LORD HENRY LENNOX
rose to move—That it is inexpedient to retire Flag Officers from the active list of the Navy for any other cause but age or physical infirmity, and thus add to the public charge.He wished to call the attention of the House to the case of some officers, and to the position in which they would be placed under the operation of the new scheme propounded by the First Lord 128 of the Admiralty; but he begged to assure the right hon. Gentleman that he had no wish to be a party to the overthrowing of the scheme in its entirety. All he wished was to see such a modification introduced into the scheme as would keep faith with distinguished officers, with whom faith would otherwise be broken, and as would prevent the country from being deprived of the services of very valuable officers, should an emergency arise in which they might be required. The right hon. Gentleman had taken pains to prove that the time had arrived when a fresh scheme of naval retirement was necessary, and every one who took any interest in the naval service admitted that much, and agreed that the naval lists were overcrowded, and that the time had come when some measure of relief should be afforded. The list had been overcrowded ever since the close of the Great War in 1815; and measures of relief had been carried into effect on four or five separate occasions by subsequent Orders in Council. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay), in 1863, brought forward a document, signed by 1,200 officers of the superior grades of the Navy, praying for a fresh retirement scheme, and praying that the principle should be adopted of extending the compulsory retirement for age to those officers who had hoisted their flags. His hon. and gallant Friend laid the scheme before the Duke of Somerset, who was then the First Lord of the Admiralty; but it did not meet with that success which might have been supposed. A Select Committee was then appointed, presided over by the right hon. Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole), and they agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) that some scheme of retirement was necessary, although they differed from him in regard to some of the details. While the right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Admiralty did right in proposing a new retirement scheme, he had fallen into the same error with regard to retirement which he had fallen into in almost every other change he had made since he accepted Office. Finding that there was a grievance in one direction, the right hon. Gentleman wont too far in the adverse direction to find the remedy. There were at present too many officers in the various grades of the Navy, who 129 clogged the list; but if the right hon. Gentleman's scheme were adopted, it would be found, according to all the great authorities, that there would then be too few. This was especially true of the lieutenants, whose case he should leave in the hands of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry). At the same time, there was much in the right hon. Gentleman's plan which he approved. No one would grumble that he should deal with the want of uniformity in principle and scale of the retired list. The increased scale applied to warrant officers deserved approval. He also approved the pensions to the widows of warrant officers; and to those widows who, after the death of a second husband, were now to receive a pension according to the services of their first husband. The increased pay to the Engineers was only an act of justice to these important members of the service; and he also concurred in the principle of compulsory retirement for age in the case of flag officers. He regretted very much that the right hon. Gentleman had excluded from his scheme that description of service which, instead of being a disadvantage to an officer when he arrived at a distinguished post of command, in point of fact, admirably fitted him for the special duties which would then be entrusted to him. Was it wise, or right, or just, to exclude from the scheme the services performed in the Admiralty Department at Whitehall? If it decided this question in the affirmative, it must go one step further, and consider whether it would not be a breach of faith to officers under the Order of Council in 1866, which gave to officers of flag rank the same privileges that attached to Admiralty rank. The House would do well to inquire how Admiralty service had been regarded throughout the Navy during past years. It had always been considered the one great prize of naval officers in time of peace, because no higher honour could be hoped for than to assist in administering the affairs of the service to which they belonged. What was the course of training which a naval officer received at the Admiralty? It enabled him to take a larger view of public affairs, to become acquainted with the origin and growth of all those great questions which sometimes troubled the political atmosphere with wars and rumours of wars, and to 130 gain a knowledge of diplomacy which, when he was called upon to take a high command, enabled him to exercise his discretion, and to use his fleet in such a way as to save us from unnecessary hostilities. A period of service at the Admiralty was eminently calculated to endow the commander-in-chief of a foreign squadron in times of political differences with those qualities which conduce to the preservation of peace. The question was, how this exclusion would operate in future? If it had been in operation in past years, it would have deprived this country of some of the most eminent names that adorned the naval roll of England, and it would now wipe off the roll some of those who had well served their country. Being a civilian, and having no personal interest in the matter, he had taken some little trouble in looking up the names of those who would have been lost to the service if the new rule of retirement after ten years had elapsed without hoisting their flag had been in existence. Sir Thomas Cochrane, the Admiral of the Fleet, was paid off his ship in 1824, and not re-employed in the service until 1842, during which time he was Governor of Newfoundland and a Member of that House. He was selected as second, and finally as first, in command during the China and Borneo Wars, in which he served with great distinction, and he was subsequently Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth. According to the present scheme, Sir Thomas Cochrane would have been struck off in 1835, before he was summoned to China. The next case he would name was that of Sir Baldwin Walker, who was Surveyor of the Navy from 1818 till 1862, when he was sent off to take the command at the Cape, and who was subsequently at the Nore. No doubt many hon. Members would remember the excitement caused by the unsuccessful attempt of his gallant relative, Lord Clarence Paget, the Secretary to the Admiralty, to catch Sir Baldwin Walker on a trip in which he was in command of a vessel superior in point of speed. Had this rule been in force Sir Baldwin Walker, having been Surveyor to the Navy from 1848 to 1862, would have been ineligible to command at the Cape and at the Nore. There were some cases bearing on what he had already said as to special training at the Ad- 131 miralty; and the first officer he would name was the late Sir George Seymour, a gallant relative of his and a noble officer. Sir George Seymour, when a captain in the Navy, was, in 1819, made Serjeant-at-Arms in the House of Lords. In 1827 he took temporary command of the Briton on a special mission to St. Petersburg. On his return he was Master of the Robes to William IV., from 1830 to 1837. In 1841 he was made a Lord of the Admiralty; in 1844 he went to the Pacific; in 1851 he was on the North American and West Indian station; and, lastly, he was at Portsmouth. Yet under this scheme Sir George Seymour would have ceased to belong to the Navy in 1841. What the results of his training were, and what were the services he had rendered, were stated in an obituary notice in The Times, which said—This distinguished officer's services extended over many of the most stormy times of England's naval history, during the wars with France at the end of the last and beginning of the present century. In later times his services in the Pacific were of a very high order. Our relations with France had become of a very precarious nature, in consequence of the misunderstanding which grew out of the Pritchard affair. These difficulties were mainly adjusted through the careful management of Sir George Seymour. So, again, in the arduous negotiations we were carrying on with the United States relative to the fishery question, that these were brought to a satisfactory conclusion was owing to the tact, ability, and decision shown by Sir George, and borne witness to by the two Foreign Secretaries, and Sir James Graham gave a good service pension.Had the will of the right hon. Gentleman been in force, all this tact, ability, and decision, which saved us from a war with the United States, would have been lost to the country. The cases of Sir Edmund Lyons and Sir Alexander Milne were of a similar character. Sir Edmund Lyons was paid off Her Majesty's ship Madagascar in 1885; in 1836 he was appointed Minister in Greece; he remained in that service until 1852, when he was, by the unanimous voice of Parliament, called to be second in command of the Black Sea Fleet, and the result was amply justified, for he received the thanks of Parliament in conjunction with Lord Dundas. Sir Alexander Milne, a gallant friend of his own, was actually taken out of his ship, the St. Vincent, to serve at the Admiralty, where he remained from 1847 to 1859, all through the Crimean War. He then took com- 132 mand of the North American station, and while he was there the war in the United States broke out, the Trent affair occurred, and he showed so much tact and discretion in the delicate circumstances in which he was placed that, when the term of his command came to an end, in accordance with the general wish, it was extended for another year, until the cessation of hostilities averted the chance of a collision between this country and the United States. Then he joined the late Board of Admiralty, and he was selected by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers) for the Mediterranean command. Under the new scheme Sir Alexander Milne would have been retired in 1867. Sir William Parker paid off the frigate Amazon in 1814, and was not again employed until 1827. In 1841 he commanded in chief in the war with China, which he brought to a successful conclusion. He was subsequently continued a double length of command for seven years by successive Ministers during the revolutionary period. Under the new regulation he would have been removed in 1841. Sir Josias Rowley and Sir Pulteney Malcolm were also selected in dangerous times for command in the Mediterranean. In the American Navy one of the most distinguished admirals of modern times—Admiral Farragut, who achieved such successes in the war