§ 1. £752,500, half-pay, reserved, and retired pay.
§ *THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. MACARTNEY,) Antrim, S.
My noble Friend the Member for 96 York called attention to the question of full pay leave and full pay sick leave granted to naval officers returning from foreign service. On the occasion of the last Debate the matter had been considered, and the determination of the Admiralty arrived at, but I was not then in a position to state the proposed alterations to the Committee. I am now able to inform my noble Friend and the Committee that an Order in Council has since been obtained under the provisions of which Articles 1402 and 1409 will be amended, and will in future extend to captains and commanders the full pay leave previously granted to lieutenants and other commissioned officers below that rank. With regard to sick pay leave, clause 6 of Article 1402 has also been amended, and in future full pay sick leave up to the limit of three months will be granted in the discretion of the Admiralty to any officer, at home or abroad. This period is to be in addition to any full pay leave earned by foreign service, or to any period in respect of which any officer is entitled to full pay on account of treatment in a naval hospital. The additional leave so granted is to be reckoned as foreign or harbour service respectively for pension.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD (York)
Then there is the case of the officer being promoted. As it is now, when an officer is promoted, he goes on half-pay, and he has the pleasure of paying one-third of his passage home. Could the right honourable Gentleman see his way to re-adjust that, because it is, as it stands at present, a great injustice?
*CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devon, Torquay)
I should like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can see his way to modify to some extent the conditions of service known as harbour time. As the regulations stand at present, the time which an officer spends in service connected with training ships like the Britannia and others only counts as two- 97 thirds time, that is felt to be a great grievance, and I think it presses unfairly on these officers, though they do not feel the full effect of it until the time for retirement comes. It is only about one in eight of the officers who join the service who can ever hope to reach the higher ranks, and therefore this is a matter which affects a very large number. I trust that the Admiralty will see their way to make reform in this direction which will adequately meet the case and remedy a grievance which undoubtedly exists.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
The subject which my honourable and gallant Friend has raised is one of very considerable difficulty. The question as to how far the service which he has mentioned should count as sea service, as well as many other important duties performed as harbour service, is certainly a very complicated one, and one upon which I think you will find naval opinion is very much divided. But I am myself of opinion that regulations should be made which would attract men to the most important posts, without imposing any disqualifications upon them, and from that point of view I am prepared to look into the matter, and ascertain whether or not any of the harbour appointments should be treated differently from sea-goina appointments. Anything that would make home appointments more popular than sea-going posts will not find much favour with a large number of sea-going officers. At the same time I do not wish in any way to penalise the home appointments, as my honourable and gallant Friend will understand, and I have no objection at all to looking further into the matter, and seeing whether any of these appointments can be treated differently from what they are now.
*ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I desire to impress upon the First Lord of the Admiralty the great importance of looking into the question of the commutation of retired pay. From my observations of what frequently takes place, I have become greatly opposed to the com- 98 mutation of pensions, as it has been accompanied by very serious and even disastrous results. I and my brother officers in the House can tell the same sad tale as to captains, lieutenants, chief engineers, paymasters, and other classes, who, in a fatal moment, were tempted by the commutation scheme of a former First Lord of the Admiralty, and approved by this House in 1870, to realise as much as they could for their pensions. Nothing but disaster has followed that scheme, and I do desire most earnestly to impress upon the attention of the First Lord and his colleagues the necessity of dropping the whole scheme as soon as they possibly can. Under the present scheme a certain amount is retained, but it is only a pauper allowance of £80, £60, or £70, according to the rank of the officer. We might allow an officer to mortgage a portion of his full pay if he likes, but many of them—and amongst them men of distinction who have done valuable service for the country—are tempted under the present scheme, of having power to commute their pay, to embark on mercantile adventures of which they know nothing, and they become the prey of landsharks. These poor fellows become landed in disasters from which nobody can extricate them, and then they die, and their widows and children become chargeable to the workhouse or their friends. The scheme has signally failed, and I ask the right honourable Gentleman to bring his attention to bear on the matter, with the view, if possible, of abolishing it with the least possible delay.
THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIMIRALTY
I can assure my honourable and gallant Friend that the system of commutation is diminishing very much. I have no doubt that when the scheme was adopted the argument in favour of it was that the officers who retired in private life should have some, capital in which they might be able to embark upon some business enterprise, but I agree that great mischief has resulted from commutation in very many cases. At the same time I am not prepared to say at a moment's notice that 99 I will take away from officers what some of them regard as a privilege.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD (York)
Before this Vote is passed. I should like to express my satisfaction with the remarks of the Secretary to the Admiralty.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £1,082,900 for naval and marine pensions, gratuities, and compassionate allowances,
§ *MR. CLOUGH (Portsmouth)
I rise to move the reduction of this Vote by £100, in order to bring before the Committee the case of the Royal Naval Pensioners, who are entitled to an additional pension known as the Greenwich Age Pension, as per the Circular, which was published in 1865. The total number of men who claim that they are entitled to this pension, and who are not in receipt of it, is estimated approximately at 1,800, and of these 1,297 have actually applied for it. Now, I am informed by the courtesy of the Civil Lord that if these 1,800 men were provided for it would entail a charge of £13,000 a year. Now, is there a foundation for this claim? Does the claim rest on sound bases? I do not intend, as the time of the Committee has been curtailed by the very useful discussion to which we have listened on another subject—which, at all events, would have been available for this Vote—I do not intend to go at length into the history of the pension in question. But we have heard of the Chatham chest. We have heard that in that chest there used to be placed, as far back as the time of Queen Elizabeth, the funds contributed by the men who were endeavouring to make provision for a "rainy day," and for the time when they should no longer be fit for service. Now, this naval pension, which had its origin as the Chatham chest, and to which has been contributed from time to time the money paid to men for good suit and service rendered to the State, grew in time to be a very large amount. I am not going into figures, because that might lead to controversy, but that it reached a sum sufficiently large to pay all these claims cannot be doubted. I have the facts and figures here, and if the statement be questioned all the 100 information I have I am prepared to supply. Now, I understand the case of the men to be this: they believe that they entered into a contract when they unlisted in H.M. Navy. Who were the alleged contracting parties? We have he Admiralty on one side, and we have he men on the other. The naval pensioners were promised in an Enlistment Bill, a copy of which, I regret to say, I lava been unable to obtain, rations, wages, a long service pension, and this additional reenwich Age Pension of 5d. a day at 55, with an additional 4d. a day at 65. Now the Greenwich naval pensioners claim that having enlisted and served their time, and having good conduct certificates, they have fulfilled their part of this contract, and are entitled to receive, first, the long-service pension, and secondly, the Greenwich Age Pension at 55. Now, on the 29th of June, 1878, a special circular was issued, stating that hospital pensions would be limited in future. Men who now join the Navy know that they are not to expect this pension, and the men who are reengaged know that they are not to expect it. I am speaking of the men