HC Deb 20 August 1895 vol 36 cc367-8
MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether, on the occasion of the opening of the North Sea Canal by His Majesty the German Emperor, the German ships of war, in pursuance of official instructions, entertained the officers of Her Majesty's ships present to represent the nation; whether the cost of returning such hospitality was wholly, or in a large measure, borne by the officers of Her Majesty's ships; and, whether any entertainment allowance has been granted to the officers other than Flag Officers; and, if not, whether, in view of the official character of the Feêtes, the Admiralty will favourably consider the propriety of making such an allowance, and thus relieving the junior officers of a portion of the very heavy expense entailed upon them.


The question of the expenses incurred by the officers of the Channel Squadron in entertaining the foreign officers during the late international festivities is under the consideration of the Board of Admiralty. The subject is surrounded by many difficulties; hospitality is frequently extended by British naval officers to foreign officers in many parts of the world, and often the expense of its exercise by a small ship on an obscure but necessary occasion falls as heavily on the individual officers as entertaining on a large scale does on a large ship on an international occasion. Something has been done already with regard to the expenditure of the Channel Squadron during the visit of the Italian Fleet at Portsmouth; but, as I have said, the question is under consideration.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the general question of making an allowance as a matter of course to all officers and not as a matter of special concession to those of the Channel Squadron?


That is just one of the difficulties with which the question is surrounded. If, as a matter of course, British officers who entertain foreign officers are to be recouped their outlay, the act of hospitality would be regarded as losing much of its grace and spontaniety; and to give a general permission to naval officers to entertain those of other countries would not be in accordance with the traditions of the Service or the means of the Exchequer. I can assure the hon. Member the Lords of the Admiralty are not anxious to impose on naval officers any expenses which they cannot bear; but the lavishness of expenditure on hospitality might depend very much on whether it came from the resources of the State or the pockets of naval officers.


Is there not a general allowance of this kind already made to superior officers in the shape of table money, and could not a similar allowance be made to inferior officers on whom the charge for hospitality falls with great severity?


The Admiralty look upon it as part of their pay. The Admirals of a station where there is occasion for little hospitality receive the same as others, and they regard it as part of their pay. I can assure the hon. Member we have no wish to approach the question in any spirit of illiberality, but I do not think we can possibly make a general rule.

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