between the Northern and Confederate States—was for ten years ashore, discharging the duties of a civil appointment. He did not think it was fair to exclude officers of such distinction from offering their services; if we did not have such officers at the Board of Admiralty, we should have retired officers of less efficiency. He certainly did not think that, in these times at all events, it would be wise policy to weaken the naval element at Whitehall; on the contrary, he should like to see greater weight given to the views of the naval advisor; and therefore he did not wish the House to pass any scheme which would tend to make it impracticable and unadvisable that first-class officers should servo there, and would leave those who had the least power to raise their voices in defence of the interests of the service to which they belonged. Sir Frederick Grey was one of the two officers with whom he had official connection, and the only one with whom he had politi- 133 cal sympathy; and the cases of the two officers were in other hands. The case of Sir Spencer Robinson, Controller of the Navy, was a strong one. In I860 a new Order in Council for the retirement of flag officers was introduced by Lord Clarence Paget; it was discussed in the House, and on a division it was affirmed that the Controller of the Navy should be exempted from the operation of the Order. In that debate Lord Clarence Paget said—The only able officers exempted were those who had served at the Admiralty or discharged duties in connection with the government of the Navy. Of these the number affected was very few, for nearly all had hoisted, or would hoist their flags. As regards the Controller of the Navy, nobody could say that the duties which he discharged were not equal in importance to those of any officer with his flag hoisted."—[3 Hansard, clxxxii. 550.]In this he entirely agreed; the duties performed by the Controller had been onerous, and had been performed with great advantage to the State; and he should greatly regret that by this Order the Controller should be driven from his profession. The decision of the House affirmed the principle which it was now sought to overthrow—namely, that exemption from retirement at the age of seventy should be extended to those officers who had hoisted their flag, and also to those who had served at the Admiralty. The list of officers to whom he wished to allude ended with his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay), who was one of those hit by the now Order. He had served on every station except that of Australia; he was at sea from 1834 to 1850 on the West Africa, the Syria, and the China stations; he served in the Russian War from 1854 to 1856; he was in North America from 1856 to 1858; in 1860, at the request of the late First Lord of the Admiralty the Duke of Somerset, he undertook the laborious task of presiding over the inquiry into the affairs of Greenwich Hospital, which had borne so much fruit in the management of that establishment; from 1861 to 1864 he was Chairman of the Iron-plate Committee; afterwards he was two years at the Admiralty, from 1866 to 1868; and then he asked for a command afloat, which was not granted because his services at home wore valued too highly. The hon. and gallant Gentleman got his flag rank a few days after 134 the Order in Council of 1866, which guaranteed to him that he should not, except from physical unfitness, be called upon to retire from the Navy before the age of sixty-five; yet, after the lapse of four years, and at the age of forty-nine, his hon. and gallant Friend was hit by this scheme and had to retire. He could not help thinking that the First Lord of the Admiralty, on a consideration of these cases, would see whether anything could be done to avoid that which in the eyes of the country would be regarded as a gross breach of faith. By the Order in Council of 1866, no flag officer was liable to retire compulsorily at the age of seventy unless he had hoisted his flag, or had served at the Admiralty. Under that rule many gallant officers had passed the age of seventy and had become Admirals of the Fleet, popularly known as "field-marshals of the Navy." Four years afterwards the right hon. Gentleman said all these officers who had been unconsciously risking their position on the list should take their choice between the new regulation forcing them to retire at sixty-five and the old regulation subject to modification. He had no personal interest in the matter; but he entreated the right hon. Gentleman to pause before he carried out a scheme which would certainly have the worst effect on the minds of those engaged in the service, for they would regard it as a gross breach of faith. From communications which he had received, he was convinced that the c sedition of the scheme would shako the confidence of the profession in the administration of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty. With regard to the case of the captains, there would be opportunity for discussion when the House went into Committee of Supply; but he must remark that had such an Order of Council been in existence in former days Sir Charles Napier would have been cut short prematurely in his career, and Nelson's name would have been wiped out of the Navy List before he fought those battles which made his name so glorious. The First Lord of the Admiralty took credit for the great secresy with which this scheme had been concocted; but a scheme so extensive, and grappling with so many subjects, ought to have been the work of many counsellors, and he should like to know who were the naval officers consulted in the preparation of this scheme? 135 He should like to ask whether his gallant Friend Sir Sydney Dacres was one of those who drew up the scheme, or whether Sir Spencer Robinson had anything to do with it? The right hon. Gentleman in his speech gave great credit to Lord Camperdown for the labours the noble Lord had bestowed on this subject. The noble Lord certainly showed most extraordinary powers of inquiry. Although the noble Lord had never taken great interest in any of these multifarious subjects, it was perfectly marvellous that so young a man should have amassed so much information on the subject committed to his charge; for the noble Lord had not only been inquiring into the victualling yards, and arranged a scheme for the promotion of the Navy —a subject which had baffled so many naval advisers for many years—but he had been down to Scotland and inquired into the Scotch office and Scotch business generally, and altogether the number of the inquiries showed unwearied zeal on the part of the noble Lord. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen who cheered would agree with him that, for so young a man, the result of the noble Lord's deliberations would have commanded more respect if the noble Lord had confined his attention to one subject instead of so many. He regretted the hurry exhibited by the right hon. Gentleman in bringing forward a scheme so vast and affecting so many officers, who had not sufficient time allowed them to make up their minds as to the step which they should take, and which would be one for good or evil in their career. He did not attribute to the right hon. Gentleman anything but a desire to promote the efficiency of the Navy, and he felt sure that no party feeling had been allowed to have any weight in the matter; for he could not conceive that anyone administering the affairs of the noble profession of the Navy would ever allow himself to be swayed by party feeling in the discharge of his functions; but he again impressed on the right hon. Gentleman the propriety of reconsidering this matter, and of looking at it in the light of its being a breach of faith towards distinguished officers. He feared that in future, if this country should ever be at war, the policy of the right hon. Gentleman would be found fraught with danger to the State, and with the greatest inconvenience to the public ser- 136 vice. He concluded by moving, as an Amendment to the Motion for going into Committee of Supply, the Resolution of which he had given notice.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
seconded the Resolution. He admitted that the terms of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty were extremely liberal and would be welcomed by many officers, and it was only to a part of the incidence of the scheme that he wished to draw attention. He did not see what the country gained by causing flag officers to retire, because better terms were given to induce them to go. The way to effect economy, so far as pay was concerned, would be to stop the entries. When once officers had entered the service it would never be tolerated that they should be turned adrift. By retiring a flag officer feelings were often wounded which it should be a study to respect. His objections to this scheme wore most particularly directed to the regulation which said, that officers who had not served afloat for ten years should be compulsorily retired, and that service at the Board of Admiralty was not to be counted as sea service. He thought this would work mischievously. In the case of an officer who had not served afloat for nine years, the greatest pressure would be brought to bear upon the Admiralty in order to procure for him an appointment afloat, and the Admiralty might, in consequence, appoint him in preference to another officer, better qualified. With regard to the Board of Admiralty, how would the ten years' rule operate? Either those officers only who had lost their ambition to serve afloat would enter the Board, or the Board would be looked on as a mere channel to procure employment. If it happened that men went to the Board of Admiralty when they had lost all ambition to serve afloat, the result would be the repetition of the old cry that the Admiralty was governed by a set of effete admirals, not up to their work. He should now take the case of the flag officers close to the First Lord. His right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty said it was not a good thing to have officers too long at the Board. He agreed with him; but that principle might be carried too far. It would not be a good thing to have those officers come or go too often. The consequences of such frequent 137 changes would be contradictory opinions and conflicting arrangements. It might be suggested that in order to enable those officers to remain in the service the First Lord might send them to hoist their flag for a couple of days; but the great hardship of the new rule was in its retrospective effect, Before 1866 it never had been distinctly laid down that service at the Admiralty was service afloat, because the matter had never boon called in question; but when the compulsory retirement came, an Order in Council distinctly laid down that service with the Admiralty should count as if the flag officer were afloat. That Order was swept away by the Order in Council which his right hon. Friend had just passed. Service at the Admiralty no longer counted as service afloat, or, in