who joined prior to or between the dates of 1865 and 1878, and I say that the Circular which was issued in 1878 ought not to be retrospective as regards these men. In 1878 there was an Act passed limiting pensions, and the men who joined the Service afterwards knew perfectly well that, though they might have a much longer service pension, they were not entitled to the Greenwich Age Pension. Now the most extraordinary thing happened in connection with this Act of 1878—it was made retrospective, and I beg respectfully to submit that that was a course not often taken in this House. I do not know of a similar case where a Bill has been made retrospective, and this is the principal reason why these men are so very sore upon this matter. The men claim that funds which were otherwise available for this pension had been from time to time taken from the accumulated funds and applied to other purposes than pensions. I can support this statement by facts and extracts from the evidence given before the Royal Commission. Now, the grievance of these men entitled to the Greenwich Age Pension lies 101 between the years 1865 and 1878. I would respectfully state that the men do not ask for the pension as a favour—as something to be given to them which they have not earned—they demand it as a right; they demand it on the ground that they have fulfilled their part of the contract, and they ask the Government to fulfil theirs. They are men who have 21 years' service to look back upon. They are not the riff-raff of the Service, they are men who have left the Service with a certificate of good character; and I submit that they have a right to look to the national funds for the fulfilment of the nation's contract. Now, the men refuse—I do not know that their refusal serves them very much, but that is the position they take up—to take into account the Act of 1878, which limited the Greenwich age pension to 7,500. They say that, whatever might have been done in 1878, they ought not to be deprived of that which was held out to them as an inducement to join the Service at the time of their enlistment. Now, Sir, not only was there a Bill in 1878, limiting the number of age pensions, but there was an Order in Council. This Order was made known to the men in the Navy by a special Fleet Circular in 1878. Now, it may bind—and, I have no doubt, does bind, and rightly bind—men who joined the Navy after that date, but I submit it is unjust that a circular should deprive men of the pension who joined the Navy between 1865 and 1878, after it was held out to them as an inducement when they joined the Navy. Now, I wish to refer here—and it would not be right to raise this question without referring to the advocacy by the honourable and. gallant Member for Woolwich of this particular class of pensions—I wish to refer here to his letter to Lord George Hamilton on 9th November, 1891, which very fully stated the case at the time. In that letter it is stated in paragraph 38—There are about 2,800 naval pensioners over 55 years of age who are not in receipt of age pensions. None of these men entered the Service a rated seaman, or even re-engaged for a second period of service, between September, 1865, and 1878.Without detaining the Committee at any length, I wish to emphasise the fact, that no public or formal statement was made 102 by the Admiralty prior to 1878 that the number of Greenwich Age Pensions would be limited. It is the fact that all naval pensioners of good character above the age of 55 did receive the age pension during the period of 12 years after the Greenwich Age Pension Act was established in 1865. Now, there are no limitations—and there ought to be no limitations—as to the number of Greenwich age pensioners to receive the pension made in the Act of 1865. I may be told that there are no funds available, but let the Admiralty, who have drawn on the funds, pay back so much as is necessary in order to make good those pensions. This nation is rich almost beyond the dreams of avarice. It is within the recollection of the Committee that large sums have been voted—I will not refer to them, because they are controversial—by Parliament this year for various purposes; but I say that when the Government is asked to fulfil this contract and to discharge its obligations there ought to be no difficulty about finding £13,000 a year. If there is not a surplus, in the Greenwich Hospital Fund to provide it, it should be provided by the Consolidated Fund. The Consolidated Fund is indebted to the extent of thousands of pounds to this fund, and out of that fund this provision ought to be made. On behalf of all Greenwich age pensioners, who are still unprovided for, I ask the Government to fulfil their contract. I submit that the inquisitorial letter, in which inquiries are made into the men's position (1) by replies to this letter, (2) by private inquiry—and in the constituency which I represent the police are actually employed to search out a man's home and make inquiries as to his position in life—is beneath the dignity of a great Government. When a civil servant has served the State for a certain number of years, and retires upon his pension, there is no inquiry into his position in life, and there ought not to be. His pension was part of his engagement to the State, and his pension ought to be paid.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
Will the honourable Member allow me to interpose for a moment? He is surely confusing the Age Pensions with Naval Pensions. 103 There is no kind of inquisitorial letter respecting naval pensions.
§ *MR. CLOUGH
I am not, if the Civil Lord will permit me to say so, confusing the letter. I am speaking of the Greenwich Age Pension simply and solely, which is something added after 21 years' service to a pension to which a seaman is entitled. I can vouch for the assertion that there are these inquiries made in connection with the Greenwich Age Pension, and I respectfully submit that it is very wrong that these inquiries should be made, and that the men should be submitted to this indignity if they are entitled to the pension. That is my case, and I submit that the pension ought to be given to the men in a proper manner, and without subjecting them to this annoyance. Without further detaining the Committee, I commend this just case to the Government. It has been brought before the Committee year after year for many years, and I hope the Exchequer or the Consolidated Fund will be found sufficient to meet this most reasonable claim on the part of the men.
§ *MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
The question raised by the honourable Member for Portsmouth is one which affects not merely Naval constituencies, but every part of the United Kingdom, because every man who gets a service pension is entitled to the Greenwich Age Pension when he reaches the age of 55. A list was sent to me the other day showing how the Navy pensioners are distributed over the country; and I was extremely surprised to find how many pensioners there are outside the Naval ports. In London alone there are 2,400 Naval pensioners; in the south of England (excluding Portsmouth) there are 2,000; in the east of England, 1,000; in the west of England, excluding Devonport and Plymouth, 1,500; in the Midlands, over 1,000; in Wales, 500; in Scotland, over 500; and in Ireland, 1,500. I preface my observations by giving these figures because they show that this is a matter which does not merely affect those who are interested in Naval constituencies, but that there is scarcely an honourable Member whose consti- 104 tuency is not more or less concerned in the question. Now, the point at issue is whether there has been a contract between the Admiralty and these men. The history of the case is very simple. In 1865 it was deemed expedient to close Greenwich Hospital for in-pensioners, but the closing was not actually accomplished until 1869. The question which arose then was what bargain should be made to satisfy the then in-pensioners, and what equitable arrangement could be made on behalf of those men who would be leaving the Navy from time to time, and who, without having a voice in the matter, would be deprived of the benefit as in-pensioners of Greenwich Hospital. A bargain was made that the then in-pensioners should receive-2s. a day, and away they went. Then it was arranged that every pensioner in receipt of a life pension should, in future, on reaching the age of 55, have his pension augmented by a Greenwich Age Pension of 5d. per day, with an additional 4d. per day on reaching the age of 70, which latter was ultimately reduced to 65. Well, this went on, Mr. Lowther, perfectly smoothly until 1878, when the limitation circular was issued. Prior to 1878 there was no limitation in the number of the pensions granted, and every man, as he became entitled, received his, pension, without question or inquiry as to his means of gaining a livelihood, or the extent of his family. There were, indeed, none of those inquiries made prior to 1878 that are made at the present time. Now, I go back to the point as to whether there was a contract. In the enlistment circular which invited men to join the service it was most clearly and emphatically stated that a man, on reaching the age of 55, would receive a Greenwich Age Pension. It was also stated by the head of the Naval Pension Department who gave evidence before the Duke of Edinburgh's Commission in 1885.
