HC Deb 24 June 1869 vol 197 cc553-66

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


rose to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. This Bill involved questions of a financial character, questions of a national character, and it also involved considerations of a personal character; and, on all these grounds, he wished to obtain for this Bill careful consideration at the hands of the House. The great complaint against this Bill was that it was at variance in its main provisions with the Report which had been presented, and he thought the Admiralty were bound to adduce good reasons for departing so widely as this Bill proposed from the recommendations therein contained. One of the recommendations was that Greenwich Hospital should continue as an infirmary, but on a much larger scale than at present; and it was proposed to facilitate admission to the infirmary by requiring less harsh conditions; and it was proposed to reduce the expenditure to the lowest point consistent with proper care and attendance upon those who would become inmates by right of the infirmary. What did the Bill do? It proposed, in very few years, to abolish Greenwich Hospital as an institution altogether. It proposed to induce the largest number possible of the present inmates, by a bribe, or at all events by a very liberal scale of pensions, to leave the Hospital, and it proposed to distri- bute among the hospitals of the country those infirm and disabled men who had been maintained at the expense of Greenwich Hospital. The case turned upon the question whether the House should be guided by medical evidence in the decision it might arrive at as to men disabled in the service; and as to these men the head surgeon of Haslar Hospital (Sir David Deas) declared he would not undertake to maintain the proper discipline of the Hospital if pensioners were admitted to it; and when asked whether an additional ward would alter the case, he asked—" What am I to do with the many applications which are constantly made by disabled men, incapacitated from maintaining themselves through disease contracted in the service?" In fact, all medical men were against the scheme. The present Bill proposed to manage Greenwich Hospital as a subordinate department of the Admiralty, and proposed that the audit of its estates should be conducted by the Admiralty. It was proposed to repeal the 4 & 5 Will. IV., c. 4, an Act which was founded on a scheme of deep and wise State policy, the object of which was, first of all, to encourage men to enter the naval service, and then to call upon the tax-payers of the country to contribute their quota towards the maintenance and comfort of those who had been disabled in the public service. That was a burden against which no tax-payer ever had raised, or, he believed, ever would raise a single note of complaint. The tax-payers of the country were proud of their Navy, and, provided the resources of Greenwich Hospital were wisely distributed, no word of complaint would be ever heard. And now we were about to deprive Greenwich Hospital of a sum of £16,000 in hard cash. By the Act of 1865, the Exchequer claimed £15 per head for every man that fell short of 1,400, which was held to be the average number that Greenwich Hospital was bound to maintain. This claim of the Exchequer to relieve itself from contributing to the maintenance of the public servants had been regarded by every one who had inquired into the subject as inequitable. The Commissioners of 1859 condemned such a plan, and expressed their opinion that, in the question between the Crown and the Hospital, the pensions saved by the exchange ought to be applied not to the benefit of the Crown, but of the Hospital. The Committee of last year also said that they were unable to admit the justice to the Hospital of a claim which required that £15 per head should be paid to the Consolidated Fund for every man short of 1,400. And the Accountant General, Mr. Walker, said he could tell the facts; as to the principle he could not explain it, because there was no principle in it, and he considered it an inequitable arrangement. Now, he asked the House to pause before it relieved the Consolidated Fund of this charge which was applied to the benefit of the Navy. This was a bad time for reducing the income of the Hospital by this large sum of £16,000; because there would be a much greater strain upon its resources for the future, in consequence of the terms of the Act, which made it easier for the sailor to acquire admission; the result of which would be that there would be a greater number of applications than before. Another point to which he wished to direct attention was that the Bill recognized for the first time, and most justly recognized, the claims of merchant seamen to some share in the emoluments of that Hospital, especially now that its finances were in a flourishing condition. A sum of £4,000 a year was to be placed at the disposal of the Board of Trade for the benefit of merchant seamen, especially of those who had formerly paid 6d. a month out of their wages towards the Hospital. He had only wished the amount was