other words, the very centre of the Navy was the only place where service in the Navy was not to count. His noble Friend (Lord Henry Lennox) had referred to the case of Sir Baldwin Walker. Even supposing that the Naval Lord might be changed frequently, would anyone say that the Controller of the Navy ought to be changed every two years? Would his right hon. Friend say that the duties of the Controller could be learnt in a few days or a few hours? Why years must be spent by him in the office before the Controller was up to his duties and became master of the details of his gigantic department. He might observe that in the active chase set on foot by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington), he believed that gallant officer was very near being run ashore on the cost of France, because Sir Baldwin was as anxious to escape as the right hon. Baronet was to catch him. Admiral Robinson succeeded him and served with the Duke of Somerset, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), and his right hon. Friend the present First Lord. His right hon. Friend recognized the importance of the office of Controller, because in a Memorandum which he issued in 1868 he referred to it in the most flattering terms, and proposed to make him a member of the Board by fusing the duties of Controller and those of Second Naval Lord. The Memorandum stated that the dockyards, steam reserves, the inspectors of the steam departments, gunnery, and the stores department were to be under the Controller and First Lord, 138 whose salary was to be increased £500 a year. Connected with this matter there was what appeared to him a touch of bitter irony, of which he had supposed his right hon. Friend incapable. At Christmas, 1868, the Controller was taken into the Board, and his office was magnified; but at Christmas, 1869, he was struck off the list. To anyone who knew anything about naval affairs, could it seem right that the service of superintendents of dockyards should be counted as service afloat, while that of the Controller, who superintended those superintendents, was not to be so counted? He remembered words used by Lord Clarence Paget in reference to the Order in Council of 1866. Lord Clarence said—As to the Controller of the Navy, no one will say the duties he performs are not equal to those of any officer serving with his flag.He concurred with the opinion expressed in those words. He now came to the case of Admiral Eden, an officer well known to a great many Members of that House, and who had served long and efficiently. He had seen a great deal of active service, for during the forty-eight years he had been in the Navy he had served over forty years. More than once Admiral Eden had been at the Admiralty, and he was sure his right hon. Friend would boar testimony to the value of his services there. He had been taken from active service to go to the Admiralty on the first occasion of his appointment, and he was over the Coastguard when the Duke of Somerset took him to the Admiralty, where he continued for seven years. Was that service to be made penal? Was it to strike Admiral Eden off the list? This was all the harder, because, while he was at the Admiralty, the gallant Admiral might have availed himself of many opportunities of going on active service; but he remained at the Admiralty, because he believed it was the wish of the First Lord that he should do so. He would allude to one other case —that of Sir Frederick Grey. He was called to the Admiralty in 1861, immediately on his return from service at the Cape, where he had served for five years; but his time at the Admiralty not being allowed to count, he would have to retire in September next. If he were allowed to remain in the service for a short time beyond that period, the pro- 139 bability was that he would become Admiral of the Fleet. It might be said that these higher distinctions were not of much value; but that was a great mistake. They were highly valued, and they were looked forward to with peculiar interest by men who had nearly reached them after long years of service, because they shed a ray of light on the close of an honourable career. Unless on very good grounds, they ought not to be snatched from men who had all but reached them. One rule ought to be adopted towards all public servants, but especially towards those who, like officers in the Navy, had not a very high scale of remuneration. He had often heard it said, on both sides of the House, that the pay of flag officers in the Navy was scarcely sufficient or scarcely worthy of a great country. The rule he referred to was that of keeping good faith. He was reluctantly compelled to say that, in his opinion, good faith had not been kept with the class of officers whose case was now under discussion. He regretted to criticize any part of the conduct of his right hon. Friend, because there was so much in it which did him credit, and for which no doubt the country gave him great praise. He should not like the House to have to come to a vote on the Amendment of the noble Lord, because the question was so very intricate and difficult that scarcely anyone could understand it except those who had been on the subject for years; but he would suggest that if his right hon. Friend was not prepared to give effect to the wishes which had been expressed in this discussion, he might afford the House an opportunity of having the matter looked into by a Committee, in order that if it should be established that a hardship had been done to flag officers by the proposed regulation an effort might be made to effect the necessary reforms without the infliction of that hardship.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient to retire Flag Officers from the active list of the Navy for any other cause but age or physical infirmity, and thus add to the public charge,"—(Lord Henry Lennox,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."140
said, the question had been so ably handled by his noble Friend near him (Lord Henry Lennox) and his hon. Friend who had just sat down that he would say only a few words. He entirety concurred in the greater part of the opinions they had expressed in so forcible a manner. He was one of those who had always been opposed to the compulsory retirement of flag officers. There was a good reason for removing officers too old for service from the captains' list, because if the top of that list was encumbered with old officers the result would be the promotion of old men to the flag; but he agreed with the Duke of Somerset, who stated to the Committee of 1863—As long as the country can have the services of a sufficient number of admirals fit for command, on what list they are is of very little importance.It was immaterial how old the officers at the top of the flag list might be, provided it contained a sufficient number of active officers to meet the requirements of the service. With regard to the gallant admirals who would be affected by this scheme, it was his duty a few weeks ago to criticize, perhaps with a little severity, the actions of the Controller of the Navy respecting some transactions in his department; but he could bear testimony to the great efficiency of that officer, who was a man of great ability, and had presided over his department very much to the advantage of the public service. It appeared ridiculous that the rule should apply to an officer in such a position, whose functions had reference to every part of a ship— not only the building, but the rigging, the masting, the armament, and other matters—and who could learn much more in the execution of his duties than in superintending a dockyard. To compare the nautical knowledge acquired by an officer as Controller of the Navy, and as superintendent of, say Pembroke Dockyard, where a ship in commission was hardly ever seen, was so absurd that the comparison could not be entertained for a moment. He felt the greatest respect for two gallant officers who had been mentioned—Sir Frederick Grey and Admiral Eden—and considered that to compel them to retire was a breach of faith towards them after the arrangement which was come to, on the faith of an Order in Council, in 1866. They had both served long and well, and were 141 excellent officers. The case of his gallant Friend and late Colleague at the Admiralty (Sir John Hay) was a remarkably hard one; and he (Mr. Corry) felt it the more, because it was owing to him that his gallant Friend was among those officers who were on the list to be compulsorily retired. His principal object in having risen was to confirm what had been said on that subject. In 1868 his hon. and gallant Friend applied to him to give him a command; but he (Mr. Corry) told him that, although he should be glad to meet any wish of his, his services at the Admiralty and in the House were so valuable that he hoped he would not press his request. Upon this he was good enough to say that he would remain at the Admiralty, and therefore it was his (Mr. Corry's) fault that he was now to be made a retired rear-admiral at the ago of forty-nine. It was really ridiculous. Did his hon. and gallant Friend look like an effete admiral no longer fit for service? The scheme of the First Lord seemed to him to offer a premium for the retirement of the best officers in the Nary. What could be more absurd than to invite rear-admirals to retire at the age of fifty-five. Most men were as fit for work in such a rank at fifty-five as thirty-five; but this scheme offered a premium to rear-admirals to retire at fifty-five, just when their services would be most valuable, when they had physical energy in conjuntion with experience. It was also preposterous to say that captains, physically and mentally fit for service, should be allowed to retire at fifty; but the most absurd of all was the proposition as to the retirement of admirals of the fleet, as if an active officer was wanted in that position. Who over heard of an admiral of the fleet being employed on active service? Would a similar scheme be tolerated if applied to the sister service? What would have been thought if the Duke of Wellington had been placed upon the shelf at seventy? He could not understand why there should be different measures of justice for the Navy and for the Army. His hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) had had special duties to perform at the Admiralty, and he was thereby extremely well qualified to be an admiral on active service. For several years his gallant Friend was at the head of the Iron-plate Committee, which inquired into all questions con- 142 cerning the armour-plating and the armament of ships, and had given him information which would be most useful in an officer serving in a fleet. He hoped that the Motion would not be pressed, and that the subject, as had been suggested, would be referred to a Select Committee. It was one of great importance to the interests of the Navy. If the First Lord, of the Admiralty would consent to that course being taken he would show a consideration towards the service which would be highly appreciated.
