HC Deb 04 March 1870 vol 199 cc1248-53

, in bringing before the House the case of Lieutenant Cheyne, said, he wished to make an appeal to the First Lord of the Admiralty in a case of individual hardship, consequent, upon the recent reductions in the Navy. Lieutenant Cheyne, who had done very good service, was the son of Admiral, Cheyne, an old and distinguished officer in the late war, and from the time he entered the service in 1844 until he became a lieutenant in 1851, had received commendation from all under whom he served. In 1857 he was appointed first lieutenant of the Simoom, and at the same time was given to understand that if he continued doing good service in the ship, he might fairly hope for promotion. In 1861 while discharging his duty in that vessel he saw a man in a position of great danger, and in saving him he risked his own life, and received severe injuries from which he was still suffering. When he came to England he communicated with the then First Lord of the Admiralty—the Duke of Somerset—and sought for promotion, but he was informed that, as he had received injuries which incapacitated him for foreign service, that could not be granted, but that everything that could should be done for him. Lieutenant Cheyne's object was promotion, but he (Sir John Hay) quite agreed that under the circumstances it was expedient not to promote Lieutenant Cheyne; and perhaps he was well compensated on being appointed one of the lieutenants of Plymouth Hospital. The advantages of that appointment were that his half-pay of £150 per annum was increased by £200, with a house partially furnished and certain other emoluments worth about £80 per annum, mating an income of £430 per annum, as he thought for life. There he did his duty extremely well. But in the course of the changes that had been considered necessary by the present Board of Admiralty Lieutenant Cheyne had lost his appointment. He had his £150 a year, but instead of £200 a year compensation for life, that sum was only given him until he was fifty-five years of age. As soon as he was discharged from the office Lieutenant Cheyne again asked for promotion, and wrote to the Duke of Somerset, who forwarded him the following reply:— Tuesday, Oct. 20, 1869. Sir,—I have received your letter. I should be very glad to hear that you had obtained promotion to the rank of commander, so that you may not suffer from having accepted the situation at the naval hospital. The injury which you incurred whilst on duty incapacitated you at that time for service in trying climates, and I did not then foresee the abolition of the place to which you were appointed. This is, therefore, a case where the First Lord of the Admiralty may mitigate the hardship of your present position, and I hope he may be enabled to accede to your application. I am not in town and cannot, therefore, see you, indeed I see no advantage in an interview, as I have no power except to express an opinion.—I am, your obedient servant, "SOMERSET. On the 8th December, 1869, his Grace wrote— Sir,—I have received your letter, and am sorry that a feeling, partaking somewhat of a professional prejudice, should obstruct your prospect of promotion. I do not, however, see that I can properly interfere in the matter.—1 am, your obedient servant, "SOMERSET. Lieutenant P. Cheyne. And, again, on the 2nd January, 1870, to the following effect:— Sir,—I have received your letter. I have already expressed my regret for the view taken by the Board of Admiralty of your claims and your position. I cannot, however, interfere in a matter where I have no authority.—Your obedient servant, "SOMERSET. Inasmuch as a former Lord of the Admiralty who gave the appointment was of opinion that this officer had been hardly used, he (Sir John Hay) considered it his duty to bring the matter before the House. All he contended was that Lieutenant Cheyne ought not to be placed in a worse or in a better position; and if his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty could see his way to giving Lieutenant Cheyne the £200 per annum for life with some £80 a year for the loss of his house and other official advantages, he should be satisfied. He had not the honour of Lieutenant Cheyne's personal acquaintance; he knew him only by repute; and he had brought the matter forward purely as an act of justice towards a public officer.