larger; but he apprehended if would be found that the number of men entitled to be pensioned out of the sum was considerably larger than the Government anticipated. There was a financial point also that ought not to be overlooked. By the 13th clause of that Bill a new mode of account was proposed that he thought a most objectionable one; which was that in future the proceeds of the rent and profits arising from the estates were to be paid to the account of the Paymaster General at the Bank of England, after deducting all the costs of the estates. It was very objectionable that any part of their control over those revenues should be withdrawn. Mr. Anderson gave it as his opinion that the Commissioners of Audit were the proper persons to audit those accounts, as they embraced transactions which were better audited by an independent department, more especially when they came to deal, as was the case in this instance, with questions of capital and income. But under that Bill there would be no independent audit at all of those accounts; and unless the Committee of Public Accounts were satisfied with the efficacy of the audit under that measure, he thought it would be their duty to direct attention to the matter. The next point to which he came was a national one. He wanted to know what the Government intended to do with the building; because he need not remind the House that Greenwich Hospital had in the mind of the country peculiar associations, and was endeared to it by its many traditions? The Bill proposed to deal with the building in a very off-hand manner. It took power to hand it over to any charitable or public purpose, with or without requiring rent, and on such terms respecting repairs as the Admiralty might think fit. He was bound to say that the country would not approve of the building being applied in that offhand manner to any purpose to which the Admiralty might think fit to apply it. He should like to know what purpose it would really be turned to; for if they once parted with the building, and located there anybody, however useful or charitable its purpose might be, there would be great difficulty in getting it out again? Questions of compensations arose, and the country might at any time have 1,000 men landed on its shores in a disabled state without having an available place to receive them. The House ought, therefore, to be told distinctly to what purpose the building was to be applied before the Government parted with it. The Hospital, moreover, was constructed out of endowments, and ought not to be transferred as a free gift to any body that wished to have it. Again, the Bill proposed to abolish the office of Mr. Lethbridge, the controller, who also filled the office of solicitor. Those two offices were combined under the Act of 1865, and a salary of £500 was attached to each of them. Mr. Lethbridge's total official income was, therefore, £1,000 a year. Although he might not have a legal claim to compensation, he had a strong moral claim to it; for he had filled the office of solicitor for twenty-four years, during the last four of which he had also acted as controller, and attention to his official duties had to a great extent involved the abandonment of his private practice. He was to hold his appointment dum se bene gessit, and had never contemplated its abolition by Act of Parliament. He (Mr. Liddell) also wished to know under what circumstances Mr. Bristowe, the solicitor to the Admiralty, was to undertake the further duties of solicitor to the Hospital. A few years ago Mr. Bristowe had appealed to the Admiralty on the ground that he was overworked, and had asked for help. The result of the appeal was that an allowance of £300 a year for the payment of a clerk was made to him. He had asked to be permitted to appoint his son assistant solicitor; but to this the Duke of Somerset objected, and he then appointed his son as his clerk, at the salary of £300 a year. How was it that Mr. Bristowe, after declaring that he was overworked, had undertaken these additional duties? He admitted that the pensions which the Government proposed to bestow on those who were disabled in the service were very liberal; but these were men borne down in the service by such diseases as rheumatism, ague, asthma, or consumption, to whom no money allowance would make up for the loss of good beds, comfortable well-ventilated chambers, wholesome diet, and regular and tender medical administration. We had the best infirmary in the world, and we should continue to maintain it for the benefit of these sufferers in our service. Believing that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord was wise in his legislation of 1865, he was, nevertheless, of opinion that he was now riding his hobby too hard, and pushing his policy to such an extent that he would do violence to the feelings of the nation, and prejudice the interests of the British Navy. In conclusion, the hon. Gentleman appealed to the House to support him in the Motion he now begged to make—namely, that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be committed to a Select Committee,''—(Mr. Liddell,)—instead thereof.

