§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 14. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,430,400, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expenses of Naval and Marine Pensions, Gratuities, and Compassionate Allowances, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911."
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if the Board of Admiralty will take into consideration the question of the widows and children of men who get killed or maimed or diseased in the Service. At present there is only a small gratuity, and it would be fair to take that into consideration. I know it will add to the expense, but it is a very fair expense, and I do not think any part of the House will oppose it. If a man loses his life, if a davit falls on him, or if a coaling whip falls upon him, he is entitled to a pension as much as if he gets shot, and some steps should be taken to be more generous to the widows and children. The Admiralty 879 are as generous as they can be under the circumstances. It is a Treasury question, and it is one which will have the sympathy of the whole country.
§ Sir OWEN PHILIPPS
I agree with what has been said by the Noble Lord. I think the Government should behave equally well towards the widows or orphans of men who are accidentally killed in time of peace as private employers. I know that the Admiralty in some cases at present do something for the widows and orphans, but I think it is the general feeling of the country that the Government should set an example to the private employer, and in all cases do as the very minimum the same for the widows and orphans as a private employer would have to do under the Workmen's Compensation Act.
§ Mr. G. C. WHELER
I want to raise a question on the contribution in aid of the Greenwich Hospital Fund. There seems to be a considerable difficulty on the part of some people who think they are entitled to it. There is a large number of people whom a dockyard representative has to deal with who think that because they entered the service before 1878, and also carried out the conditions imposed at the time, they are entitled to this augmentation of their pension, and if we can have a direct statement upon it it would be a great advantage. It would allay the anxiety of the men, and they would thoroughly understand their position.
§ Mr. McKENNA
There is no opportunity afforded on this Vote to explain the matter. This £16,000 is a special contribution in aid of Greenwich Hospital to provide additional age pensions to men fifty-five years of age who entered the Royal Navy before 1878. It does not raise the whole question of the policy and the administration of the Greenwich Hospital Fund, but so far as I can reply to the hon. Gentleman I can say this: So far as we have been able to trace, at no time has any promise ever been given that every man who entered the Navy should at the age of fifty-five receive a pension. It has been stated, rightly, that men become eligible for a pension when they are fifty-five if there are funds, but owing to the increasing numbers, although a man becomes eligible at fifty-five, the funds do not admit of his being paid at that age, and I am sorry to say that the age is 880 yearly increasing. We have made certain changes and put certain charges on the Votes in order to release the Greenwich Hospital funds and make them available for this purpose, but it must be understood by every seaman that no man is entitled to a Greenwich Hospital pension of £50 although he becomes eligible for it. I do not think, looking at the history of the case, that there has been any injustice in the matter.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LEE
I am aware that we are on very delicate ground in discussing the matter at all, but might I ask, as it would not be in order to move an increase on any Vote, whether the right hon. Gentleman would use his influence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider whether this item of £16,000 might not be increased in such a way as to leave the funds of the Greenwich Hospital freer to deal with other cases? In that way the difficulty might be met, and I think the right hon. Gentleman would be relieving himself and his colleagues of an immense amount of trouble if they could do something to dispel this misapprehension, if he likes, which is almost universal amongst men who are anxious to get the pension, and who are eligible, but who are not entitled to it. If he could only provide a moderate increase in the sum I think he would find a great deal of the difficulty would be disposed of, and that it would give immense satisfaction to the seamen.
§ Mr. HOHLER
With regard to the benefits in connection with Greenwich Hospital Fund, I have listened to the explanation of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and with great respect I desire to say that, having investigated the origin of that fund, I can find nothing which confines these benefits to any particular class. I think the distribution of that fund—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think that the question of the administration of Greenwich Hospital Fund arises here. There is a specific Vote every year for Greenwich Hospital, under which the question might arise. I think it is quite allowable to argue that the Grant now proposed is not sufficient, but the question of the administration of Greenwich Hospital does not arise.
§ Mr. HOHLER
The point I wish to make arises in reference to the £16,000 granted under Vote 14. I do not know whether I would be in order in raising the question 881 referred to at the bottom of page 170 with respect to the sum of £17,400 "for long service medal gratuities, and for gratuities to seamen and marines invalided from or injured in the Service not entitled to pensions, etc.," and £16,000 "for contributions in aid of Greenwich Hospital Funds to provide additional age pensions to men fifty-five years of age and who entered the Royal Navy before 1878." There is also an item of £24,300 "for age pensions payable to the men of the Seamen Pensioner Reserve and Royal Fleet Reserve." It is in reference to these items that I wish to raise the question as to the administration of the funds.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I think the pensions payable to seamen have nothing to do with the Greenwich Hospital Fund or the items to which the hon. Member refers. The Vote has only to do with the sum allocated for this specific purpose.
§ Mr. HOHLER
The point I wish to make arises in this way. The fund was dealt with by Act of Parliament in 1865, when a scheme was made whereby the benefits were to be equally available for the whole Navy. Then, in 1870, as I maintain, without any legal authority, the Royal Seaman's Pension Reserve—
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is really the question of the Greenwich Hospital Fund which the hon. Member is discussing. I have not before me at the moment the Vote, but my impression is that there is a special Vote raising the question of the Greenwich Hospital Fund.
§ Mr. McKENNA
It comes up on the Admiralty Vote. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not open for discussion under this Vote.
§ Mr. WALTER REA
The First Lord of the Admiralty has not attempted to answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Pembroke in regard to compensation to seamen injured in the course of their employment. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord Charles Beresford) led us to believe that in the Navy it is the practice only to give gratuities to the widows and orphans of seamen who are killed. I submit it is the duty of this Government to act as a model employer. Parliament has put upon private shipowners very properly the obligation of compensating people who suffer in the course of employment at sea. I submit that the Admiralty should be as good an employer as a private 882 shipowner. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to let us know the scale on which these people are compensated. If they are not compensated on the same terms as are insisted on in the case of sailors who are injured in the mercantile marine, and if the widows of men who are killed are not compensated in the same way, then I think it is high time that this House should express a strong opinion on the subject, and see that the Admiralty conforms with the obligations put upon private shipowners.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
The right hon. Gentleman said there was no difference between men who joined the Navy before 1878 and those who joined afterwards. I was under the impression that the men who joined the Navy before 1878 certainly had a right at the age of fifty-five to claim a pension.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I do not think the question asked by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Sir Owen Philipps) is relevant to this Vote, and that is the reason why I did not answer the question when I rose to reply to the question of the Noble Lord. The main question which the Noble Lord raised was with respect to gratuities and pensions to widows and orphans of seamen killed on duty. If the hon. Member for Pembroke will turn to item K of this Vote he will see that the estimated expenditure for the coming year is £13,500 for pensions and gratuities to the widows and relatives of officers, seamen, and marines killed or slain on duty.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
It would -be satisfactory to know upon what scale the Admiralty pay these people. The complete loss of ships has become serious. In the case of foreign navies it is usual, after extraordinary calamities, to promote those seamen who are unfortunately 883 drowned. I should like to know the provision that is made in the case of our Navy.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I quite agree as to the importance of the question, and I will take care to get information upon it by tomorrow. We are taking so many Votes to-day that I found it quite impossible to obtain details in regard to all of them.
§ Question put, and agreed to.