§ ADMIRAL ERSKINE
considered the scheme of the First Lord as the most sweeping measure that had over been introduced by any Government with regard to officers employed in the profession of arms. The principle on which this plan was founded was totally unintelligible. It professed to draw a clear line between those who were fit for active service and those who were unfit; but the conditions of retirement were dissimilar and opposed to each other. It was proposed that officers reaching flag rank at the age of sixty should be obliged to retire; but officers who had been in command at such a period that they must now be seventy-five years old, were to be permitted to continue on the list of admirals for active service. He understood that the object of retaining those gallant officers was to save them from humiliation or slight; and he was glad that some consideration was shown to the feelings of those veterans whom they had learnt to reverence, and to whoso post it had hitherto been a laudable ambition to aspire. But while the First Lord of the Admiralty was saving them from a slight he was inflicting one upon their younger brethren, who were to be compulsorily retired at an age when they had not reached the extreme limit of efficiency. He felt the great hardship which would be inflicted on those officers who had served at the Admiralty, especially Sir Spencer Robinson, whose abilities and acquirements well qualified him for the position he was to hold no longer. Passing, however, from personal matters, he wished to consider the scheme in a financial point of view, and here its difficulties appeared to increase. Why could not the present list be increased, and why was promotion stopped? It was said that the country objected to paying for a long list of useless officers; 143 but how was it proposed to remedy that state of things? Taxpayers would find that their old enemies disappeared from one part of the Navy List, but re-appeared in another, with a much larger income. There were at present on the active list ninety-five flag officers, and 224 on the retired list. By the scheme of the First Lord the active list would be reduced in number to fifty, and the retired list increased to 269—the total, therefore, still remained at 319. The only change effected was the retirement of forty-five officers upon increased pensions. It was, however, hoped that fifty-five flag officers might be induced to accept the scheme of retirement, which would increase the total number by ten, and that was called an economy. The number on the active list of captains was 292, and on the retired list 404, and the change would reduce the active list to 150, and increase the retired list to 546. He could hardly think that the House would consent to a scheme of retirement such as this. An analogous case of economy would be this—that the Secretary to the Admiralty should dispose of his stock of preserved meats and pickles, of which he told us lately he had so large a surplus, by hiring a store at a very large expense to put them in, and then boast that he had effected a great economy. In fact, we had a retired list already; the Admiralty did not actively employ officers whose age or infirmities unfitted them for service, and his right hon. Friend was merely asking to be relieved from a responsibility in connection with the selection of naval officers from which he ought not to be exempted. For himself, he greatly doubted whether age was the best test, or any test at all, of inefficiency. Many men at sixty or sixty-five were certainly better fitted for service than others at fifty or fifty-five; and it was a most impolitic measure to endeavour to stamp out that laudable ambition and honourable spirit which ought to be the moving principle of the profession of arms. What would the members of any other profession say if told that they must take leave of hope and fortune at the age of sixty? What would the lawyer say if at that period he were to be cut off from all hope of reaching the Woolsack? Or, again, what would be thought of a proposal that our statesmen, at an age when they were often in their prime, should relinquish 144 all further ambition and be content with the few hundreds a year which were deemed sufficient to compensate the officers at the head of a gallant profession? But was age really always a disqualification for naval command? Had the late Lord Dundonald—one of the very greatest seamen this country ever produced — been placed in command of our Baltic Fleet in 1856, in all probability the complaints of the inactivity of that fleet would never have been heard of in this country. It was believed in the Navy that in the interview with Sir James Graham, at which that gallant veteran—then in his eightieth year— offered his services to the Admiralty, he was so energetic, and maintained his position with such vigour, that an inkstand placed betwen him and the First Lord fell a victim to his earnestness, and that Sir James Graham was so alarmed at this little incident that he proceeded to select a gallant officer, much his junior, to whom the fleet might be more prudently intrusted. In conclusion, he apprehended that the sweeping and not most complimentary scheme of retirement was addressed in some degree to the pecuniary necessities of many of his brother officers, whose poverty and not their will might in many cases force them to consent to it; and he trusted that before the discussion closed the House would be favoured with the opinions entertained on the subject by some of the naval advisers of his right hon. Friend the First Lord.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I confess, Sir, that I rise to speak on this question with considerable difficulty. At the same time, I am most anxious that the House, early in the debate, should understand clearly what it is that is in discussion between myself and my noble Friend who moved the Amendment (Lord Henry Lennox), and what is the nature of this question in connection with retirement in the Navy, as to which all those who have preceded me have stated to the House certain classes of objections. I say, in the first place, that I feel some hesitation in speaking thus early in the debate, or, indeed, at all on this particular subject, because almost every gentleman whose name has been brought before the House as being aggrieved by a particular part of this scheme is either a personal friend of my own or a gentleman whom it cannot but be most dis- 145 agreeable to me to have to put—as we have heard to-night—in a position in which he regrets to find himself. Therefore, on that ground, I own I feel some pain in the remarks that I have now to make; and, moreover, I am placed in some difficulty because my noble Friend, having put on the Paper a Motion with reference to one particular part of this scheme of retirement—the whole of which would more naturally be discussed in Committee, when each portion of it would be brought under the notice of the House in turn, and I should have an opportunity of explaining it — my noble Friend, and those who followed him, have launched into half-a-dozen other parts of the scheme; and I shall therefore be obliged, in the single address I shall offer to the House, to do-fend, not that one part of the scheme particularly, but its whole character and details as far as they have been touched upon by previous speakers. I will, however, do my best to place before the House the case of naval retirement as affected by the present plan and by those plans which have preceded it, and also to state, as well as I can, the specific reasons for which I invite the House to negative my noble Friend's Amendment. The case as to naval retirement, in a few words is this—I will not go back before the year 1860, before the Government of Lord Palmerston and the Admiralty of the Duke of Somerset; but from 1860, down to the present time, there has been a succession of endeavours to put pay, promotion, and retirement in the Navy upon a satisfactory footing. And I will undertake to say that, although different schemes have been proposed by different individuals, by a Committee of this House, and have been made the subject of three or four successive Orders in Council, ending with the Order in Council of 1866, up to the present moment it is admitted universally in the Navy, and almost universally outside of the Navy, that this most difficult question of promotion and retirement has not been satisfactorily settled; that all these various schemes have, as it were, merely scratched the ground or gone but little further, and that a thorough and sweeping measure is necessary to accommodate promotion and retirement in the Navy to the requirements of the present time. I do not think my hon. Friends who have preceded me will dispute that. 146 My right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) almost said so in the course of his speech just now; and I know that is the view of the Duke of Somerset, who, when I some months ago took this important subject in hand, advised me strongly not to do any small matters, as was done by the Orders in Council ending with that of 1866, but to frame a thorough, comprehensive scheme, which should, if possible, set this difficult question at rest. Reverting to the Orders in Council, beginning with that of 1860 and ending with that of 1866, their tendency was one and all the same. They found very large lists of naval officers, from the flag officers down to the lieutenants; they found a very imperfect system of retirement; they endeavoured to effect casual and temporary alleviations of the existing state of things, and aimed at providing more or less efficient remedies for the future. There were introduced, one after another, moderate amounts of retirement in each list; there was no very great system in these efforts, but their object was uniformly the same —namely, in some way or another to clear the lists of the enormous encumbrance upon them, and to provide more satisfactory inducements to officers of different ranks to leave the active and go upon the retired list. I come now to the Order in Council of 1866, which has been spoken of by the noble Lord and others who followed him as if it were a kind of charter, giving certain rights to officers of different ranks, with which the present plan interferes. Now, what was the Order in Council of 1866 as bearing on this matter? It affected, if I remember rightly, all ranks of the military branch of the Navy, commencing with the flag officers, and going down to the captains, commanders, and lieutenants. And as to flag officers, what did it do? We have heard a good deal to-night about the vested interests of gallant officers who had certain expectations of which it is now sought to deprive them. The Order of 1866 swept away altogether, at once and without compensation, largo rights which upon the grounds stated to-night were possessed by a considerable number of naval officers. Up to 1866 any officer who became a captain and served five years as captain, was entitled to be promoted on the active list up to the rank of full admiral. The Order of 1866 took 147 away that right altogether. I will not now go into details as to the manner in which it affected captains. But with respect to flag officers, who form the subject of the present debate, the Order of 1866 said this —"You are upon the active list. You are at present entitled to remain on the active list, whatever your age, until you reach the flag list. This Order, for the first time, compulsorily retires you at a certain age. If you have acquired certain rights by service; you will be given an option in the matter, but if you have not, this Order distinctly takes away your right to remain on the active list, and retires you altogether without giving you any option as to a pecuniary arrangement, or any better terms of retirement than the half-pay." Let me remind the House what happened when this scheme was before Parliament in 1866, and a vote was taken upon it. The Order, with respect to flag-officers, said this—"The only exception to the general provision for compulsory retirement at certain ages shall be to present flag officers, if they have hoisted their flags or served at the Admiralty." But what was the cry of this House, which all but shipwrecked the Order and negatived the vote?—for the vote was carried by a very narrow majority indeed. The cry was from both sides of the House—not from one side merely, but from both sides—"Why make this exception in favour of service at the Admiralty?" and no one urged that objection more strongly, or more clearly, than my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), who, I have no doubt, wall speak in the debate. My right hon. Friend said if this system was to be carried out it should be carried out thoroughly and impartially, and there should be no exemptions of any kind. He could not understand on what principle his hon. Friend proposed an exemption in favour of officers who had the good fortune to serve at the Admiralty. And my hon. and gallant Friend asked, "Why was an exception to be made in favour of officers who had served at the Admiralty?"
