HC Deb 18 June 1877 vol 234 cc1970-3

rose to call attention to the want of information relating to the promotion and retirement of the Royal Marines. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said, the present system was highly unsatisfactory. The Force in question had been pushed about from pillar to post, and, in fact, they had been treated as if they did not entirely belong to one Service or the other. He must, therefore, urge that both justice and economy required that some remedy should be found for the present state of things. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt), if there was any scheme ripened or in contemplation with regard to promotion and retirement; and, if so, whether it would be laid on the Table before it was finally presented to the House? The Admiralty admitted that what had been done was not satisfactory, for a sum of £5,000 had been taken in the Votes this year to improve matters. It would be much better that, in respect of promotion and retirement, the Royal Marines should be separated from the Army and attached to the Navy, to which they naturally belonged. No high command had ever been given to Marine officers beyond the rank of colonel, no Staff appointment had been ever given to them, and they were entirely shut out from the pecuniary advantages of Service in India. He felt perfectly sure that the First Lord of the Admiralty was extremely anxious that every advantage should be given to the Royal Marines, and it was for the purpose of encouraging the right hon. Gentleman that he had put on the Paper the Resolution which, by the Rules of, the House, he was now prevented from moving.


said, with regard to the Retirement Scheme for the Army, we had entered into a great experiment involving great expenditure and many changes of a novel and totally untested character, and no one knew what the result would be; but the question with respect to the Marines was very simple. It was simply one involving a few promotions in the seniors of each grade. It needed no actuarial calculations, for the obvious remedy was so clearly shown by the Marine List that the most ordinary mind could at once dictate the remedy. All we had to do was to allow the senior officers of the Marines to retire upon increased pensions, and by that way to make room for the captains and subaltern officers below them, many of whom had been in the service 30 years, of those in the captain grades and in that of subaltern 20 years without having a chance of promotion. That retirement would involve none of that heartbreaking system which the Army system contemplated of making officers go on half-pay, long before their physical powers were impaired, and whilst this simple mode of retiring senior officers of Marines on improved pensions would give general satisfaction, and secure for captains and subalterns their promotion in the manner and in the exact course to which the Marines had been accustomed, the country would be spared from the vast outlay which the unknown and doubtful plan for the Army would entail.


wished to say a few words in favour of the Royal Marines. The mode in which they had been treated during the last two years had been unfortunate even for the Government. The idea of basing the consideration of what was to be done for the promotion of the Royal Marines upon the Report of the Army Commission was entirely a mistake. The Royal Marines were a seniority corps, the same as the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers. A Committee, presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ponte-fract, had inquired into the position of these three corps, and while their recommendations had been acted upon in the case of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers, the Royal Marines never received any of the benefits which had been received by the other two corps.


said, he had never been able to understand why the claims of the Marines should be postponed till the Royal Commission had presented their Report. He should like now very much to know what was to be done for the Marines. He knew there was considerable difficulty in dealing with the Marines; it was far from easy to cause a flow of promotion in so small a force with so few high appointments, but still he hoped the attempt would be made.


on the part of the Government said, he was very glad to inform the hon. Gentleman that for some weeks past a Committee of three Gentlemen, one representing the Admiralty, a second the Marines, and a third the Treasury, had been sitting four days in the week at the Admiralty, and giving their time and attention to this subject. Whenever their Report was made, his right hon. Friend would be most anxious to give effect to it, and he hoped the result would be satisfactory to the House. To show that the Admiralty were really anxious to carry out this arrangement, he might state that a Vote of £5,000 had been taken in the Estimates with that view.


gave credit to the Admiralty for its intentions, but was dismayed to hear of another Committee on this subject. That meant obstruction and delay, whereas the whole matter was simple and easy. He should have thought there was sufficient actuarial skill in the City of London to have framed a satisfactory scheme of promotion and retirement for the Royal Marines without delay. In the meantime, a feeling of despair, if not disgust, had been produced in the minds of many of the officers. How could it be otherwise when men had been lieutenants in the Service for 18 years without promotion? He protested against making the interests of the Marines with respect to promotion and retirement subservient to those of the Army, and hoped the Session would not be allowed to pass without substantial justice being done to them.


said, the question was a very simple one, and he much regretted the Admiralty had not shown as much zeal in dealing with the claims of the Marines as they had exhibited in forwarding the promotion of the Arctic explorers. They really ought out of gratitude, because the Marines were a very valuable body of men. If it had not been for the Marines there would have been a fearful mutiny on beard the Alexandra the other day—[Murmurs]—the mutiny would have become really bad.


said, he must repudiate any such statement as that made by the hon. and gallant Member. There was no mutiny, and the information on the subject received at the Admiralty in no way confirmed the statement he had made.


said, the information which reached him was that the Marines had saved the ship from a mutiny.


as a matter of common sense, supported the claims of the Marines.