§ *MR. KEARLEY
I do not think I can give you that now, but you have it in the Report. It was emphatically made clear to that Committee that that was the prevailing opinion, and if anybody 105 ought to know it is Mr. Awdry, who is the head of the Pension Department, and he said that that was the understanding. Of course, there may be some juggle of words on the point. There has frequently been a juggle of words by previous Lords of the Admiralty, and I am quite convulsed that my honourable Friend will not fall behind in that direction, although I am sure he has the cause of the pensioners at heart. Well, whether it be so or not, we have this fact to face, that out of 12,000 Naval pensioners only 1,500 of them do not get these pensions. It resolves itself independently of the question of contract, which I nevertheless assert to hare been made, into a question of fairness. These pensions are awarded for services renedered; they are not awarded out of mere charity. It is not a question of charity at all, it is purely a question of contract. I do not think any man who looks at this matter dispassionately would attempt to argue for a single moment that it is equitable or fair that while so large a body as 12,000 men should receive the pension that 1,500 should be excluded. It is pointed out by the Government that the reason why these men are not receiving pensions is because there are not sufficient funds to go all round. That brings me to another very important aspect of the question—that is, that funds justly belonging to Greenwich have from time to time been diverted from their legitimate purposes. The administration of Greenwich we all know to be admirable; I do not believe there is a single institution in the whole country better or more economically administered than Greenwich Hospital. This diversion of funds, of which I make serious complaint, has consisted of applying them to purposes for which they were never intended. The best proof that I can adduce as to the validity of my assertion is that as the outcome of Debates in this House from time to time some of these funds have been restored under pressure to their legitimate channels. Some years ago, in 1869 I think, the Seamen Pensioners' Reserve was started, and as an inducement to men to join, the Admiralty promised to guarantee them their age pension when they had reached 50 years of age. For some years after its inception the age pension so gained was taken from Greenwich Hospital Fund, instead 106 of being charged, as it should have been, on the Naval votes. That went on for so long that, prior to the Admiralty giving way, some £50,000 had been taken illegally out of Greenwich Hospital Fund which should have been voted in this House. No restitution has been made of this £50,000, and I ask the Committee to bear in mind that I have established the case of this £50,000 being due to Greenwich. But I do not stay here; I will state a far more flagrant—indeed, I will say more disgraceful—case of plundering Greenwich Hospital funds. The Admiralty have been occupying this magnificent building at Greenwich for many years past as a naval college. As honourable Members know, the Government is in the happy position of assessing its own property for rates, and even on such a basis the result was that these splendid buildings were assessed at over £9,000 per annum, but notwithstanding an altogether monstrously inadequate rent of only £100 per year was paid for the use of the buildings. The question was raised, and protests were made, year after year, but the Admiralty justified itself by saying that the buildings were most expensive to maintain, and that, under the circumstances, they could not afford to pay more. At last, however, the Admiralty surrendered and paid £5,000, which, even then, was not a fair rent. Pressure was again brought to bear on the Admiralty with the result that another £1,500 was added, so that now the rent is £6,500 a year. That has only taken place since 1895, and I maintain that, from 1862 to 1895, the arrears of rental are not less than £170,000. So that we must add this sum to the £50,000 to which I have already referred taken out of Greenwich Hospital Fund to pay these age pensions. But the deviation of these funds does not stop here. In 1834 an arrangement was made that the Consolidated Fund should contribute to Greenwich Hospital £20,000 a year in view of the sixpences that were paid by seamen as their contribution to the Greenwich Fund. That went on until 1869, and then the Chancellor of the Exchequer swooped down and took away £16,000 of this £20,000. Some ingenious reason was given, but I need not go into the details. That continued until 1893, when, as in 107 the other cases, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave way, and Greenwich regained possession of the £16,000 a year of which it had been deprived since 1869. The debt due to Greenwich on that one item alone is £400,000. There is still another point I wish to raise in conclusion. When Greenwich was closed an annual sum of £6,300 was allotted for the payment of pensions to officers. I do not grudge the officers their share, but what I do object to is that there should be an increase for the officers during this period we are discussing, and that the seamen should be going short. But this has happened, inasmuch as a further sum of £3,200 per year has been appropriated to the same purpose. I am sure the noble Lord opposite will not feel that I am acting unfairly towards his class when I suggest that the seamen should have the first claim on the funds of Greenwich. I have not the faintest wish to make any observation that savours of favouring the men and not the officers. I only wish, in supporting the speech of the honourable Member for Portsmouth, to offer a few observations on the system of selecting men for the Greenwich Fund. That selection cannot be properly carried out. It is impossible to pick out these men impartially. The man who has a friend at court will stand a better chance of getting his pension than the man who has no friend. I do not suggest that the Admiralty do not endeavour to act fairly to all in the giving out of these pensions; I am sure they do, but the system is a wrong one, and it cannot be effectively carried out. Seeing that these large sums of money have been diverted, I think the Greenwich Fund is entitled to some compensation. If the Admiralty paid 2½ per cent. on the money that has been diverted it would owe Greenwich £15,000 a year, which would more than suffice for all purposes. I think this perpetual agitation on the part of men who feel that they are entitled to some compensation is a very bad advertisement for the Navy. Those of us who are in touch with the Navy feel—and those of us who went to Portsmouth the other day must have felt, if we had this matter in our minds—that the Navy deserves better treatment. I hope, now the question has been raised in a more detailed manner than it has been 108 or some years, that the Admiralty will consider that a case has been established, and that all these men who joined the Navy prior to 1878, and have since come into the possession of life pensions, should at the age of 55, receive 5d. augmentation pension from the Greenwich Fund.
I wish to associate myself with the honourable Members opposite in regard to this troublesome matter of age pensions. The honourable Member for Devonport has given great attention to this matter, and I feel that every man in this House must agree with him. I hope the Admiralty will see their way to put an end to this agitation. It is not desirable to bring this question forward year after year for the sake of a paltry sum of £5,000 a year. The Admiralty have abolished Greenwich Hospital as a place of residence for worn-out seamen, and have made this up by way of an age pension. Their intention was to carry out that system in its entirety, and they made their calculations accordingly. But what the honourable Members opposite have omitted to bear in mind is this—and the seamen ought to go down on their knees and bless the Almighty for it—that seamen live several years longer now. The result is that the funds are insufficient, because pensioners do not die fast enough, and men come on the roll for age pensions before vacancies are created. I am the last to minimise the claims of seamen, but it is only fair to point out that laws have been in operation which have told in favour of longevity. Thirty years ago the death roll was terrible in China and India, and men were invalided home and died prematurely. All that is altered by improved sanitary conditions in the Navy. Our seamen who come home and retire on their pensions also live longer, because the sanitary condition of the towns is better. The water supply is better, and the whole sanitary system is greatly improved. We ought to be thankful that our men live longer, and seamen ought to bless the Almighty that their fellow-pensioners live to a greater age. The honourable Member for Devonport has spoken about a waste of money. If that is so, it ought to be a very easy matter to obtain restitution. If money 109 is wanted there are ways in which it might be obtained. What becomes of the money for dead men's effects? What becomes of the surplus of their savings? Will they go to the Treasury? I believe this surplus, paid over to the Treasury, would more than meet the demand of the honourable Member for Devonport, who has made out a very strong case for restitution. I desire to associate myself with his efforts.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I can associate myself with honourable Members opposite in this respect at least—that I think it is eminently desirable that this long-standing controversy should come to an end, and that it should be settled one way or another; but I confess I do not think that speeches such as we have listened to from my honourable and gallant Friend the Member for Eastbourne, and from honourable Members opposite, are calculated to produce the result they desire; or that these speeches, as I think I shall be able to show, have any sufficient basis in the facts of the case. If honourable Members opposite had taken more trouble to ascertain the facts of the case. I do not think they would ever have spoken of the payments to these pensioners in the way they have done to-night, and I do not think it is wise or right that they should constantly hold out to these men and instil into them, the idea that successive Governments have broken faith with them, and have failed in their contract with them, unless they are prepared with definite information they can lay before the House to show that the contract has ever existed. The whole point at issue is whether or not there ever was a contract with the men. I admit fully that, if the Admiralty made a contract with the men that they should, all of them, have an age pension at a certain age, no subsequent order could alter that contract, or would give us the right to withdraw from these men a privilege which was one of the conditions that induced them to enter the service. It would be no answer in such a case for the Government to say that the funds of Greenwich Hospital, which were expected to provide these pensions, are insufficient in amount to do so. If a contract was made between the Govern- 110 ment and men entering the Navy, and if the Greenwich fund is insufficient to carry out that contract, not only in the letter but in the spirit, then it must be the business of the Government and the duty of the Government to find funds from some other source. But the question I want the Committee to consider is whether there ever was any such contract. The honourable Member who opened this discussion said he made this demand on behalf of the men, not as asking for charity but as asserting respectfully a right. The honourable Member said that a contract had been made to which the men were parties on the one hand, and the Admiralty on the other; and he further said that the Enlistment Bill contained a promise that these men, on reaching 55 years of age, should receive the Greenwich age pension. The honourable Member for Devonport spoke in very much the same sense, and I think he practically endorsed all those statements of the honourable Member for Portsmouth. But neither of these honourable Members quoted the terms of the contract; neither of them cited to the Committee the phrases in the Enlistment Bill to which they referred. I have a copy of this Bill in my hands, and here is what it says—
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The actual copy I have is dated January, 1885, which is later than the date to which the honourable Member refers.