§ ADMIRAL ERSKINE
said, he objected to the whole principle of retirement, and also to the ages proposed.
§ MR. CHILDERS
The Order of 1866 retired officers of a certain age, but made an exception in favour of those who had served at the Admiralty. That Order making that exception was the subject of a very keen debate on the occasion. I was present at the time. I refreshed my memory on the subject, and I have quoted my right hon. Friend quite correctly. He said he could not understand on what principle an exemption was proposed in favour of officers who had served at the Admiralty.
§ MR. CHILDERS
Well, the Order of 1866 in this matter did not produce the effect which was expected from it either by those who proposed it, or indeed by the service generally; and since 1866 it has been absolutely necessary for those who have been at the Admiralty to look forward to the time when, carrying out the general principles of that Order, and avoiding as far as possible all flaws that might be in it, some proposals should be made as to promotion and retirement in the Navy, which should be at once satisfactory both to the service and also to the public, as not throwing on the taxpayers an undue burden. Last year, a few months after we took Office, it was my business to inquire into the subject. We gave unremitting attention to the matter during half of last year and up to the present time. The Order in Council which has been laid on the table, and which is the subject of this debate, is the result of the most careful inquiry; and I think I shall be able to show to the House that, on the one hand, it is satisfactory to the Navy, and on the other it ought to be satisfactory to the taxpayers, as it has greatly reduced the amount of the public burdens in connection with this part of the naval charge. Now, let me state, in a few words, the exact purport of this change. The first object is to reduce the list of officers of the Navy to an amount commensurate with the demands upon the service. I will not now go into the question which is about to be raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), who has an Amendment as to the extent to which the lists of executive officers below flag rank would be reduced. As he is about to move that Amendment, I will postpone any discussion of his plan until the Motion is before the House; but, 149 omitting that for the present, our plan is this—very greatly to reduce the number of officers of each rank in the services, and to make that number, as I said before, commensurate with the demands upon the different ranks. But I stated, in opening the Estimates the other day, that if you brought the numbers down, for reasons which I need not recapitulate, to what is absolutely required for the public service, there is another condition which you must attach to it, and that is if your lists are short the officers upon them must be efficient, for it is useless to endeavour to reduce the lists to the number really required for the public service, if those lists are encumbered by a large proportion of men past the duty demanded in their respective ranks. We therefore apply, in the first instance, the principle of age in the various ranks. The House will not ask me to define the ages of the different ranks; we are now discussing the question of the flag rank, and the age we propose is for admirals, seventy; for vice-admirals, sixty-five; and for rear-admirals, sixty; protecting, however, as far as possible, the interests of the present officers. But, in addition to the condition as to age which pervades all the ranks, we have introduced, with respect to flag officers, a further condition, which existed before as to other officers. And here I want to supply an extraordinary omission which has appeared in the speeches of those who have gone before me. They thought that the introduction of a period of non-service within which an officer would be disqualified from remaining on the active list was a novelty. It was nothing of the kind. That rule, under which officers who have not served for a certain time are to be no longer on the active list, was introduced in the Order of 18GG. A captain who has been unemployed for a certain time, a commander or lieutenant who has been unemployed for a certain time, may be retired from the active list, and the change which we propose in the present Order is simply this—if the principle is good with respect to lieutenants, commanders, and captains, why not with respect to admirals? That was the question we had to consider, and we came to the conclusion that every reason which justified retirement in the case of captains, commanders, and lieutenants, would also justify it in the case of admirals. My 150 right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry), in connection with his own Board, only the other day retired a captain of the age of thirty-nine, because he had not been employed for a certain number of year. [Mr. CORRY remarked that the retirement of that officer was not under an Order in Council.] The fact remains the same. We only apply to flag officers the same rule which has been applied to captains for some years past. My noble Friend (Lord Henry Lennox) has used some illustrations to show that very distinguished officers, such as Sir Thomas Cochrane, (Sir George Seymour, and others, would be retired under the operation of that Order. Then my noble Friend says—"How injurious"—or "How ridiculous," was, I think his expression—"to the public service must an Order be which would have retired these distinguished officers." But my noble Friend forgets that these officers would have been reared under the present system, independently of the Order in Council which we are now discussing. They would have been retired for the reason that they were captains who had been fen years without service. In fact, in every case which my noble Friend adduced to show the impolicy of the proposed plan, the officer would have been retired independently of the proposed plan if he had lived till the present day. Twenty or thirty years ago changes were very slow as compared with what they are now, and therefore the experience of those days has very little bearing on the question we are now considering. The rule is perfectly justified by the state of things, but that state of things ought not to have been limited to officers of a certain rank; it should have applied to all. But let us consider what would be the state of things if the Motion of my noble Friend was carried. He has moved—That it is inexpedient to retire Flag Officers from the active list of the Navy for any other cause but age or physical infirmity, and thus add to the public charge.He thus challenges my proposition that, in addition to "age or physical infirmity," non-service for a number of years shall be doomed a sufficient cause for retiring naval officers. I will proceed to show the effect which my noble Friend's Motion would have, if carried, on the flag list, which it is our wish and intention, if possible, to reduce, first 151 remarking that even my right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry), who is about to propose another Motion, does not challenge the amount of the reduction. I shall not mention names, for that would be invidious; but I shall mention facts concerning officers who would be retired under the Order in Council, if agreed to, on terms which are admitted to be liberal, but whom my noble Friend seeks to have retained on the active list. Admiral A is sixty-four years old, and last served in 1847; he has, therefore, been unemployed during twenty-three years; but if my noble Friend's Motion is carried, he will have to remain other six years on the active list. Admiral B is sixty-six or sixty-seven years of age, and would have to be retained for three or four years longer, though he has not served since 1841. Admiral C is aged sixty-three years, and has not served for fifteen years; but, according to the terms of my noble Friend's Motion, he must be retained for another seven years. Admiral D is sixty-one, has not held a seagoing appointment, though he has done harbour duty since 1853, but would have to remain on the active list during other nine years. Admiral F, who has never commanded a sea-going ship at all, has been twelve years unemployed, and would have to remain on the list for fifteen years longer; while Admiral G has been unemployed for fourteen years, Admiral H for twelve years, and Admiral I for eleven years. These, omitting exceptional instances, that have been specially alluded to by hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me, would be the result of adopting the Motion of my noble Friend. But though the Motion to which I am alluding makes no reference to this branch of the subject, those hon. Gentlemen who have spoken assume the real question to be whether officers who have not served afloat, but have served at the Admiralty, shall not have an exception made in their favour, and be allowed to remain on the active list. I must say that I was much surprised to hear some of the observations made by my hon. and gallant Friend who immediately preceded me, and who implied, though he did not say it in so many words, that the proposal we make is unpopular in the Navy and does not satisfy the general requirements of the service. Now, I will undertake to say, on the other hand, that the general 152 scheme—and this proposition as much as any other part of it, is popular in the Navy, in that it thoroughly meets the requirements of the service; and, further, I repeat most distinctly, that the exceptional provision of 1866 in favour of officers who have served at the Admiralty ought not to have been made. But, Sir, let me state to the House the distinction between the circumstances existing in 1866 and those of the present day. In 1866 the general rule was that all officers whatever should, on attaining certain ages, be compelled to retire; but an exception was made in favour of certain officers who had served at the Admiralty, not on the ground of fitness for service, but simply as a question of privilege. We, on the other hand, say it is, and ought to be, a question not of privilege, but of capacity, and that if non-service for a certain time disqualifies, in point of capacity, officers of whatever age, there is no reason why an exception should be made in favour of any particular class. My hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Admiral Erskine) has alluded to several cases in which he thinks exception should be made on the ground of service performed by those officers at the Admiralty; and while there would certainly be something to say with regard to them if we were considering the question on the ground of privilege, I cannot see why, as we have offered to those officers most fair pecuniary compensation under the new terms of retirement, the rule that has been proposed by the Government should be altered or departed from. My hon. and gallant Friend has spoken of the distinguished services of Sir Spencer Robinson. Nobody will speak more highly than I will of the efficiency of this gallant officer; but I say most distinctly that the office of Controller of the Navy is not necessarily a naval office. The person holding that position fills a civil office of great responsibility; he is the manager of immense business establishments for the country, and, as such, he is entitled to a pension. But though the person holding that office may be, and has usually been, a naval officer, I see no particular reason why, giving him these great advantages, he should also have the advantage of remaining on the active list when other officers with like service to himself are removed. That is the plain answer to the case of Admiral 153 Robinson. With regard to those who have served at the Admiralty, the same reason prevails. My hon. Friend spoke of Admiral Eden; it is always unpleasant, and I am very unwilling to mention names, but I do so in reply to statements that have been advanced. My hon. Friend's