HC Deb 05 April 1883 vol 277 cc1487-8

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty, If his attention has been called to an article in the "Times" of March 30th, upon the position and prospects of naval engineers; whether the facts therein stated are in the main correct—namely, that there is a "great and growing stagnation in promotion," so much so, that whereas previous to 1863 the average time served by chief engineers in the junior rank was eleven and a-quarter years, it is now eighteen years; that owing to this stagnation the regulations as to counting junior time for increase of pay and retirement, render it almost impossible for these officers to reach the higher scales, so that the number of chief engineers in receipt of more than seventeen shillings a day has fallen from fifty-five in 1877 to seventeen at the present day; and, that the recent increase of one shilling a day in the pay of engineers of over eight years' standing, is counterbalanced by a deduction of the same amount formerly allowed them towards mess expenses?


I cannot undertake to say whether all the facts stated in the article referred to by the hon. and gallant Member are correct; but I will confine my reply to the three distinct points to which his Question alludes. It is true that the average time served by chief engineers in the junior rank was considerably less in 1863 than it is now. Previously to that date large additions had been made to the list owing to the expansion of the steam navy, and thus promotion was rapid. Since the numbers of the several ranks have been fixed to meet the present requirements of the Service, the rate of promotion, being dependent upon vacancies, is necessarily slower than it was when the number of chief engineers was not limited and was on the increase. With regard to the second point, the figures quoted are, I believe, correct; but it cannot be said to be impossible for chief engineers to reach the higher rates of pay and retirement. Engineer officers have comparatively little time on half-pay, and an officer promoted after 18 years' service in the junior rank will have about 15 years in which to make up 11 years' service counting for full pay and retirement. As regards the mess allowance, it was only granted to officers who were, from circumstances, compulsorily placed in ward-room messes. It was not granted when officers joined those messes at their own option. These officers have no claim to this allowance, now that they are on the same footing as regards messing as other classes of naval officers of ward-room rank, none of whom receive it. The new messing arrangements have nothing to do with the increase of pay to engineers after nine years' service, which is given for length of service.