said, he would state the exact facts of the case, and then the House would be able to see how far this gentleman, and others similarly placed, had been illused by the present Board of Admiralty. Mr. Cheyne was an officer who had served for eight or nine years as lieutenant, and against whom he had nothing whatever to say. He was an officer of good character, and who had done good service, but in 1861 he met with a very serious accident which incapacitated him for active service at sea, and for a short time he was in a home ship. Mr. Cheyne then applied strongly, to the Duke of Somerset and other members of the Admiralty Board for promotion; but the Duke, with perfect wisdom, declined to promote him, and appointed him, very much against his will, to be lieutenant at one of the hospitals. The office to which Mr. Cheyne was appointed was one which, without using a nickname, he might say did not give the holder much to do. Last year, accordingly, on looking into the appointments held in connection with the hospital, it was deemed desirable to put an end to the office, and Lieutenant Cheyne was informed that after a certain time the office would cease to be. It was necessary to consider what compensation it was reasonable to give. Now, the office was a civil office, with a salary of £200 a year, besides the occupation of a house, and the result had been that, whereas while he was at the hospital. Lieutenant Cheyne received altogether in salary and pay £327 15s. a year, together with the use of a house, he now received £355 2s. 6d. a year, without a house, and as he had now no duties to discharge, this House would probably think that the Admiralty was not open to a charge of undue parsimony. Lieutenant Cheyne, instead of being treated unfairly, had been treated in an exceedingly liberal manner. He should never think of promotion in a case of this kind, for there was nothing whatever to justify Lieutenant Cheyne's promotion. Indeed, his hon. Friend had stated that he did not raise the question of promotion, and consequently the only remaining point to be considered was whether it was reasonable to ask Parliament and the Admiralty to grant a larger amount of compensation than £230 a year, without a house. He was of opinion that that was sufficient, and it was not the intention of the Admiralty to give him more. His hon. Friend had stated that Lieutenant Cheyne did not know at the time he was appointed that he would not be permitted to retain his office after he had reached the age of, fifty-five. As to that, he would simply remark that the rule in question was of universal application to all permanent appointments of this kind, and that if he were to make the present case an exception to it he should be bombarded by applications from officers who had occupied similar situations. He might add that Lieutenant Cheyne would come off, very well under the new retiring arrangements. Under the circumstances, he was unable to accede to the wish expressed, by his hon. Friend.


said, he had listened with some interest to what had been said, although he knew nothing of Lieutenant Cheyne except what he had heard with respect to that gentleman's services. He did not think, however, that the right hon. Gentleman (the First Lord of the Admiralty) had fairly stated the facts of the case. The Government had not given £230 to Lieutenant Cheyne at all. In the ordinary course of remaining on the list his half-pay had increased by £30, but he had got no addition for being deprived of his situation. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government had given him £230 as compensation, that did not appear to be in accordance with the real facts of the, case. This gentleman had had £200 a year, with a house and a certain portion of furniture, equivalent to £80 a year, Now, the peculiar circumstances of the case were such as must naturally excite the sympathy of Members of the House. Here was a gentleman, actively employed in the service of the Crown, who had distinguished himself on several occasions, and never more so than on the occasion when he received the injuries which resulted in his retirement from the office he then held. Seeing a man in danger of his life he put his own in peril, and though he succeeded in saving the man's life, he received an injury which disqualified him from remaining on board his ship, and serving his country in all climates. He came home, and the Duke of Somerset, with great kindness, seeing that he could not properly promote him, gave him an appointment, which it was understood at that time both by Lieutenant Cheyne and the Duke of Somerset, would be an appointment for life. It might, perhaps, have been something of a sinecure—into that question he would not enter—but it was an appointment given by way of an equivalent for the loss he had sustained and the sacrifice of his health in attempting to save another person's life. He had now been deprived of that employment, and instead of an equivalent, he was to receive £200 a year only till he was fifty-five years of age. The right hon. Gentleman maintained that Lieutenant Cheyne had been compensated very liberally because he was receiving almost as large an income as before; but, at all events, he had lost his house, had lost his furniture, and had been under the necessity of removing his children from school. His half-pay had been increased by £30 not by any act of the Government. In a case like this, of course the House could not make a grant, and he would, therefore, content himself by appealing to the Government to deal with this gentleman in a kind and considerate manner.


explained that the increase of £30 half-pay was an act of grace on the part of the Government. It was not strictly in accordance with the rule, but, under the circumstance, an exception was made in Lieutenant Cheyne's favour.