idea is that in 1866 Admiral Eden got some great advantage out of the Order in Council, upon which he built up hopes for the future. But those hopes had no foundation whatever; for the Order in Council was passed in March, 1866, and in June or July, 1866, the Government, of which he was a member, went out of Office. And, therefore, upon a three months' tenure of office of this kind, it is impossible to build upon the terms of any Order in Council, and the distinction which it may have drawn between service at the Admiralty and service afloat, any such vested right as my hon. Friend now claims. The position is simply this— Admiral Eden has not served in command of a ship afloat since 1855, he has held very important and valuable offices, he has been Controller of the Coastguard for some years, and a Lord of the Admiralty for seven years, but since 1855 he has never been in command of a sea-going ship. Then, take the case of Sir Frederick Grey. I have the honour of being a friend and was a colleague of both these gentlemen. Sir Frederick Grey precisely in the same way ceased to have anything to do with the Admiralty a very short time after the Order in Council of 1866 was passed; and it is impossible to say that he acquired any expectations under it. He has not been afloat since 1860, and I have no reason to suppose there is any cause to believe that he might have been since 1866. With, respect to my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir John Hay), I am bound to say, and I say it very frankly, that I think his is a very hard case. But we are told that "hard cases make bad laws," and it is impossible to say that a general law for the advantage of the public service should not be biassed because we find that under it there is one individual hard case. I should have wished, if it had been in my power, to make a, special exception in favour of my hon. and gallant Friend; but I do not believe it would be possible to make an exception without destroying the vitality of the whole scheme. I 154 do not believe there is another similar case in the whole service; and if the system, which we believe to be of very great value to the public, is to be altered, we shall be compelled to retain on the list all those officers, not whose names, but whose services, I described a few minutes ago. My hon. and gallant Friend wished to serve last year. I do not know whether that wish continues; but, I repeat again that I regret exceedingly that the operation of this Order should personally affect him, and I also repeat that I believe his is the only case in which the public interests would be unfavourably affected by this Order. Let me say one word as to the financial part of this question. It has been said that the arrangement which we have made is not an economical arrangement; and my gallant Friend who spoke last rather strongly put this point—Why put officers upon the retired list with an improvement in their pay, when, if left on the active list, they would cost the country less? The answer is perfectly plain, and I wonder that my hon. Friend fell into the trap. When an officer on the retired list dies, his place is not filled up; but the place of an officer on the active list who dies is filled up, according to the invariable rule. Thus, as the retired officers die off from year to year, a very considerable saving will be effected, and this is the only way in which you can get the benefit of great reductions such as we are making now. It is true that there will be no saving, but a small increase of charge, during the first three years, by the transference of these officers to the retired list. In the first year it will cost the country £4,000, in the next year £40,000, in the third year about£10,000 or £15,000, and then the cost each year will gradually become less, until it will produce a total saving to the country of £300,000 or £350,000 a year. My hon. Friend says you need not fill up the places as vacancies occur; but that plan has boon tried once or twice, and has always failed; it is, in fact, most obnoxious to the service. It is an old tradition that death vacancies should be filled; and on this subject I may appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, though they do not agree with me upon the general question, whether an attempt to introduce a rule under which death vacancies need not be filled would not excite great and general discontent. For 155 that reason, we have not been able to accept the alternative suggested by my hon. Friend. If we were now in Committee, I should have been very anxious to go in detail through the scheme and defend it; it has been absolutely necessary for me to touch upon one or two of its features; but I have tried to limit myself to a defence of the point which my noble Friend has attacked. I would say, in conclusion, that this scheme has been very carefully considered not only by myself and my noble Friend, (Lord Camperdown), whose assistance I so much value, but by my colleague Sir Sydney Dacres, a very distinguished officer, who, in advising me, I believe thoroughly represents the service; by my other colleagues at the Admiralty, and by two or three persons representing every branch of the naval service. The scheme has been, I believe, accepted by the Navy as, generally speaking, a sound and satisfactory scheme; it is a scheme homogeneous in all its parts, which endeavours to do full justice to all, and endeavours to do it uniformly and impartially to the different ranks. I would venture to warn the House against passing a Resolution which would take out of the hands of the Executive Government the responsibility in matters of this kind; and, secondly, against rejecting a particular portion of a scheme, without considering what the effect of this may be upon the scheme as a whole, which has taken six or eight months to elaborate. Such interference would be particularly important at a time when we have been urged to carry through all the public services connected with the Navy very important reforms, leading to considerable reductions of persons in all positions and of all ranks in life. In order to carry out that policy we have been obliged to retire large numbers of men in the lower ranks, in addition to clerks and others in similar grades. I would beg the House to pause before they make an exception in favour of any particular rank, or of any particular officers; but when they see that we are endeavouring to carry out these important reductions impartially, I trust they will give us credit for a desire to do so, and will not interfere with any particular detail so as to destroy a homogeneous scheme.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
As the First Lord of the Admiralty has not only referred to me, but has claimed me 156 as a supporter of his scheme, I wish to say a few words. I can assure him that I entirely appreciate the efforts which he has made, I believe with the greatest sincerity, to effect reforms. I am obliged to admit that the right hon. Gentleman has, since he took Office, shown a strict anxiety to effect reforms and improvements; but everything has been done in a hurry, and these changes, in the administration of a great Department, must occasion great hardship both to individuals and classes. The changes which have been brought about by the present Board of Admiralty have inflicted great hardships on the working classes; they have inflicted great hardships on the naval service, and now the changes effected by this retirement appear to impose unnecessary hardships upon officers. I entirely approve the principle on which the right hon. Gentleman has proceeded. This question of retirement has occupied the attention of successive Boards of Admiralty, as the right hon. Gentleman very truly stated, for a considerable number of years. He referred to I860, when the Duke of Somerset took Office; but he might have gone further back, for when I held Office as First Lord, I brought forward a scheme of retirement founded on the principle of retirement by age. Now, the right hon. Gentleman brings forward a large scheme founded on two principles—retirement by age and retirement by time. It appears to me that retirement by age is entirely sound; but retirement by time admits of very great doubt. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the scheme carried out by the Duke of Somerset in 1866, and he quoted words of mine in which I objected to make exceptions in the case of officers on the ground that they had served as Lords of the Admiralty. But he was obliged to admit that I was then speaking not of a mixed system of retirement by age and by time, but of retirement entirely by age. Now, retirement by time makes the whole difference. I do think, not only in fairness to individuals, but on grounds far more important—for the sake of the public service—it is most important that you should not allow officers in the position of my hon. and gallant Friend who sits next to me (Sir John Hay) to retire from the service of the Crown. The case of my hon. and gallant Friend has been referred to, and 157 it is a very remarkable one. I appeal to the Government — I appeal to my right hon. Friend the First Lord—looking at this not as a personal question, but as one affecting the interests of the nation, can it be for the public service —can it be a public benefit—that an officer, in his presence I will say, of recognized great ability, and in the prime of life, should be retired, compulsorily retired, from the service of the Crown? What would be the inevitable effect? The Government will feel that I am dealing with the case in no party spirit, but on the ground of the public service. What will be the effect of such procedure? A Minister charged with the formation of a Board of Admiralty wants to get the most able men he can find. It is necessary that we should have—and we always have had—naval officers of great distinction appointed to the Board of Admiralty for the sake of the services they may confer on the country. What will be the effect of this new rule? The moment an officer of great distinction is asked to join the Board, he would say—"No; I dare not join your Board of Admiralty, because if I did join I should be disqualified from serving the Crown, and I should find myself retired." This dilemma would necessarily arise. My right hon. Friend admitted the Order of 1866 was one entirely of age, and it was one that regarded the lower ranks; but it did not work well. He is perfectly right in introducing the principle of age; but I think he has carried it too far. Why he should introduce the clause with reference to admirals of the fleet to retire at seventy, I cannot understand. From the nature of the appointment, there is no reason why admirals of the fleet should retire at that age. I think seventy a more appropriate age for other admirals than sixty-five. The principle of age I entirely approve; the principle of time is most doubtful. For the sake of the public service, it is not desirable, if you adopt the principle of time, that it should be applied to officers serving their country in the capacity of Lords of the Admiralty. Under all these circumstances, I think I should best meet the spirit of the Motion and the real requirements of the occasion if, with my noble Friend's (Lord Henry Lennox's) permission, I substituted for his Motion the following —that this subject be referred to the 158 consideration of a Select Committee. ["No, no!"] That suggestion was thrown out in a conciliatory spirit by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), and I think the House would do well to adopt it. I quite admit this scheme of retirement is a liberal one; and so far as it is liberal no doubt it is acceptable to the service. But, on the other hand, it is open to serious objection; and before Government finally decide to adopt the scheme, I trust they will yield to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bedford, and appoint a Select Committee to consider the subject.
