of the Hospital. If that principle of the Bill were broken into in the case of one sinecure, it would be difficult to resist others. He was happy to assure the hon. and gallant Admiral, however, that the present Governor and Lieutenant Governor would not be disturbed, and that the flag of the former would remain flying during the life of that very distinguished officer. There was no Amendment to the second reading, and he trusted that the Bill would be read a second time unanimously and discussed in a friendly spirit in Committee.


said, he wished to know whether the expenditure would be provided by Parliament out of the Consolidated Fund, and what would be the future government of the Hospital?


said, that the expenditure of the Hospital would come under the review of Parliament annually by being voted in the Estimates and repaid to the Consolidated Fund out of the Hospital income. In regard to the future government of the Hospital, he believed it would be precisely the same as at Haslar. There would be a Captain or Admiral Superintendent, and three or four Lieutenants for discipline. All the appointments would be staff appointments, and held for the usual short period.


said, the Government were about to administer the funds of Greenwich Hospital on a better system than that in use at present. The origin of the Hospital was in the charitable feelings of the Sovereign of the day. The country had enjoyed a large amount of credit for its cheap philanthropy, though it had never given anything to its funds. When they were making new arrangements the claims of the merchant seamen, who contributed their sixpences, ought not to be ignored. In the first American war the merchant seamen were pressed into the service, but in many instances the whole of their services were lost so far as any claim of a pension was concerned. They had now the Naval Reserve, and the men who served in it ought to get a portion of the benefits to be derived from the Hospital. The funds had principally been made up from Chatham Chest, the percentage on freights, merchant seamen's sixpences, dead men's effects, &c. The hon. Gentleman had quoted the Act of Parliament of 1747, and the original charter, to show that merchant seamen were not included in the original design. But different circumstances had since occurred, and it would have been a wise plan to give merchant seamen a share in the benefits, since they had for 130 years paid their sixpence a month to the Hospital. They ought to transfer the establishment of the Dreadnought to Greenwich Hospital. They were not likely to return to the monastic system, which was very properly to be done away with, and they would have ample room for the infirmary in Greenwich Hospital; and he did not see why that infirmary should not embrace the merchant service as well as the Royal Navy. They had at Greenwich Hospital—he would not say one of the most distinguished officers, but the most distinguished officer in the navy—one of the heroes of the Nile, who in two single actions had captured his ship, and who was one of the last of the heroes of the late war. Their admirals of the fleet had not seen anything like the service which Sir James Gordon had seen, and it would be a just tribute if they created him an admiral, to preside over that establishment. When the Bill went into Committee he should move a clause that, in the declining years of his life, some substantial recognition of his services be made.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed.

Bill considered in Committee.

House resumed.

Bill reported; to be printed, as amended [Bill 179]; re-committed for Thursday 8th June.