HC Deb 28 June 1960 vol 625 cc1317-42

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Statement of the Estimated Income and Expenditure of Greenwich Hospital and Travers' Foundation for the year ending on 31st March, 1961, which was laid before this House on 26th May, be approved.—[Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing.]

11.55 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

In previous years we have had a short but interesting debate on these Accounts, and I think that the results of those debates have been a help in the running of the school. We have at least, I believe, achieved some things, though not altogether what we would want. In view of the time, I do not propose to take very long, but there are one or two matters which are worthy of attention.

This year, the estimated income for the Greenwich Hospital is up by £40,000. The great bulk of that results from a large increase in dividends and interest and also a large increase in the Royal Hospital School receipts. The interest and dividends are up by £17,500 if we include the Reade Foundation investments. We welcome this. It flows, of course, from the changes in investment policy made by the management during recent years, changes which have been welcomed generally by both sides of the House.

The other increase is in the Royal Hospital School receipts. Of that sum, an increase of almost £16,000, an estimated increase in fees accounts for £12,600. I presume that this is due to the increase in the fees which the hon. Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty announced in the closing speech of our last debate. He announced it after Members on both sides had said that they would like to see the fees reduced—indeed, gradually abolished altogether if possible.

The increase last year was from £72 to £100 per pupil. It is interesting to notice that in two years there has been an increase in fees from an actual receipt of £21,000 to estimated receipts this year of £51,000. That is an enormous increase from fees alone in a period of two years.

I have two questions to ask the Civil Lord. Firstly, in view of this very big increase in the fees from £72 to £100, is the school still obtaining the same cooperation from local authorities that, we have been told, it obtained in the past. In other words, are the local authorities still willing to contribute towards this very large increase? Secondly, as a result of this increase, has there been any change in the type of pupil attending the school—by which I mean, of course, is there any increase in the number of sons of officers attending the school?

During past debates, I have expressed fears on the question of orphan children and their rights at the school lest the school should tend to become more and more the preserve of sons of officers. I said last year, before I had heard of the increase from £72 to £100, that I thought that the previous increase might tend to bring about conditions in which there would be more sons of officers attending than sons of seamen and marines. Has that taken place and can we have some assurance that the Management Committee is alive to this issue and taking steps to prevent it? If that happened, there would undoubtedly have been a radical departure from the purpose for which the school was originated.

I notice that in the Royal Hospital School receipts there is also an increase in the sum received from the Minister of Education—a very small increase, I am bound to say—of from £1,485 to £2,640. I do not know how the increase has been worked out and why it appears in this year's estimates. In past years we have stressed our belief that the Minister of Education should contribute much more than he does towards the upkeep of these students.

X Even at the figure of £2,640. the Minister of Education still contributes only about £4 per boy out of a total cost of keeping a boy at this school of £335. That is a very small amount, indeed, and compares most unfavourably with the amounts given by the Government to other private schools to maintain pupils. It was mentioned during last year's debate that certainly in Scotland, because the independent schools were likely to suffer as a result of the introduction of the block grant and the refusal of local authorities to contribute towards the schools, the Government introduced special regulations to ensure that there would not be a loss and to assist independent schools to meet the costs.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

They gave 60 per cent.

Mr. Willis

My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) says that it was 60 per cent. of the grant. Why should there be that very favourable treatment of one type of fee-paying school and this niggardly approach by the Minister of Education towards the maintenance of this school for the sons of men who have served in the Royal Navy? It is unjustified and in last year's debate hon. Members from both sides of the House forcefully expressed the opinion that the Minister of Education—and, I suggested, the Secretary of State for Scotland—should contribute towards the upkeep of this school. If that had been done, there would have been no need to charge a fee of £100 for the maintenance of a boy at this school.

The first thing to be noticed on the expenditure side is that there has been a welcome increase in the amount spent on pensions—£2,000 in the case of officers and £10,000 in the case of seamen and marines. Previously, there was a great deal of disquiet on both sides of the House about the decreasing amount spent on providing pensions for the widows of seamen and officers.