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


said, the observations he was about to make must only be accepted as the expression of his own opinion, inasmuch as, from the excep- tional circumstances of the late Parliamentary Recess, he had been unable to hold any consultation with his late Colleagues on the subject. He had nevertheless thought it his duty to consider as fully as possible the recommendations of the Committee, and to see how far any sufficient legislation could be founded upon them; and he wished here to express his sense of the extreme ability and energy of the Committee, and of the ability with which his predecessor, Mr. Du Cane, presided over it, and drew up its Report. The treatment of this question appeared to have been a hobby with every Civil Lord of the Admiralty. They had all tried to introduce some new plan of regulations for the Hospital, and he thought it was generally agreed that Greenwich Hospital had in some degree suffered from the treatment. He might classify all the recommendations which had been made as coming under two heads—first, those which tended to fill the Hospital, and utilize all the large buildings of which it was composed; and secondly, those plans which were rather directed to extending the benefits of the institution, without much reference to the great central establishment. He admitted that the recommendations of the Committee of 1867 pointed to the first of these courses; but he confessed he should not have felt justified in embodying those recommendations in a Bill without first carefully examining the estimates and ascertaining as far as he could what they would, be likely to amount to in future years. There was invariably a tendency in establishments of this kind for salaries to increase; and the First Lord would bear him out in the assertion that no inconsiderable portion of the duty of the Admiralty authorities was to resist the constant and urgent appeals which were made for the increase of salaries. In his opinion a wider margin should have been allowed for possible variations under this head. Another objection to the re-creation of of such a great establishment was that such establishments could not well be elastic in their nature. It was necessary to draw a "give-and-take" line between the minimum and maximum requirements of the institution. The operation of the Act of 1865 at once produced a very considerable diminution in the number of in-pensioners, the number falling from 1,382 to 395; while of those left in the Hospital not a few were left merely because they could not comply with the conditions which were necessary to allow them to leave it. From those who had left the Hospital there had been but few applications for re-admission, and the rate of mortality among them had been only about half what it was in the Hospital. He was of opinion that the Act of 1865 had operated very favourably for the interests of those who were principally concerned—namely, the pensioners themselves. The Duke of Somerset, in a memorandum dated April, 1864, said that one portion of the Hospital had been well administered, and that while the great body of pensioners could only obtain the advantage of residence in the institution by the sacrifice of freedom, domestic comfort, and social independence, the helpless and infirm, who who had no relations, found judicious care and kindly attention there, and his Grace recommended that the Hospital should be restricted to the latter use, and that any surplus should be applied for the advantage of the fleet. If those observations applied to the class of pensioners which then existed, they applied more forcibly to the present class of men, whose claims it would be impossible wholly to ignore. Those expressions applied to old men-of-war's men, who, however much they might object to restraint, were not unaccustomed to it. In any legislation upon the subject at the present time it would be necessary to provide for the participation of the merchant navy, who would find the necessary restraint of Greenwich Hospital much more irksome, as they would not be used to the same amount of discipline, and from their previous habits and lives they would not be as likely as men-of-war's men to conform to such restraint and discipline. He attached much importance to the provision respecting the admission of invalids to Greenwich Hospital. He thought that the hon. Gentleman seemed to attach undue importance as to those applicants who were not entitled under the pension rules to the benefits of the institution, but who, nevertheless, had seriously damaged their health either by service or by disease. He understood that under this Bill it was proposed in some measure to recognize not the legal, but the moral claims of these applicants, and therefore the question of hardship raised by his hon. Friend fell to the ground when read by the light of the speech made by the hon. Member when the Bill was laid on the table. It would appear by that speech that the object of his hon. Friend was to gather together the greatest amount of money he could, and to apply it to the wants of those whom the Government believed to be entitled morally or otherwise to the benefits of this institution. The Government were the best judges as to whether the cases referred to by the hon. Gentleman ought to be sent to a Government hospital or to Greenwich. With regard to what had been said as to the accounts, with some exceptions, he thought that on the whole the system of accounts referred to in the Bill would be found to be advantageous, particularly if they were kept with reference to the system in the department of the Accountant General likely to be adopted. One point he did not contemplate with so much pleasure was the application of the building. He thought it would be more satisfactory, supposing the Government were not in a position to inform the House what they meant to do as to the building, if the clause respecting it were struck out of the Bill, and if a separate Bill with respect to it were brought in at a future day. To whatever purpose the building might be applied he hoped it would not be diverted from those naval purposes for which the Hospital funds were originally given, but that it would be devoted for the benefit, if not exclusively of the Royal Navy, at least for the benefit of seafaring men. It had been said that considerable inconvenience would arise if the building were given over for the purposes of any particular society. He did not speak without some knowledge of this part of the question; and he confessed that he had not been able to satisfy himself as to the possibility of giving it up entirely to the use of any society. He need not say more than a few words as to the controllership. He certainly did think that it was rather a matter of hardship, because an additional appointment was given to the present controller four years ago, that that officer should lose not only the appointment then created, but the appointment which he held, he believed without complaint, for a long time prior to that when the affairs of Greenwich Hospital were brought under the attention of Parliament. He was glad his hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) did not propose in the Bill any forced sale of the Greenwich Hospital estate, and looking to the results, either in a commercial view or with reference to the interests of the Hospital, of former proceedings on that point, he thought the hon. Gentleman had done better by keeping the estate in his own hands. With respect to the Greenwich livings, there appeared to be among naval men a remarkable unanimity in favour of conferring them upon naval chaplains who had efficiently served their country afloat, and who in their old ago were anxious to settle down to a somewhat less roving life; but he certainly felt bound to confess that the interests of the future pensioners ought, whatever arrangements might be made, to receive careful consideration. The hon. Gentleman had not paid much regard to the suggestions of the Committee with respect to the schools. There was much to be done on that point, ably as the schools had been hitherto managed. If the hon. Gentleman wished to carry the Bill this Session he ought not to attempt to do too much at once. He would ask his hon. Friend near him (Mr. Liddell) whether any definite advantage would be gained, which could not be gained in a Committee of the House, by sending the Bill to a Select Committee. Considering the time of the year he doubted whether any practical result would follow the sending the Bill to a Select Committee. Though not concurring in all the provisions of the Bill, he still had every confidence in his hon. Friend, who, he believed, desired to carry out this measure as a continuation of the Bill of 1865, and he was convinced that the details might be so adjusted as to lead to the benefits of the institution being conferred upon those entitled to them. He had not, therefore, felt it his duty to offer any opposition to the measure, which he believed was capable of being properly moulded in Committee, without adopting a course which would probably lead to its postponement.