§ *MR. CLOUGH
If the right honourable Gentleman will pardon me I should like to point out that our statements were based on the Enlistment Bill which was brought before the Duke of Edinburgh's Committee, which was the Bill of 1865, and not the Bill of 1885.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Honourable Members will see that the Bill I hold in my hand is the Bill of 1885, and it is in this respect an exact copy of the earlier Bill. The following passage occurs in it—£76,000 a year is employed to grant to eligible pensioners additional pensions of 5d. and 9d. a day on reaching the age of 55 and upwards.111 That is the actual Bill that was brought before the Duke of Edinburgh's Committee. There is absolutely no statement there which gives any colour to the supposition that there was a contract between the Admiralty and the men that all men on arriving at the age of 55 should receive an age pension. The only statement in the Bill is that a sum of £7,000 should be devoted to granting eligible pensions. There is a saving clause in the Bill which says—The information contained in this paper is extracted from the different regulations, which are liable to alteration; no person has any right to pay, pension, or other advantage on account of apparent eligibility under the rules as herein published.But I do not base myself on this clause, but on the actual words referring to pensions which I have quoted. The promise of the Admiralty was that £76,000 a year should be devoted to that purpose. Has the Admiralty kept that promise? Has the Admiralty fulfilled the contract so made with the men?
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
From the Enlistment Bill. I was asking if we had kept the promise contained in the words of the Bill. Sir, we have not only kept the promise, but we have gone beyond it, and at this present time we are spending not £76,000 a year, but over £100,000, in granting these pensions to eligible pensioners. The honourable Member for Portsmouth complained that the circular of 1878 had been made retrospective, with the result of withdrawing rights of which the men were already possessed. I do not think the honourable Member can make out that case. This is no new subject. It has been examined by the Duke of Edinburgh's Committee, and it has been examined by a Select Committee of this House, which reported in 1892. The Duke of Edinburgh's Committee was considering a proposal to establish an insur- 112 ance fund for sailors, and for the purpose of ascertaining their views issued a Circular to the men in the Fleet at the home ports and in the coastguard describing certain proposals made to them, and regarding which they wanted he men's opinion. In this Circular the Committee gave their opinion upon this question of the Greenwich age and special pensions. In this Circular the Committee state—By Order in Council both classes of pensions (i.e., age and special)—the latter of which is not now in dispute—are to be given entirely at the discretion of the Admiralty, so that no man has a vested interest in these pensions or can regard them as a right. All that can be asserted in this respect is that the funds of the Greenwich Hospital are the property of the Navy. It rests with the Board of Admiralty for the time being to determine according to circumstances in what way the funds can be applied to the best advantage for the benefit of the Navy as a whole.In the first place there is no such contract as the honourable Member for Portsmouth supposes with the men, and the honourable Member can produce no evidence of its existence. That being so, his second contention, that the restrictive Order of 1878 was an unfair one, and had a retrospective effect, falls to the ground, because it does not restrict any right that the men previously possessed. The honourable Member seems to imagine that no restrictions on the pensions were heard of until 1878. That is not true. The reason for closing Greenwich Hospital was on account of the enormous reluctance shown by the men to enter the hospital, and their desire to remain among their families and friends rather than be shut up in that great establishment. A Joint Committee of the Admiralty and the Treasury was appointed to consider what should be done, and they recommended, in lieu of the hospital, that age pensions should be established. The Report of that Committee was published as a Parliamentary Paper, and was presented to this House. That was the very inception of the age pensions. I will call the attention of the House to 113 what the Committee said. They stated that—It will be equally necessary to limit the number of extra pensions (i.e., the age pensions) to be granted. We are of opinion, allowing a fair margin, that 5,000 extra pensioners should be the maximum.So that at the very inception of this scheme of extra pensions 5,000 was the number suggested as the limit. The Greenwich Hospital Act of the same year gave power to appoint such pensions "as seem fit," and an Order in Council of September the same year ordered that these extra pensions should be granted at the discretion of the Admiralty. If there had been any idea of a contract with the men, that every man should have a pension on arriving at a certain age, there would not have been introduced these limitations at the beginning, or these words giving discretion and power of decision to the Admiralty. And, Sir, as a matter of fact, from 1865 to 1869 the Board did limit the number of pensions to 5,000; and it was only in 1869, by an Admiralty Minute which was never published, that the limit was removed, and an unlimited number of pensions made possible. And the Select Committee of 1892 reported—It is clear that this discretion of the Lords Commissioner of the Admiralty was exercised in 1866, when, by Admiralty Order, the age pension was withheld from all naval pensioners in Government employ, or residing out of the United Kingdom; and also in 1869, when 412 more age pensions were authorised by the Board; and in 1876, when the age of 70 for the 4d. pension was reduced to 65.I think it is perfectly evident that from the inception of these pensions the idea of a limit was suggested, and was made public, not only in the Report which was published as a Parliamentary Paper, but in the speech of Mr. Childers, who introduced the Greenwich Hospital Act, as well as in the course of the administration of the funds. I hope, therefore, that I have made it clear to the Committee that there is no claim as of right, and that there is no breach of faith or of contract with the men. [Lord CHARLES BERESFORD interrupted.] I am afraid that my noble and gallant Friend remains at the point at which he was when I began my speech I do not quite understand where he 114 thinks the contract was made. I have shown that in the Recruiting Bill there was no contract, that before 1878 the Order in Council establishing these pensions established them subject to the discretion of the Admiralty; and I have shown that the Admiralty used their discretion on several occasions before 1878. It is impossible to say that there was a hard and fast rule that every man who entered before 1878 should receive the pension on reaching the age of 55. There are one or two points of less importance raised by the honourable Members for Portsmouth and Devonport, on which I will say one or two words. I think both honourable Members complained of the inquisitorial Circular which is issued to applicants for these pensions. I hold in my hand a copy of this inquisitorial Circular, which only asks the men their name, the nature of their employment, the average of their weekly earnings, and the condition of their health. I do not think that is an offensive Circular to send round; as a matter of fact, it is less inquisitorial than the Circular addressed to officers who apply for officers' pensions out of the Greenwich Hospital Fund. They are asked the amount of their private income, the amount of their wife's income, whether they have any appointment, occupation, or business, and, if so, what the emoluments are; if they have any family, and, if so, the number of children dependent upon them. There is no distinction made between the men and the officers who apply. If it is admitted that this is a charity, as I contend it is, and is to be administered as a charity, we could not do less than make inquiries of the nature which have been specified. The honourable Member for Devonport objects to our making any selection. He is anxious, if the number of pensions is to be limited, that they should be given to the senior men on the lists. What would the effect of that be? The effect would be this: a large number of people who are in comfortable, and comparatively affluent, circumstances, would receive these pensions, whilst others who are in very poor circumstances would go without them. It is possible, as the honourable Member says, that mistakes are sometimes made, but because some mistakes occur even under the most careful system of 115 selection, that is no reason for abandoning selection altogether, and rushing into the evils for which the present system has been denounced. When pensions were given indiscriminately to all men, they were given to people who were in no need of them. It was actually proposed on several occasions that these Greenwich age pensions should be either absolutely done away with, or largely reduced, and the fund diverted to other purposes. The honourable Member for Devonport referred to a particular paragraph in the evidence before the Duke of Edinburgh's Committee, in the endeavour to show that it was admitted that there was a contract between these men, and that this pension was a right. Nothing of the kind. The proposal before the Committee on Which Mr. Awdry was speaking, and in favour of which he was arguing, was a proposal to withdraw £48,000 out of the £76,000 promised by the Admiralty, and to devote this sum to the establishment of an insurance fund and widows' pensions, instead of to age pensions. If the honourable Member will look at the paragraph to which he refers, he will see that in reference to that proposal a question was put, in which it was suggested that there was a breach of contract, and that the enlistment bills held out these pensions as an inducement to the men, and that they had entered in consequence of this inducement. It was in answer to the question—Has not this inducement—that is, the inducement that £76,000 a year is given for age pensions—been held out to men entering the service?Mr. Awdry replied—I have no doubt that in recruiting the most rosy view of the circumstances is put before the men in order to induce them to recruit.But there is not a word there to suggest that these pensions can be claimed as a right by every man of 55. On the contrary—
§ *MR. KEARLEY
I think it is very unfortunate that the Recruiting Bill which was put before the men who enlisted in 1865 has not been produced to-night.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I believe the Bill I have in my hand is the 116 Bill which was before the Duke of Edinburgh's Committee.
