HC Deb 24 July 1879 vol 248 cc1179-80

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, If it be correct that the compulsory contributions of the seamen of the mercantile marine towards the Greenwich Hospital pension fund amounted at the close of the year 1834 to about £2,000,000; if he will be good enough to state how much of the said amount has been paid back in pensions or grants to the contributories, and also to their widows and children; and, if he is aware that seamen now in receipt of the Greenwich sixpence pension are debarred from receiving the pension legally due from the muster roll fund; and, if so, if he will adopt such measures as he may deem necessary, in conjunction with the President of the Board of Trade, in order that aged seamen so entitled may be paid both pensions?


Sir, the amount derived from the 6d. a-month paid by merchant seamen in aid of the income of Greenwich Hospital, under the Registered Seamen's Act of 1695, averaged £23,000 a-year in 1834, when the Act was repealed, and £20,000 a-year was granted to Greenwich Hospital in lieu out of the Consolidated Fund. It is not possible to state the aggregate amount received from 1695 to 1834. There was no Greenwich Hospital pension fund, and I think it right to add that the sixpences contributed by the merchant seamen in no way gave any right to pension or benefits of Greenwich Hospital. The contribution was exacted because of the protection to commerce afforded by the Navy, and no merchant seaman was entitled to admission to the Hospital unless "wounded in action with an enemy or pirate." The hon. Gentleman, no doubt, has seen a letter from Lord Auckland, to Sir James Graham on this subject, which was presented to Parliament in 1867 (Parliamentary Return, No. 350 of Session 1867), in which it is stated that of the 2,710 men then (1834) in the hospital, upwards of 1,000 had served in the merchant service for an average time of 13 years, and there were 117 children in the school whose fathers had never served in the Navy. By the Greenwich Hospital Act of 1872, 35 & 36 Vict., c. 67, pensions or annuities are granted out of Greenwich Hospital Funds to men who contributed 6d. a-month. Under the regulations contained in Order in Council of the 6th of July, 1870, £16,944 has been paid in pensions, and £123,400 in purchase of annuities. The pensions are limited to £3 8s. per annum. No pensions or allowances are authorized to be paid to widows or children of the contributories. Sons of merchant seamen are eligible for admission to Greenwich Hospital School. By the "muster roll fund," the hon. Member means the Merchant Seamen's Fund, in aid of which an annual Vote is taken in the Civil Service Estimates, and is accounted for by the Board of Trade. If seamen are in receipt of a pension of £3 8s. from the Merchant Seamen's Fund, they are not entitled to any additional pension from the Funds of Greenwich Hospital (by Clause 4 of Order in Council of July 6, 1870, and Section 2 of Greenwich Hospital Act, 1872). If the hon. Member's proposal be entertained—namely, that both pensions be paid, an Act of Parliament and Order in Council would be necessary and an additional charge would fall upon Greenwich Hospital Funds.