I welcome the present increase and would like to have some indication from the hon. Member as to the number of beneficiaries there are at present—how many widows, seamen and officers respectively. I think he gave those figures last year, but at any rate we should have them this year because I understand that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hull, East (Commander Pursey) wishes to say something about pensions, and I have no doubt that he will be glad to have the breakdown of the figures.

There is also an increase in wages and salaries, and a welcome increase in the amount spent on repairs and maintenance, which is up by £14,000. Perhaps the hon. Member can tell us how this is being spent. Are we at last going to get modern kitchens? How long will it take to provide them? This question has been raised over and over again in these debates. Has anything been done to provide better science laboratories? I raised this question last year, and pointed out that up-to-date and adequate science laboratories are essential in a school of this character, in which some of the boys will require a good deal of scientific training.

Those are the only points I wish to raise on the Accounts tonight, but I should like to express our appreciation of the work done by the staff of the school, and also the Management Committee in running it. This is undoubtedly a very fine school, and the House has often said that it wants to see its traditions maintained. This needs to become almost a show school. The Navy deserves that. We are indebted to the people who run it, sometimes under very great difficulties, as those who have been there know. They frequently have to fight rather a tough battle against rising costs, in the light of the amount of money available.

12.7 a.m.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

This is the third year in which I have had the opportunity to speak in this debate. I always welcome a debate on this subject. In the last debate the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) said that we always welcomed a new Parliamentary Secretary, and that the unfortunate thing was that when next we debated these Accounts we should probably have another. I am glad, however, to see that we have not another one today, and I want to thank the Civil Lord for the way in which he always helps us in these debates, and to say that we are glad that he is here tonight.

I take an interest in this school, having had a number of boys from Devon-port in it, and having had the opportunity to visit it. I realise that the fees will now be up by about £40 a boy, and I should like to know how this increase will be spent. What is the reason for putting up the fees? I see that already we have had to spend extra on maintenance, and the provision of stores, books and stationery in the past year. This year we were £7,485 over our estimate, and last year we exceeded it by £11,000. Perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to tell us whether we shall be able to keep within this year's estimate.

On page 3 of the Accounts there is a reference to stocks sold during the year. This comes within the question of cost and I thought, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I might mention it. May I ask if we are not discussing the Accounts of the Travers' Foundation?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

The position is that only the Statement before the House can be discussed, and not the Accounts.

Miss Vickers

I thank you for your Ruling, and I shall leave that matter to another time.

I always think it would be interesting to have a statement of the actual work of the boys. We have not always the opportunity of visiting this school. If we could have an account of the number taking the G.C.E. and the type of careers they are undertaking, that would be extremely useful. We are passing this Statement of Estimated Income and Expenditure with no knowledge of the benefit the boys are receiving, as we have no form of report on that.

I support what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) said about the kitchens. I spoke about this last year. I should like to know if they are being improved and also if the central stove has been removed. I never thought it hygienic to have that in the middle of the kitchen. Has the variety of the good been improved? Is more money spent per boy on food? I ascertained last year that the individual boys were healthy, but I drew attention to the fact that less was spent on food per boy than in the majority of schools of this kind. I think that good food, well served, adds greatly to the enjoyment of life.

I should like to know about the Hospital. I asked about this last year, because I found a very adequately equipped Hospital when I visited the school and I undestood that it was not being used at all. I suggested that the instruments and so on might be sold, or given away to charity. I should like to know if action has been taken on that because, if the instruments are left unused, they will deteriorate and no one will have any benefit.

I say to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East that I am delighted that the Ministry of Education has at last put up the grant.

Mr. Willis

Not by very much.

Miss Vickers

No, but it is something; it is a step forward. We should be grateful for that fact.

I have always been worried about the question of cutting timber and I see that again over £4,000 worth of timber has been cut. Probably that was on the northern estates, but I should like an assurance that every consideration is given before the timber is cut.

I wish to mention the question of rents of building lent to the R.N. College. I notice that they still remain at £13,870. I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting other rents up by about £2,700, a point to which I drew attention last year. I should like further information on the question of pensions to widows. I believe that the estimate is £6,680 and I gather that we did not spend the full amount of £9,451 last year. I should like to know whether there is any demand for this or if the reason why we did not spend the full amount was that the end of the financial year came before it had been expended.