§ *MR. KEARLEY
It cannot be the Bill which was before the men who enlisted in 1865 if it is the Bill produced in 1885.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The honourable Member is making a mountain out of a mole hill. He asked me to produce the Bill which was before the Duke of Edinburgh's Committee in 1885. This is the actual Bill which was before the Duke of Edinburgh's Committee in that year, and a copy of the earlier Bill.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I should be delighted if I could produce the Bill, but I have been unable to get one. No doubt the honourable Member has also tried to get one and failed. I have produced an exact copy. I go back to what Mr. Awdry says later in his evidence. In reply to the Question No. 48—Surely a pension is given for past services?he said—Yes, a naval pension.Mr. Awdry was asked (Question 85)—Any pension in the world is given for past services?and he replied—Not the Greenwich Hospital pension. There is a broad distinction to be recognised. A man entering the Navy, the Marines, or the Army may be told, 'Your pay is small, but you wilt get a pension or deferred pay'; and when the man leaves our service he gets it; he obtains all that he contracted for. But it so happens that we are also trustees for a charity, and under that charity we are empowered to supplement those pensions to men in necessitous, circumstances; that supplemental award is not a deferred pay, it is simply an act of charity.It is impossible for honourable Members, in face of that, to contend that this is a right, and not an act of charity. Another point raised was with reference to the use of the hospital buildings. I can only say that, having gone into the matter very carefully, I am satisfied that the hospital is now receiving the full amount it is correct to charge to the Naval College for the buildings they occupy. Then there is the question of officers' pensions. The total amount of officers' pensions from the Greenwich Hospital Fund at the present time is some- 117 thing under £9,000. When the hospital existed the officers drew emoluments of no less than £15,000 from the Fund, and in addition to that they occupied at least one-fourth of the whole of the buildings as free quarters. The honourable Member opposite would have led the Committee to suppose that the proportion of Greenwich Hospital Funds which is paid to officers has grown larger in recent years. That is not so. When the Hospital was closed the officers were receiving nine and a quarter per cent, of its total income. They are now receiving only 4½ per cent. It was a policy which was deliberately decided upon by those who were responsible for the closing of the hospital, that some compensation should be made in perpetuity to the officers who would have been eligible for posts carrying with them these large emoluments. That is the policy which was approved by the House of Commons, and embodied in an Act of Parliament, which imposed on the Admiralty the duty, or the right, to confer these pensions not only on the men but on the officers, noncommissioned officers, and men of the Fleet. I submit that these facts are sufficient to show that the officers have some claim for consideration, and for the establishment of some officers' pensions out of the Greenwich Hospital Fund, and I do not think that 4½ per cent. of the whole is an undue proportion to allow. Sir, I apologise to the Committee for speaking at such length, but I thought, in view of the fact that these grave charges of breach of faith with men in their service have been made against successive Boards of Admiralty, that it was due to the Board of Admiralty and to the Committee that I should make this full explanation. I hope I have been able to dispel the illusions which honourable Members are under, and that they will consider carefully before they repeat the allegations of bad faith and of indifference which have been hurled, not against this Board of Admiralty alone, but against successive Boards of Admiralty, all of whom, according to honourable Gentlemen, must have been blind to the plain dictates of honour.