believed, with his hon. Friend who had just down, that at this period of the Session it would be much better for the House to go into Committee on the Bill than to send it upstairs. There were three sets of circumstances under which a Bill was referred to a Select Committee. When the subject was fresh, and information was needed; when the details were abstruse and complicated, and could be discussed better in a room upstairs than in a Committee of the Whole House; and when the Government wished to shift responsibility. None of these conditions existed here. The subject had been well thrashed out by previous Committees and Commissions. The provisions of the Bill were simple, and the Government were quite prepared to treat the question on their own responsibility, and he submitted that that was the proper mode of proceeding. As to the principle of the Bill, it was this—There were at present large numbers of permanently invalided men who had lost their health in the service of the country, but who had no valid claim under existing regulations, though they had a strong moral claim. The Admiralty could only benefit these men by scraping together all the money upon which they could lay their hands, and this was exactly what they had done. The savings pointed out by the Committee were savings on paper only; but the saving shown by the Government was a genuine saving, which would be effected by inducing men to leave the Hospital, where they were kept at great expense to the country, and go to their homes, where they were more comfortable and were maintained at a much smaller expense. That was the key-note of the whole scheme of the Government. The money they had to spend would be spent in the way the men liked best; not in keeping up a Hospital at a great expense to the country, and with no special benefit to the men themselves. With regard to Mr. Lethbridge, whose claim for compensation had been mentioned, that gentleman, up to 1865, was merely paid fees for work done, like any other solicitor employed by a private client. In 1865 he was appointed a salaried officer at £500 a year, but it was specially provided at that time that the appointment was a personal one, giving no claim to compensation or a retiring allowance. It was true that Mr. Lethbridge was also appointed controller at a salary of £500 a year, but that appointment rather weakened than strengthened the claim, for the office was uncommonly like a sinecure. In proof of this, he (Mr. Trevelyan) was going to undertake the duties without a farthing of additional remuneration, while Mr. Bristow, the solicitor to the Admiralty, was going to undertake the legal duties, the heavy part of the work being done, as a rule, by the solicitors in the North. How could the Government, under these circumstances, be asked to give any compensation to Mr. Lethbridge? If they did, the Government would be the only body of persons in the country who were not protected by the black and white of a written contract? His hon. Friend had complained that the audit had been proposed to be transferred to the Treasury Department. The clause authorizing that transfer had been recommended by the Commissioners; but, on consideration, the Treasury had dropped that clause. He considered the proposed measure, to use the words of the hon. Member for Northumberland, economical and lenient—economical, because it made the money go as far as possible; and lenient, because it made the money go as far as possible in the direction in which the recipients desired it to go. He therefore confidently recommended the measure to the favourable consideration of the House.


