HC Deb 25 February 1869 vol 194 cc304-8

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether any changes have been made in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty or Coast Guard Office since the accession of the present Government to Office; whether the changes, if any, have involved any increase of salaries; have led to any resignations and to the granting of pensions; whether any clerks in the Office who had obtained their appointments by competitive examination or otherwise have been discharged; and, if so, what compensation has been awarded to them in consequence of their discharge; and, the number of men who have been discharged from the various Dockyards by Her Majesty's Government, their grades and occupations, and the pensions and gratuities granted to them?


In reply to my hon. Friend, I have to inform the House that it had been my intention to give the fullest particulars of the changes at the Board of Admiralty, and of the reductions both in the clerical and professional establishments, when I bring forward the Navy Estimates, and that I am at some disadvantage in merely answering a string of Questions without being able at some length to explain the reasons for the acts of public policy to which they refer; but I will answer them as clearly as I can. My Answer to the first Question is that the changes in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty and the Coastguard Office are the following:—Formerly the naval business was conducted by four naval officers and a civilian, acting under a First Lord, who might or might not be a civilian; and with a First Secretary, also sometimes a naval officer, carrying out their decisions, and, if the First Lord was a Peer, their representative in this House. The change which I have made is that the business of the Admiralty is conducted in the same manner as in the other principal Departments of Government. All questions relating to the personnel of the Navy are dealt with under my instructions by, and are brought before me by, the First Naval Lord, who is assisted by a Junior Naval Lord, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Lord John Hay); all questions relating to the dockyards, to stores, and to manufactures—in fact, to the materiel of the navy, are in the same manner dealt with by the Controller of the Navy, who has the title of Third Lord. The finance of the Department—that is, the duty of separately inquiring into all questions of expenditure, whether they concern the personnel or materiel, is assigned to the Financial or Parliamentary Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), assisted by the Civil Lord. Each of these Officers is responsible to mo, in the same manner as the Controller General and the Under Secretaries are responsible to the Secretary of State for War. The offices of Controller and Deputy Controller of the Coastguard are abolished. Their duties are assigned to the First Naval Lord, to whom a post captain has been attached for the details of this and other services. The First Naval Lord also submits to me all proposals relative to the movement of the fleets, the manning, discipline, victualling, and health of the navy. The Third Lord and Controller similarly has charge of all questions connected with the dockyards, the steam reserve, and stores; and is practically in the exact position intended by the Dockyard Commission of 1860, to be assigned, to the Controller General. In answer to the second Question, I have to say that these changes have had the result of reducing the number of superior officers at the Admiralty, including the Board, from seventeen to thirteen. Their salaries and allow- ances (not including half-pay) which were £24,901, are now £21,000; and, instead of occupying six official houses, they only occupy three, the others being used for clerks and officers brought from Somerset House. This office accommodation is worth at least £1,200 a year, so that the saving is altogether £5,101 a year, besides the great advantage and economy of concentrating the Department. The increase of individual salaries and allowances granted in consideration of increased responsibility are that the First Sea Lord receives £1,500 a year, instead of rather more than £1,100; the Controller, who has no house, £1,700, instead of £1,300; and the Constructor £1,200, instead of £1,000. There are also some small increases in minor salaries, more than covered by reductions. In answer to the third Question, I have to say that two of the reductions are in the Board itself, and therefore led to no resignations; one, that of the Controller of the Coastguard, anticipated the natural end of his term of service by a few days; the fourth, that of the Storekeeper General, could not have been long delayed, as he had been for forty-two years in the service. His is the only pension, and he could have claimed it for some years past. Before I answer the fourth Question, as to clerks, I must remind my hon. Friend that in the Notice he gave me he spoke of the "violation on the part of Her Majesty's Government of the implied agreement with clerks consequent on their obtaining their appointment by open competition, or otherwise." I see now that he has omitted these words; but, as he included them in his original Notice, I feel bound to say that the only agreement between the Government and their clerks is contained in the 7th section of the Act 22 Vict. c. 20, which prescribes what compensation shall be given to a clerk, whether his service be under five, ten, twenty, or any number of years, on his office being abolished or reduced. This Act and the Treasury Minute based on it, dated the 14th of June, 1859, have been in force for ten years, and are perfectly well known to the whole Civil Service. The only duty of the Government is not to exercise its powers under the Act in a manner detrimental to the public service, or partial so far as individual officers are concerned. What has been done is this:—When the Con- troller's separate office was abolished it was ascertained that under the new arrangements twelve clerks and three writers would have nothing to do; and when the Coastguard separate office was abolished, that out of twenty clerks and others, only two, or at the outside three, would be wanted, the saving in the two Departments being £7,991 a year. Notices accordingly were given to these thirty-three clerks and others that after the 31st of March their services would not be required in those Departments; but they were also informed that they would receive the compensation granted by the Act, would be put on a redundant list from which all similar appointments would be made, and that this list would be communicated to the Treasury. Before I decided on the reduction in the Coastguard Office I also appointed, three weeks ago, a Committee, consisting of Lord Camperdown, my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), and Mr. Anderson, the Assistant Controller and Auditor, whose business it has been to inquire in all the Departments of the Admiralty, whether arrangements can be made under which other officers, who might be better spared, could be retired instead of some of those to whom notice had to be given. They also have to consider very large reductions which, as will be seen by the Estimates, are being made in the Accountant General's, Store, Medical, and other branches. I have authorized them to inquire throughout the Admiralty Departments in London what clerks who can be spared may be willing to retire, and I have reason to believe that few, if any, efficient clerks will be discharged against their will, the reduction being mainly among the seniors and writers, although the whole reduction of about £14,000 a year in clerical expenditure in London will be effected; and if any should be necessarily put on the redundant list, they will, if efficient, be re-appointed to the first vacancies. In reply to the last Question, I have to state that Her Majesty's present Government have discharged no men from the dockyards, although they have given notice that in October next Woolwich will be closed, and as many as possible of the men employed there transferred to other I yards. To effect this it will be seen by the Estimates that the number of men will be increased by 320 at Portsmouth, 240 at Devonport, and 200 at the small yards, and no fresh appointment will be made. I hope thus to continue all the established dockyard and factory men and some of the others. If my hon. Friend's Question refers to the discharges which occurred in the present financial year before I went to the Admiralty, I have to inform him that the number of artificers and labourers discharged from Her Majesty's dockyards from March to December, 1868—including a few deaths which I have not had time to ascertain separately, and exclusive of those from Deptford, which it was decided by my predecessor to close—was 5,409, and the number of entries 780, giving a net reduction of 4,629. Of these, 325 were established men, and of them 304 received pensions, averaging £26 per man; eighty-one non-established men received gratuities averaging £21. But of these men who were discharged about 2,000 were temporarily engaged in the previous October in excess of the number provided by the Estimates of 1867–8, and they were well aware that they would only be employed for a few months. I should add that at Deptford—which is dying out as a dockyard, and will be closed on the 31st of March—sixty-one established men have been pensioned off and 111 hired men discharged.


explained that the alteration in his Question had been made by the Clerk at the table. He also gave Notice that when the Navy Estimates came on for consideration, he would ask whether the reductions the First Lord had referred to were made in conformity with the present patents?