Upon the return of the CHAIRMAN, after the usual interval,
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
I think my honourable Friend the Civil Lord lays down the most extraordinary doctrine that I ever heard of. He acknowledged that there was considerable dissatisfaction amongst a large portion of Her Majesty's Service, and yet he finds fault, with the honourable Member opposite because he brought their case before the House of Commons. I think the honourable Member did a very good thing in bringing this matter before the House. How are we to clear these things up unless we clear them up publicly on the floor of the House of Commons? The fact remains that there is an amount of dissatisfaction existing amongst a portion of the pensioners of Her Majesty's Service, who think that the Government have not fulfilled their promises. It is not good for the Service nor for the country that the dissatisfaction should exist. Now, I think the place to bring out these cases is on the floor of the House of Commons. I never knew—although I had studied all the facts—I never knew for one moment what the Civil Lord read out to-night. Now, if the statement is true, and there is no reason to doubt it, these men are not justly entitled to this 5d. a day. What I want to find fault with is his authority; if there is this doubt and dissatisfaction amongst the men of the Fleet, the authorities ought to send round a circular and let the men know clearly how they stand, because it is not right that the men should be under the idea that the Government have broken their contract. It is neither right nor good for the country or the Fleet, and I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty will make some arrangements by which it shall be made clear to the men who joined the Service prior to 1878. We know very well that the men who joined after that time are not entitled; but there are a good many men, shipmates of my own, who joined the Service in 1858 who think they have a grievance in not obtaining that which, according to what has been read out to-night, they are not entitled to; and I hope it will be made quite clear to the lower deck of the Service that they are under a delusion and are not entitled to the pension, and were not entitled to it when they joined. I quite agree with the point of selection which has been taken by the First Lord. I think, as 119 matters stand, that is quite right; there are men, as one knows, who are well off, men who have inherited money, or who have got money in some way or other, and who are well off, whereas there is a large number of men who are not well off, and I think that if you have only so much money you should give it to those who are hard up, and not to those who are well off. Now let me allude to the Chatham chest, because I do not think the Committee really know why the men do not consider that they are treated fairly in this case. It has been brought out in this House, and it is not generally known to the public, that the Chatham chest was founded in the year 1590. It was founded by means of a subscription of 6d. a month, which was paid out of his wages by every man in the Service. From the time of its foundation to the present year we have had a large number of men in the Fleet—I think the largest dumber we have had is 140,000, but every man paid 6d. a month out of his wages into the Chatham chest. Five per cent. of the prize money of the officers and men was also contributed to the Chatham chest, together with all unclaimed prize money, and extensive additions have been made to it by will and otherwise, and the result was that the Chatham chest had a great many millions of money mainly provided by the 6d. a month from the wages of the men. In 1814 it was found that from £5,000,000 to £7,000,000 of the money of the Chatham chest had disappeared; they never had any accounts, or, at least, could never find any; but it is quite clear that in that year the amount of money disappeared. I do not like to say that the chest was robbed of it—I think I will say it was robbed of it; I do not mean to say that it was taken out and put into anybody's pocket, but this money, which had been contributed by the men for the purposes of providing for themselves pensions m their old age, was taken by the Government because they were in difficulties over the war in the beginning of the century, and, finding themselves in pecuniary difficulties, they took this money and used it for the purposes of the war. But that money belonged to the men; it was subscribed by the men in order to secure them certain pensions when they got old.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
The noble Member (Mr. A. Chamberlain) will excuse 120 my interrupting, but I would point out that the money was not voted to war purposes in the ordinary sense of the term of war expenditure; it was expended in pensions.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
I think my honourable Friend is quite wrong there. If he will read the details of it he will find that there were from £5,000,000 to £7,000,000 never accounted for; and there is no doubt as to how the money was disposed of. It was said to be used for war purposes. I find as I make it out, that the amount of the Greenwich Hospital Fund is £4,500,000, which includes £1,356,000, which is all that is left of this enormous sum of money of the Chatham chest. The sixpenny subscriptions were stopped in the year 1829, but what these men feel is this: that since these pensions have been started a large sum, something like £8,000, every year, goes to the officers. I for one think they deserve that pension, but I think that sum should come out of the Navy Vote, because, although my honourable Friend is right in saying that the officers did subscribe to the Chatham chest in so far that they paid 5 per cent. of their prize money into that chest, and all prize money unclaimed was paid into that chest, the fact remains that the great sum of the Chatham chest was not money that accrued to the people, but was made up of the 6d. per month which every man subscribed from his wages. I sympathise with the men in this case, and I see the difficulties of the Admiralty, and I differ from those honourable Gentlemen opposite when they say the Admiralty or the Government have broken their contract. But what they have not done is to make it clear to the men that the men are not entitled to this pension. It is no use finding faults without remedying them. This is the place to remedy these things, because, if Parliament says "so and so," the Admiralty will have to do it. Now, I would suggest that they should put the officers' pensions upon the Navy Vote, and that all these men who serve their country up to the age of 55 should get their 5d. a day. I do not think it would be a very great thing for the country to do to make this arrangement, as there are so many means of doing so. Take 121 the one which the honourable and gallant Admiral mentioned just now, that of the saving fund.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
Then what has become of it? I think this question ought to be cleared up. I would propose, and I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty and his Board will devise, some means of allowing a pension of 5d. a day to all the pensioners of the Royal Navy who arrive at the age of 55 years. Now there is one other point with regard to this question. There are the different Committees which have sat upon this matter, and which have invariably, so far as I can understand, found that the men are right, and there is some fund remaining. I think it is a very wise thing that these things should be brought before Parliament, and that it should clear them up in the light of day, and prove the men are right or wrong; but let us at the same time see whether we cannot give the men this 5d. a day. There is one more point I should like to mention before I sit down. The chief petty officers of the Navy come under this head. Now, the chief petty officers of the Navy do not receive a pension at all commensurate with their services to the country. They simply get the same pension as the ordinary first-class petty officer gets. I do not think that is fair, and I might remind the First Lord of the Admiralty that he has—and I certainly have—given the men to understand that this question would be taken up. Therefore the men are not agitating, they are waiting, and are looking to authority to put this matter right. They ask for a halfpenny a day for every year they serve in the Navy. This question interests the whole of the lower deck, because the chief petty officer is the highest rank to which a man can rise on the lower deck. Having regard to the injustices which have been done to the men in connection with sick pay and the paying off of ships, I do hope the Board will see to this, because it is a matter which the men feel very keenly, and a matter which must redound to the benefit of the men of the whole Service. If these injustices are taken into consideration by the Board of 122 Admiralty, and the Board sees what it can do—I know that they have only so much money, I know the difficulties of this, case; but the great thing is to have the officers and men happy and contented, and not suffering from a shadow of an idea that they are being unfairly treated.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
My noble Friend has just called attention to the position of the chief petty officers with regard to their pensions. It is perfectly true, as he has pointed out, that the chief petty officers are on the same scale as the first-class petty officers. This question has raised a good deal of feeling amongst the different ratings in the Navy, but I must remind the House that the pensions in the Navy are not determined by the rank, the rating, or the emoluments of the men in the Service. Pensions in the Navy are decided entirely upon the basis of the length of service of the man who earns the pension. As my noble Friend, no doubt, perfectly well knows, after 20 years' continuous service before 1885, and after 22 years' continuous service subsequent to 1885, men, whether they be chief petty officers, first-class or second-class petty officers, or able seamen, are entitled to a pension of 10d. a day—whatever their rating may be. It is neither their rank nor their emoluments that are considered in arriving at the pension. The pension of 10d. a day may be increased according to the number of the badges a man has. A man receives, if he has one badge, a halfpenny; two badges, 1d.; and three badges, 2d. a day; and for good character throughout, an additional 1d.; and for each three years they have completed after having served their full time they have another 1d. a day. That is to say, every man, if he has these badges, is entitled, when he leaves the Service, to 1s. 2d. a day whether he is a chief petty officer, first-class petty officer, second-class petty officer, or ordinary seaman. That pension of 1s. 2d. a day is liable to be increased by the amount of time which petty officers or chief petty officers may have served in that rank. He gets a farthing a day for his service as second-class petty officer, and he gets a halfpenny a day for his services as first-class petty officer. These rates are doubled 123 after 15 years' service. The principles on which naval pensions are based are entirely different from that of Civil Service pensions, which are granted upon the emoluments which persons receive at the time, whereas naval pensions are based entirely upon the service rendered. The grievance which is alleged is that certain chief petty officers are at the present moment in receipt of smaller pensions than first-class petty officers. That grievance can only be established by comparing the pensions of chief petty officers of the seamen class with the pensions of the first and second class petty officers of the skilled rating class. I may tell my noble Friend that the whole of this question is under the careful and minute examination of the Admiralty; and the examination has convinced the members of the Board that chief petty officers in each particular line at the present moment get higher pensions than first-class petty officers in that line. But because of the principle on which pensions are based, which may give a second-class petty officer a higher pension than a first-class petty officer, it happens that when you compare the pensions of the chief petty officers in the seamen class you find he gets less pension than the first and second class petty officers in the skilled rating class. I think my noble Friend will agree that this question is surrounded by considerable difficulties. He will admit, I am sure, that the system of pensions, well understood by the men of the service, cannot be altered without mature consideration. The difficulties which surround it are largely increased by the very great number of different ratings in the service—the distinctions that have to be maintained, both in the rates of pay and in the rates of pension. I think he will also agree with me that it would not be unreasonable for the Board of Admiralty to be very careful in any recommendation they might present to the House of Commons in future. But, as I have told him, the matter is under the consideration of the Board, and we hope to be able to come to a conclusion that will enable us, when the Estimates for the future financial year are being prepared, to lay before the House of Commons certain recommendations which we believe will obviate some of the anomalies which exist at 124 the present moment, and which we hope will go a long way, if not all the way, to settle the grievances that these petty officers feel. I hope my noble Friend will not assume from what I have said that we can go all the way in the particular direction that has been indicated in the petitions that have been presented to the Board of Admiralty. But we believe that we do see our way to lay before the House of Commons what will be a practical solution of this question. I feel sure that he and other Members of the Committee will recognise that the Board of Admiralty are not only bound to consider the grievances that exist among naval pensioners, but that they must also have due regard to the liabilities of the taxpayers of the country, and that they will recognise that the Vote for the non-effective service is already extremely large, and that no Board of Admiralty would be justified in largely increasing that Vote, unless at the same time we can secure to the country the further efficiency of the naval service and a corresponding advantage in the administration of the Navy. I trust my noble Friend will be satisfied by what I have said to him, that we are giving this matter most careful and minute examination, and that we believe we see our way in the future to place before Parliament some solution of the question, which will not be unsatisfactory, both from the point of view of the pensioners themselves, and also from the point of view of economy to the taxpayers.