said, having been on the Commission in 1859 and 1860 which considered the subject of Greenwich Hospital, and having also been a Member of the late Government which took this matter into consideration, he could not give a silent vote upon it. His own opinion was that further inquiry into the matter was necessary, before legislation was adopted. The present Bill carried out, but not in the way recommended by the Commissioners, certain of the principles laid down by them, but it was directly in the teeth of the recommendations of the Committee appointed by the late Board of Admiralty. The Bill contained many points worthy of acceptance, and, if two or three clauses were omitted, would be of considerable value; but he thought that in a Committee of the Whole House a measure of this special character could not have the attention it deserved, whereas in a Committee upstairs the whole thing might be settled in two days. The 4th clause was that— The Admiralty may, under regulations to be from time to time made by them, send any noncommissioned officers or men admitted to the benefits of Greenwich Hospital to a naval hospital or infirmary, to be there maintained at the expense of Greenwich Hospital. But it was necessary that a great deal of room should always be kept in the hospitals to meet sudden demands upon it. He remembered close upon 500 men being sent to Haslar in one day, and great room would be suddenly required in the event of an epidemic like scarlet fever breaking out among the boys upon the training ship, because it would be very necessary to isolate such cases. According to the Report of the Greenwich Hospital Commission of 1859 and 1860 there were 1,100 and odd persons who had served in the Navy receiving relief in workhouses. Those persons would now have the right to receive assistance from Greenwich Hospital. With reference to the 7th clause, he had taken the liberty of placing a Notice of Amendment on the Paper, because he thought the proposition that— The Admiralty may from time to time permit Greenwich Hospital or any part thereof, with the appurtenances, to be occupied and used temporarily for the purposes of the naval service or of any department of Her Majesty's Government, or for any public or charitable or other useful purpose, was going entirely beyond the purposes for which the Hospital was founded. Under such a clause the First Lord of the Admiralty might entertain them all to a fish dinner in the Painted Hall. In short, there was no sort of protection as to the use to which the Hospital might be put. His Amendment, therefore, would insert these words— For any charitable or benevolent purpose for the benefit of persons engaged in seafaring pursuits, or their widows. He should propose that Amendment if it should be the decision of the House to consider the Bill in a Committee of the Whole House; but he thought the better course would be to send it to a Committee upstairs. He was glad to hear that the clause as to audit was to be altered; but he should also be glad if the £16,000 of which the Hospital had been deprived was to be given back to it. The reasons for giving this money to the seamen of this country were indisputable. When the First Lord introduced his Bill, in 1865, he had joined issue with the right hon. Gentleman on a point which, perhaps, the House would not remember. The Bill, contrary to the opinion of the Royal Commission, appropriated a portion of the money taken from the Hospital to the payment of pensions to officers. That seemed to him a wrong appropriation, although it was a relief to the country; the pensions were well deserved, but they ought not to have been paid from the funds of Greenwich Hospital. That was entirely different from the misappropriation by which the right hon. Gentleman refused to pay the Governor of Greenwich Hospital his salary. That position had always been considered the due reward of the most efficient officer in the Navy. When Sir James Gordon died the right hon. Gentleman selected as Governor a most distinguished officer, the second in command of the Black Sea Fleet, Sir Houston Stewart, but instead of giving him £1,000 a year, which the late House of Commons voted he should have, he gave him a sum of £1,200, but deprived him of his good service pension and all his pay and emoluments, so that he actually rewarded the distinguished services of this gallant officer with only £132 a year. That was not carrying out the spirit of generosity in which the House had determined that the office of Governor of Greenwich Hospital should be continued. That was not due and just economy. He therefore felt bound, as this Bill ratified that unjustifiable transaction, to second the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) to refer it to a Select Committee upstairs.


said, he rose to support the proposition of the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) because the Bill appeared, to him to be one to confiscate the revenues of Greenwich Hospital. He strongly disapproved the measure, and would give it all the opposition in his power. No provision was made for extending the schools at Greenwich, nor was there any provision made for a girl's school, which was urgently required. The deprivation of a retiring pension to the controller he thought a very harsh measure. But the principles of the Government were principles of confiscation. These principles pervaded the whole policy of the Government. It was most unjust to deprive the Governor of the salary hitherto attached to the office, particularly when they knew that some of the most distinguished men in the country had filled that office. The Government had degraded the naval service by reducing the pay of such officers and depriving them of their other emoluments. Sir Houston Stewart, the distinguished man who now filled the office of Governor, had been deprived of his salary, and was reduced to a mere nominal salary. He (Sir James Elphinstone) had accompanied that eminent man on his appoint- ment to Greenwich Hospital, and his inauguration there was more like a funeral than the reception to which he was entitled. If his hon. Friend had moved that the Bill be committed that day six months, he should have supported him.


expressed his hope that the House would go into Committee on this Bill. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Portsmouth. (Sir James Elphinstone) had not ventured to refer to any of the clauses of the Bill, but rather to deliver a formal oration on the departed splendour which usually surrounded the installation of the Governor of Greenwich Hospital. The Act of 1865 reduced the numbers from 1,500 to 400, and at the same time took away all the duties, and he could not feel much surprise if, under these circumstances, the inauguration of the Governor was rather a quiet affair. The only other remark he had to make was that he stood between those who wished to get £15,000 more from the Exchequer for Greenwich, and those who desired to deprive the Hospital of £20,000 a year paid by the Exchequer, and that he hoped to have the assistance of each against the other. All the other objections were of merest detail; but, with the permission of the House, he would deal with the criticisms of his hon. and gallant Friends in Committee.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 124; Noes 43: Majority 81.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill consideredin Committee.

House resumed.

Bill reported;as "amended, to be considered upon Monday next.