Last year one of my hon. Friends suggested that it might be a good idea to spend a larger amount on individual pensions, perhaps pay fewer and give more benefit to the individual person. I should like to know if the Government will follow that policy or continue the present policy.

There is a reference to Greenwich Hospital Pensions to Officers and Grants towards the Education of Children", including Canada Educational Grants. I should be grateful for some information about the Canada Educational Grants. What are they? Is the sum of £21,000 sufficient to contribute towards the education of these children?

12.16 a.m.

Commander Harry Pursey (Hull, East)

I have no reason to apologise for rising to address the House on this important business of Greenwich Hospital at this time. The responsibility for the fact that the debate is held at this hour lies wholly on the Government for so arranging today's business, but I will say no more about that.

Greenwich Hospital is a £3 million institution with an annual income of £326,000 which provides a considerable number of pensions and education benefits which should be available to hundreds of thousands of ex-Service officers and men, particularly disabled persons, their wives and children, but the greater number of men have little or no knowledge of the benefits and how to obtain them.

My first criticism, however, is that the estimates now before the House do not give a clear picture of what receipts are for what and what expenditure is for what, mainly because the Royal Hospital School Accounts are mixed up with the pension accounts when there should be a separate account for the school receipts and expenditure so that we can see what is the position of the two funds. I have consulted a chartered accountant, and he informs me that one can get as many variations as one wishes from these documents. In fact, if one could set the figures to music one could get two different tunes on one record—on one side "Rule Britannia" and, on the other side "A Life on the Ocean Wave".

My first duty, however, is to declare my interest in the debate. I made my maiden speech on this subject fifteen years ago at 1 a.m.—and we are not much earlier today; but let me add that I have not spoken on this subject for seven years, and for years I have not spoken after 10 p.m.

Three generations of my family have been interested in Greenwich Hospital, altogether for over a hundred years. My grandfather was a private in the Royal Marines in the Crimean War. He was invalided out with a pension of 6d. a day because of a rifle wound in his right hand, not from the enemy but from his own blunderbuss. My father was an able seaman. He had the option of an operation or invaliding. He declined the operation and was given no pension. I was entered in the Royal Hospital School, and before I left I was offered an operation or invaliding. I accepted the operation and it was done in the Seamen's Dreadnought Hospital on the Royal Naval College site. I have therefore had fifty years, man and boy.

Unfortunately, the records of the old school were destroyed and I cannot check up on how I got in or what was my record. To refresh my memory about the buildings and the sites, last Thursday I visited the old school and the Royal Naval College. The Civil Lord has so far given the House no information. I do not complain of that, but it means that I must briefly sketch in some salient points to show the reasons for my later arguments, criticisms and suggestions for reform.

There are two large sites at Greenwich, the Royal Naval College site and the old Greenwich Royal Hospital School site. Both were Royal Palace sites. In 1694, William and Mary founded Greenwich Hospital by Royal charter. I have a copy here with me. So we have three centuries of experience with frequent reference to irregularities perhaps better described as defalcations.

There were five original objects of which three concern us today and which can be stated briefly as follows: first, relief and support of Royal Naval seamen incapable of further service and unable to maintain themselves; secondly, sustenance of widows; thirdly, maintenance and education of children—in both cases, of seamen happening to be slain or disabled during sea service.

The second palace, that is, on the college site, was to be completed as a retreat for seamen disabled in the service of their country. In fact. it was the naval equivalent of the present Chelsea Hospital for Army living-in pensioners, and in 1814 accommodated 2,710 men. It will be interesting to know whether 2,710 men are now receiving benefits from Greenwich Hospital.

It should be noted that originally the hospital was for seamen only. There is no mention of officers in the charter. Officers were, however, appointed to run the hospital. Funds were provided from several sources, from the King and other people of importance, from prize money and bounty, Parliamentary grants, from smugglers' fines, a lottery, and various estates, including Greenwich Market. So we have the estates referred to in the present Estimates. The north of England estates were taken by the Crown after the execution. The Civil Lord should note this, because someone once said that the fear of the loss of one's head causes one furiously to think, or words to that effect.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)

"Concentrates the mind wonderfully."