§ MR. E. MORTON (Devonport)
I hope the honourable Gentleman will not think it want of respect if I do not answer his speech, though it is a speech dealing with a matter I take a great interest in. I am happy to hear he is able to give us some hope from the Government in that direction. I do not want to lay any blame on the noble Lord opposite for introducing this particular subject to come under this Vote; but, coming as it does at the present moment, this matter of petty officers' pensions is in the nature of a red herring drawn across the scent of the Greenwich pension question. There is one point on which I must join issue with the Civil Lord at once. He referred to our action in this House as being in the nature of teaching these pensioners 125 that they have grievances, when they have not one. Now if the honourable Member had ever been a Member for a dockyard constituency he would have known that no necessity exists for teaching our constituencies what their rights are.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
What I said was that it was encouraging them. I only wish the honourable Member would teach his constituents what their rights are. There is great room for it.
§ MR. E. MORTON
It is not in the interests of a dockyard Member to encourage the grievances of his constituents and teach them what their rights are. I can assure him that we do not encourage them. Every piece of information I myself have got upon this question has been given to me by my constituents. I have the keenest possible recollection at this moment of the circumstances under which I first began to study these things. It was previous to the General Election of 1892. Is it supposed that there is something disgraceful or unusual for a Member to possess himself of information about matters affecting his constituency? The fact is that at that time I had a prejudice in my own mind, and I recollect I was surprised to find how good a case the men had. If it is possible for an officer in the Navy of so much recognised ability as the noble Lord opposite to declare that they have a moral right, is it not obvious that, at any rate, there is some grievance, and that these men are not to be blamed for supposing that they have an actual right? I remember when I first began to investigate this subject the honourable Member for Bodmin made a speech, in which he said I promised my constituents things that could not be done, and instanced the fact that I stated that the Greenwich pensioners were entitled to £20,000 a year more than they got. It was not more than a year later when that very thing was done. There was an objection at first, but the Admiralty had to yield. It seems to me that the honourable Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty has his case to some extent weakened by the fact that we nave heard the same sort of speech as he has made, refusing the claims of these 126 men over and over again, and yet one time after another we have made the Admiralty and the Treasury yield. If they have no rights, why is it that the Admiralty have yielded over and over again? These men have certain rights, and I do not despair for a moment that the Admiralty and the Treasury will nave to deal with this question as they have had to deal with the previous questions. But there is one point made by the senior Memer for Devonport to which the Civil Lord of the Admiralty made no reply whatever: that is as to the moral right that has been conferred upon these men by the deflection of the funds which ought to have gone to these pensioners, to other purposes. I may point out that it is admitted that there are large numbers of men in the Navy who are discontented, and that this situation is a bad advertisement for the British Navy at a time when the greatest difficulty we have is to get men.
§ MR. E. MORTON
I do not say it is a serious difficulty; all I say is that probably it is the most serious. This discontent has been admitted to-night, also that it is a bad advertisement for the British Navy when we want a good advertisement for it. While enormous sums of money have been deflected from the funds, the demand we make is extremely small—only £12,000—and it must be a diminishing amount.
§ MR. E. MORTON
It is an extinguishable sum; it is expenditure to give only what are regarded as the just rights of the men who enlisted in the Navy between 1865 and 1878. It seems to me that the Government might look with a more kindly eye upon the demands that are made. The evidence given before the Duke of Edinburgh's Commission showed that the recruiting placards held out to the men the hope and belief that they would receive what they now demanded, or else I do not understand the English language. Under all the 127 circumstances the Government might yield to the very moderate demand we make.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I cannot allow the last sentence of the honourable Member to pass without some observation. There was no hope or expectation held out by the Recruiting Bills which has not been amply fulfilled by the Admiralty.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
It is quite clear that there is no addition required for pensions in order to make the Navy more popular. What may be required is something to make the honourable Gentleman the Member for Devonport more popular in his own constituency, and perhaps a little more acquainted with the subject he has spoken of. He has admitted he has obtained the £20,000 from the Treasury which was represented to be necessary to satisfy the claims of these pensioners, and he seems now to have nothing to complain of.
§ MR. E. MORTON
I did not demonstrate that at all. I was asked by these pensioners as to whether their claims were not just. I investigated the matter, and I came to the conclusion that they were. When I had the opportunity as a Member of Parliament of advocating their claims, my colleague and myself made out a case for the money being granted, and the money was granted.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Such was the effect of his oratory upon a recalcitrant Exchequer and the House of Commons, that he got that £20,000.
§ MR. E. MORTON
The honourable Member has not been present at the Debate, and he is not quite cognisant of the facts. The facts are that at that time £20,000 was the sum which would be necessary to fulfil the demands of the men; but the Navy has been increasing, and the amount is not sufficient. We say that we ought to give another £13,000 to satisfy the men's claims.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
The honourable Member is unfair when he says I was not acquainted with the facts. I was not quoting facts, I was quoting the honourable Member's speech. I 128 understand he took credit for getting £20,000, which he originally stated was the amount of the claim. Although the able speech of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty is no doubt quite satisfactory to the lawyer-minded man, it might not be so satisfactory to the seaman-minded man. He admitted that the enlisting placards promised £76,000 to be divided among eligible men in pensions. Every man who enlists supposes that he will be eligible when he reaches the age of 55; and if he has got a clean sheet I think he is entitled to be classed as an eligible man. Though those men may not have a legal claim, they may well be supposed to have a moral claim to a pension. The Government have made an unfortunate series of admissions. The payment by the Government of £16,000 a year towards these pensions, while the rest was provided by Greenwich, is a serious admission that there is something to be said for adding to the pensions, and giving a pension to all the men. That is a weakness of the Government's position. I want to take a somewhat larger view. The Civil Lord has shown that the men had no strictly legal claim. I do not know how much it will cost to satisfy the whole of these claims, but I submit to the Committee that, taking a reasonable and rational and profitable view of how a sailor ought to be treated, it is better to divert attention from the pensions and fix it upon the present pay. What a sailor values, is not the pension. What he values is the present pay. No sailor of 20 or 25 years of age believes that he will live to the pension age, and many sailors do not live long enough to get a pension. That is the reason why so many of our men go to the American Navy, where there are no pensions. Sailors do not value pensions. That is the system on which the American. Navy is manned; they give enormously higher pay, but no pensions. I think the principle is a right one to make the pension rather smaller than it is at present, and the present pay much higher; otherwise you would lose the most desirable of your men, for men who are trained are of the utmost importance in the day of battle, and these are the men who are being taken away from you. You will certainly have to increase your present rate of pay, and 129 coincidently you will have to decrease your pension. That is the principle on which to act.