§ MR. HANBURY TRACY
Sir, before this debate closes I am anxious to say a few words in opposition to this Motion, though I fear from the tone of the discussion it is not the popular side. Sir, I cannot believe that any impartial person can have examined the details of this retirement scheme without coming to the conclusion that it is framed on a most liberal scale, and that it metes out a large and even-handed measure of justice to all the requirements of the case. It is utterly impossible in framing a plan of retirement on so large a scale not to act with some apparent harshness to a few individuals, or to prevent placing a certain number of distinguished officers on the retired list who happen to be in perfect health and strength, but in the present instance this is not done without giving the fullest and most ample compensation, so as to soften the blow as much as possible. It is only necessary to look at the present state of the Navy List, with its numerous alphabetical retirements, to convince the most skeptical of the absolute necessity of some great, sweeping, and radical change in the list being effected; and, in my humble judgment, it would be far better to leave the whole thing alone than to deal with the subject in other than a comprehensive and statesmanlike manner. The benefit of the service demands a change; you must deal in generalities, you cannot make exceptions. Instead of offering any opposition to the scheme, I must most sincerely congratulate the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty, that he has had the courage in the face of a very considerable opposition to bring forward so comprehensive a measure, and I think we ought to give him the utmost support in our power in 159 carrying out a scheme of retirement, which I am convinced will confer an inestimable boon on the Navy, which will give us a true, healthy, and bonê fide active list, which I am confident will render our naval officers far more efficient by keeping them constantly employed, and which will certainly render them far more contented. Sir, the Motion of the noble Lord opposite is an attempt, by an objection on a minor point, to throw out by a side wind the whole plan. The whole opposition seems to be centred in that clause in the Order in Council which retires flag officers who have not hoisted their flag for ten years, and prevents service at the Admiralty counting as flag-time. The noble Lord and the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) seem to think that in future it will have the most prejudicial effect, that distinguished and able officers will decline service at the Admiralty, and that none but old "effete" officers will be induced to go there, and that retrospectively it will act in the most unfair manner on officers who have already been at the Admiralty, on the understanding that by Order in Council, 1860, such service should count as flag time. Now, Sir, I must beg, with all deference to their opinion, entirely to differ with them, as I believe this clause which puts our admirals on the same footing as captains, commanders, and lieutenants, who, by previous Orders in Council, are now retired after having been unemployed for a certain number of years, to be one of the best in the whole scheme. First of all, let us examine the effect of this clause in its prospective character. In regard to any probable difficulty of obtaining efficient naval officers in future at the Admiralty, I can but quote the words of the noble Lord himself, "that this service has always been looked upon as one of the prizes of the profession," and such I am confident it always will remain. The effect of this provision will really be simply this— that it will limit the length of service at the Admiralty to a period of about five years, and I have yet to learn that it can be any disadvantage to the naval service that the Sea Lords of the Admiralty should be men well versed in professional knowledge and detail, which employment afloat can alone keep up. I apprehend, Sir, it will have the most desirable result, that of preventing offi- 160 cers clinging to the Admiralty for periods of seven, ten, or twelve years, when far more efficient officers could be found to supply their places. In saying this I do not for one moment wish to be understood to imply that the work performed by naval officers at the Admiralty, in carrying on the administrative work of this great Department is at all an easy task, as, on the contrary, no one can have looked into the question without being convinced that the work is most arduous, most difficult, and most responsible. But, Sir, what I do maintain is this—that it is a position which will always be sought after by our most distinguished admirals. We must remember that there are great advantages attending these appointments. There is the especial privilege among others that an officer at the Admiralty is certain, at almost his own time and choice to be able to hoist his flag on the station he prefers. Then, Sir, there is a very considerable amount of patronage, and a man is able to live in all the comforts of his family circle, which by the exigencies of the service he generally sees far too little of, and, lastly, he is able to enjoy the social gaieties of London. If my hon. Friend opposite (Captain Dawson-Damer) does not think this a privilege I can only say, that if he will go to sea for seven or eight years, I am convinced he will return with a very different opinion. Well, Sir, I apprehend these are sufficient reasons for believing that you will always have the selection of the very best men for the Admiralty, and therefore prospectively this clause cannot do any harm. As far as it will act retrospectively, I must confess that I have had considerable doubt in my own mind as to whether it would not deal somewhat unfairly in a few cases, but on looking carefully into the question, I do not see that there is much reason for complaint. The noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) stated that it was a most deliberate breach of faith with several distinguished officers, but I am quite confident that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) would be the very last man in this House to desire to break faith with any officer if it could be shown that promises made had not been kept. Certainly as regards two of the officers concerned—Admiral Sir Frederick Grey and Admiral Charles Eden—there is not the slightest shadow of justice that I can see 161 in their complaint. It is always invidious to mention names, and extremely painful in a case of this nature, but so much has been said by my hon. Friend (Mr. Whitbread) respecting these officers, that I cannot sit quiet and allow it to be thought that they are unfairly dealt with. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) has already shown that the Order in Council of 1866, about which we have heard so much, was passed only three mouths before the Government went out of Office; so it is impossible to say that any clause contained in that Order could have had any effect on their tenure of Office; and, therefore, however unfairly it may have dealt with other officers, it cannot be said to have acted so to them. But, Sir, I should like to add another fact, which has not yet been pointed out, and that is that these two officers belonged to the Admiralty, and were the actual framers of this very Order of 1866, which I may, perhaps, be allowed to call one of the most unjust, ill-judged, and unfair Orders in Council which have ever been passed. I protested against it in 1866, and it only passed the criticism of this House by a very small majority. It would have been very much better if it had never passed; and I sincerely wish the mischief then done could be wiped out. The Order in Council of 1866 deliberately, without any warning, without any excuse, retired fourteen of our most distinguished admirals, without giving them any compensation whatever. Most of these officers had served the country with the greatest gallantry before the enemy, and it was an act of the greatest cruelty suddenly to shelve them, without any set-off in the shape of a pecuniary compensation, or at any rate without some letter expressing the necessity of the measure, and showing by way of apology that it was for the benefit of the Navy generally. No, Sir, the House will hardly believe it, that the operation of that Order in Council of 1866, which the noble Lord has spoken of as if it was the great Charter of the Navy, was simply to retire fourteen unfortunate officers without compensation, and to make no less than fifty-three exceptions, which comprised the framers of the scheme and all those admirals who had any influence to back them, and who they feared to retire. And now we are asked to upset the whole plan of this present retirement 162 scheme, in order that those who assisted in framing the Order in Council of 1866 to their own benefit, by excepting themselves, should be again excluded from the provisions of this new Order in Council. Whatever may be the case of other officers, I make it quite clear that these two admirals have no right to complain, more especially so when it is remembered the length of time they have each served at the Admiralty, during which period they must have had every opportunity of hoisting their flag, if they I had not preferred a home appointment. With regard to the two other officers who are affected by this scheme, I must confess that their cases are certainly hard, and if it were possible to make any alteration in their favour, I should like to see it done. My hon. Friend's (Sir John Hay's) is a most peculiar case, and no one can be more sorry than I am that the Navy should lose the services of so active an officer, especially when we remember what he has done for the Navy generally. The case of Sir Spencer Robinson, Controller of the Navy, is also a most hard one; but I fear you cannot make exceptions, and the only thing possible is to give full and ample compensation. Sir, I trust the House will support my right hon. Friend the head of the Admiralty in carrying this great measure of retirement in its entirety, and will not allow any insidious Motion of this sort to obstruct its course. It has been received with acclamation by all ranks in the Navy, and the officers of that profession are looking forward to it as one of the greatest boons that has ever been conferred on the service.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, he thought that the basis of any system of retirement should be the efficiency of the service, and not the acceleration of promotion. He thought that the discharge by an admiral of important civil duties at the Admiralty was primê facie evidence that he was not disqualified by age and infirmities from the command of a fleet; and that the compulsory retirement of certain admirals under this scheme was a breach of faith of the Order in Council, under which they had accepted service ashore. The right hon. Gentleman might alter his scheme in this respect without any interference with the principles of it; and if he could not promise to do so, it might advantageously be referred to a Select Committee.