§ SIR J. BAKER (Portsmouth)
Even the Admiralty admit with the noble Lord opposite that the men themselves thoroughly believe they are entitled to fivepence a day. When I hear that the question has been disposed of by the Admiralty on the technical and legal aspect of the case, I am astounded that they did not see there was another aspect of the question which requires a little consideration. The noble Lord opposite has mentioned the case of the chief petty officers, and I congratulate the Admiralty on the advance they have made with reference to the claims of the lower-deck. Up to now they have been told that they had no case with regard to an additional pension. The First Lord may not know much about the methods by Which these men advance their claims, but I happen to know, and I assure him that throughout the Navy the chief petty officers are of one mind—that they are fairly entitled to the consideration that has been denied them. I think that that consideration should be shown, and if it were so, considering the important position these men hold in the Service, and the great advantage it is to have men satisfied and contented, the Admiralty would thereby gain in strength and we should have perfect confidence in the future. But there is another aspect of the case which has been alluded to, and which I wish to impress upon the Admiralty to favourably consider, and that is that the lower deck men—and I can vouch for the fact—have their conferences about this matter, that the Admiralty should make something in the nature of a concession, suggested a few years since, in providing a pension fund. The men, on their part, are quite willing, and indeed most anxious, to contribute a sum sufficient to meet the requirements of such a case. It rests with the Admiralty to take up the question in a way which will meet the requirements of the public service as well as the wishes of the men. Provision is made in the higher grades of the Service and should be made in the lower. If the men die before receiving their pension the families suffer. If the 130 Admiralty will make a subvention, the men will contribute in a way that will be just to the public service, and eminently satisfactory to the families when they require this support.
Mr. Lowther, I entirely agree with a great deal of the speech of the honourable Member for King's Lynn as to the legality of the claim made by the seamen pensioners, and I hope that the Admiralty will see their way to take into their favourable consideration the morality of the claim. For some years I have been living in a neighbourhood where there are a number of pensioners, and many of them have come to me and asked me to apply for the Greenwich Age Pension for them. Some have been successful, and others have not. But I am bound to say, with respect to the observations which fell from the honourable Member for Devonport as to the inquiries that are made before these pensions are granted, I have never heard any complaint from the men. With regard to the remark made by the honourable Member for King's Lynn that they think little about their pensions, I can only say that my experience is very different. I am quite certain that bluejackets, from the time they join the Service, think a great deal about these matters. I believe it is an inducement to them when they first join a training ship, and I am quite certain that after some years' experience of the Service they look forward to the pension. As regards the men who leave and form the nucleus of the American Navy, I have no doubt that some of them who like a change, after completing their first term in the Service, do join the American Navy, but I do not think it is a very large number at the present time. I can only say—and I have heard it firsts hand—that those who have joined have been sorry for it afterwards, and would be extremely glad to come back under the old flag again. Others who do not join for a second period do join the Naval Reserves, and are among the best men we have in that force; and, if additional inducements were held out to them to join the Reserve, an even greater number would do so. I will give one instance. Only a short time ago I was talking to a labouring man. He said he 131 was in the Navy. I asked him what made him leave. He said, "Because I was a fool." Well, I quite agreed that he had been a fool. He said he wished he could go back, but he could not, because he had remained out of the Service too long to return under the regulations then in force. With respect to the proposed increase of ½d. a day, which the chief petty officers ask for, I do think it is a claim that they are entitled to. The chief petty officers undoubtedly have much more important duties and greater responsibilities than those in the inferior grades, and I hope that before this Vote comes up again something will be done to grant what is to my mind a very reasonable request. Before I sit down I should like to call attention to one other matter. We were told the other night that the Victoria Cross pensioners in the Army were under certain circumstances to be granted a special pension. I should like to know whether the same consideration will apply to possessors of the Victoria Cross in the Navy. There are seven men of the seaman class who hold the Victoria Cross, and several of them were granted in the Crimean War. They must now be old, and past their work, and I hope the same consideration will be shown to them as to the Victoria Cross men in the Army.
§ MR. MENDL (Plymouth)
I do not propose to speak many moments in support of the Motion of my honourable Friend the Member for Devonport. I do not profess to be an authority on the legal construction of documents, but that there is a strong feeling on the subject has been fully exemplified not only by the speech of the noble Lord the honourable and gallant Member for York, but by the speeches of honourable Members from all parts of the country, including Members who represent dockyard constituencies and those who represent other kinds of constituencies. There is a rankling sense of injustice all over the country in consequence of these men being deprived of what they, at any rate, consider their rights, and I do think that it is a question which the Admiralty might take up and consider with more sympathy than, in some respects, has been expressed to-night, as to whether it is worth while to allow this sense of 132 injustice to go on in the minds of the men all over the country. I know there have been concessions in some quarters, but it seems to me that they only leave the sense of injustice stronger than it was before. I really do think—and I think it is the opinion of naval officers, and I know it is the opinion of seamen—that this is an opportunity which the Government might take advantage of in remedying this sense of injustice, and so removing the grievances which, when we come to regard them properly, are of great national importance.
§ *SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
There are two points under the consideration of the Committee. The first is with reference to the breach of contract as between the Admiralty and the men, and the second is with regard to the diversion of money from its proper purpose—namely, for the benefit of the naval and marine pensioners. With regard to the contract, I do think that the honourable Members who represent dockyard constituencies are largely responsible for the assumption that there has been a breach of contract. I constantly, like other Members of the House, receive letters from all parts of the kingdom, from claimants for the pension, asserting that there has been a breach of contract, and when I try to explain to them that there was none they always inform me that they have the highest authority for saying it; and when I trace the matter home it generally turns out that it was a statement by one of the honourable Members who represent dockyard constituencies in this House. With regard to the second point, I think there may have been an improper division of funds, and if the funds had been properly adjusted there would be enough money to award to all seamen and marines who are at present in need of assistance. But, Sir, as an instance of the accuracy of some honourable Members, I have been very much struck by the speech of the honourable Member for Devonport. When my honourable Friend the Member for King's Lynn was complimenting him upon the fact that within a year of his election, he has succeeded in getting £20,000 out of the Government, and pointing out that his claim was satisfied, the junior Member for Devonport was indignant. But the honourable 133 Member unfortunately gave his reasons, which were that owing to the increase of the Navy there was an increased sum of money required to satisfy the pensioners. The honourable Member was elected in 1892, and therefore, according to his statement, 1,800 men have, in six years, served 20 years, and suddenly become 55 years of age!
§ MR. E. MORTON
Does the honourable Member dispute that there are about 1,800 men under the age of 25 who consider themselves entitled to this pension? The Government admit it. At the time I was speaking of £20,000 was sufficient, but as the Navy was increasing £13,000 more is now necessary.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
What we suggest is, that honourable and learned Gentlemen in want of seats in Parliament go down to the dockyard, and there find questions to raise, and thereby become Members of Parliament.
§ The Amendment was put and negatived, and the Vote agreed to.
§ A Vote of £332,000 for Civil pensions and gratuities was agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
§ Motion made and Question proposed—