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he had been engaged in a variety of debates upon the subject of promotion and retirement in the Navy, and on one occasion he had beaten the Government by a largo majority when they had attempted to prevent an investigation into the matter, and the subject was thoroughly sifted in Committee. He should like to know what would become of the Government scheme on its being exposed to the slightest breath of war? At this moment he could tell the Government that there was a small cloud appearing in the East, now no bigger than a man's hand, that might call upon England to be ready for all emergencies in a short time, and then they would look in vain for those officers whom they had driven into retirement. The hon. Baronet his distinguished Relative (Sir John Hay) had been thirteen times in action, and they were about to retire him at the ago of forty-nine; and was he, who stood before them, sixty-five years of age, to be told that he was not fit to command a ship? This was a part of the Government scheme for the purpose of disarming England. The present Government were, step by step, lowering this country in the eyes of England. [Dissent.] They were, by every means in their power, lowering the prestige of this country. He had not been at home during the last Recess; he had been abroad, and had heard what foreign nations said of us. The Government were bringing in a Bill to prevent evictions in Ireland; but, at the same time, they were doing their best to evict the best men in the service, and they were degrading the country in the face of Europe. And what were the rewards left for the Navy? Was there a single thing left for those who had given up every chance in life for the service but the bare epaulets on their backs? Orders in Council had become a mockery; promulgated by one Board of Admiralty they were rescinded by another and given to the winds. And why should the Navy be less worthily dealt by than the Army? Was the Director of the Works at the Admiralty to be kept on the strength of his corps, and rise grade by grade till he became a general of Engineers, while his superior officer, Admiral Robinson, a man of great talent and ability, notwithstanding he had built a great many bad ships, was to be retired? It was true 164 the First Lord of the Admiralty was of opinion that the Controller of the Navy was not a naval branch of the service; but it was only his ignorance which made him think so, for it required the very highest class of naval talent to enable a man to construct a ship, and if Admiral Robinson had not attained to a sufficient knowledge of his business he at least knew as much as the present Lords of the Admiralty. The Admiralty reduced its staff; but it would be at war with somebody or other during the next five or six years, and would then have to fill up its lists again, and then would follow wholesale retirements to curry favour with the manufacturing classes. The only proper retirement was the retirement of lieutenants. Of what use was it to retire from the flag list and the captains' list? They still had to be paid, and, at the same time, lieutenants and other young officers were raised a grade and received higher pay. Give lieutenants a good bonus to retire, and let them go into the merchant service, or the Colonies, or wherever they like; but do not thrust an unmerited insult on officers of standing, and say they are unfit for the service. Lord Howe fought the battle of the 1st of June when he was sixty-nine years of age, and he asked whether that battle would be better fought now? Certainly not with the ships which the First Lord of the Admiralty was building. He, therefore, seconded the proposition of his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) that these matters be referred to a Select Committee.
The hon. and gallant Member seems to be quite unconscious of the character of the Motion he has supported. He has sat down after seconding a proposition that this matter be referred to a Select Committee, a Motion which is not before the House. But if I gather the purport of his speech correctly, he has been arguing in support of the proposal that it is inexpedient to retire flag officers from the active list for any other cause but age or physical infirmity; but that is quite a different notion. And how does he support it? He is greatly scandalized at the idea of sending away from the Navy men of fifty or sixty, because, he says, a most distinguished admiral fought a great battle at the age of sixty-nine; but he also recommends that you should 165 retire lieutenants at the age of twenty-five or thirty. So that he who thinks men at sixty or sixty-nine have a great deal of vigour in them which should not be lost to the service, proposes to retire men of twenty-five or thirty.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. and gallant Member could explain himself when the First Lord of the Treasury had concluded his observations.
The hon. and gallant Member is rather sensitive. But his own remarks were not deficient in freedom. He also says that while we are introducing an Irish Land Bill—for his fancy loads him that distance in search of illustrations — to prevent the evil of eviction, we are evicting a multitude of naval officers; but the answer to that is, that these men are voluntarily evicted. ["No!"] Is it not the truth that the measure of my right hon. Friend has been received with general approbation by the service? ["No!"] I think my right hon. Friend has given ample proof that this is the case; for he has, at any rate, shown that, whereas in 1866 gentlemen who are now chief complainers wore forced to retire without compensation, the feature of the present plan is that compensation is offered as far as can be done by a uniform rule to everybody, and that no exceptions are made. An appeal has been made to my hon. Friends below the Gangway, who are justly supposed to have a particular regard for public economy; and a few words have been tacked on to the end of this Motion deprecating an addition to the public charge, by way of fishing for their votes. Certainly the arrangement adds to the public charge of the present year, and to the next and the year after. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington) says precipitancy has been the character of the present First Lord's administration; but if he were to go out of Office to-morrow-he could write, in record of his deeds, that he has taken £1,500,000, in round numbers, off the Estimates. And I want to know whether, if precipitancy is the principle of a man's policy, he would show it in a measure like this, which actually adds to the charge which he has to meet, and leave, to his successors the benefit of his economical ar- 166 rangements? It is always invidious to object to a plausible proposal which is not before us; but the hon. and gallant Member thinks it is advisable, and it has certainly been suggested in debate, to refer this matter to a Select Committee. Her Majesty's Government are bound to say that having well considered the subject they have obtained the sanction of Her Majesty to an Order in Council, by which this scheme is promulgated; the House will have ample means of indicating by its vote in Committee whether it approves this order or not, but the right hon. Member for Droitwich will see that the subject has passed a stage in which the Government can assent to the appointment of a Committee. The Government stand with my right hon. Friend on this—that his scheme is an economical measure. It is a liberal measure, because it asks no man to retire from the service without giving him compensation for that which he does, as well as various options of which he may avail himself. It is a uniform measure, and aims at the avoidance of invidious exceptions, and upon these grounds we think it is a measure for which we may venture confidently, and without respect of party, to ask the approval of the House.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, he was convinced that the proposed scheme of retirement would, on the whole, be a beneficial and an economical one; but he believed it would work a great injustice to certain individuals. Now, it appeared to him that while the House was passing a great measure of improvement it ought to take care that it was not, at the same time, unjust to particular officers, who, relying on what had been done by past Governments, had laid; down plans for their professional career. The point at issue was, in fact, a very small one, for he understood it affected only four officers of great distinction personally. These officers said that, according to the last arrangement with regard to retirement, they were saved from having to retire by an exception which provided that service in the Admiralty should count as sea service, that they were thereby induced to accept Office as Lords of the Admiralty, and that they objected to be now forced to retire by the order now under the consideration of the House. Surely it was not worth while, in effecting.a public improvement, to do an 167 injustice to these gentlemen. The object of all retirement should be to get active, able, and efficient men to discharge the duty of admirals. Instead, however, of this new scheme doing this, it was going to force from, the service a man like the hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay), than whom there was no more eminent officer or more active Member of that House. It seemed, therefore, to be rather a reflection on the general expediency of his right hon. Friend's scheme of retirement that it should force an officer of the highest distinction to worship against his will his Penates in the country, instead of serving the Queen as an admiral at sea. His right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty was, in his opinion, ill-advised to overrule this claim, and had not made out his case at all. The answer he gave to these gentlemen was that he would give them ample compensation; but surely they were entitled to say— "We do not like your terms of retirement, and instead of taking your compensation, we prefer to be allowed to count our Admiralty time as sea service." He trusted his right hon. Friend would reconsider this comparatively small point, and yield to what he regarded as simply a claim of justice.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 169; Noes 136: Majority 33.
§ Main Question,"That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.