Commander Pursey

Very likely. I should not like the Civil Lord to lose the job by virtue of the loss of the Greenwich Hospital or Royal Hospital School.

After nearly two centuries of existence, in 1865 the number of in-pensioners in the hospital had dropped to 1,400 and it was desired to convert the hospital into an infirmary with out-pensioners. An attempt was made by Act of Parliament to bribe the resident pensioners to leave with an offer of an additional 5d. to the pension of those of 55 and more and 9d. to those above 70 years of age. This attempt failed. A second attempt four years later, in 1869, with a better offer, was successful.

In 1873, by Act of Parliament the hospital buildings were appropriated for the Royal Naval College, but they were to be available as a hospital for seamen if again required for such purpose. The Admiralty was then to pay a rent of only £100 a year to Greenwich Hospital. In 1892 a Select Committee of this House was appointed to inquire into Greenwich Hospital age pensions and how to increase them. Recommendations included an increase of Admiralty rent from £100 to £5,000, but I believe it was put up to £6,500.

I understand that there has been no Select Committee since, and after nearly seventy years I suggest that it is high time for another Select Committee to be appointed to inquire into the ramifications of this £3 million empire and to bring these disbursements more into line with modern requirements and also the original objects of the first charter.

In May, 1909—which is more in my time—the Admiralty produced what was called a "Memorandum on Greenwich Hospital" for the then Liberal First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. Reginald McKenna. I have my own copy of it here, but I ought not to be asked how I obtained it because at the time I was only an able seaman and had not yet become the friend of First Lords of the Admiralty. There is no copy of this Admiralty document in the House of Commons Library—I do not complain about that; I merely make the point—yet it is an important document from which hon. Members could obtain information.

The memorandum gives a fairly full account of two centuries of history and it gives also a detailed list of the estates, stocks, loans, Parliamentary grants and other receipts. Also, it gives the Greenwich Hospital livings held by chaplains of the Royal Navy at that date. There is no mention of these livings in either the estimates or the Accounts, and I ask the question: have they been disposed of or not? More important is a full list of pensions with details and also the percentages in which the income was appropriated to the several purposes of the Hospital. These were: seamen and marines, 87 per cent.; officers, 4¾ per cent.; estates, 4¼ per cent.; Admiralty administration, 2¼ per cent.; Painted Hall, chapel and cemetries, 1 per cent.; surplus income, ¾ per cent.

Will the Civil Lord please state what are the percentage appropriations today? I suspect that the percentage for seamen and marines is far below the 87 per cent. of 1909 and the expenses are very much higher. This is one of the several questions I put to the hon. Gentleman in a letter setting out some of the points I intended to raise in this debate in order to give him an opportunity to give hon. Members the answers when he replied.

Fifty years have elapsed since that memorandum was produced. A new and up-to-date version is long overdue. Will the Civil Lord arrange for a new one to be produced for the information of Parliament which votes some of the money and for the use of hon. Members?

I appreciate that, since the end of the war in 1945, various revisions have been made in Greenwich Hospital pensions and the regulations by two or three statutory Orders and one short Act of Parliament. I have copies with me. I doubt that these alterations have given much advantage to the seamen. For example, the widow's pension of 10s. 6d. per week is limited to 150 cases, and I assume that thousands are eligible. I believe that the system of fixed rates and numbers for officers has been discontinued, and the number is now at the discretion of the Admiralty, to the maximum of £100. The new arrangements have made a complete mystery of these pensions. Previously, officers knew the amounts and they knew the officers who held them because one could find out by indications in the Navy List. Now, no one knows. It is all hush-hush, and this hush-hush business should be abandoned.

I come now to the estimates before the House tonight. They are for 1960–61 and are compared with 1959–60. The Accounts, on the other hand, are for 1958–59, ending at 31st March, 1959. Why cannot the Admiralty produce Accounts for 1959–60 two months after the end of the financial year instead of Accounts for a year ago?

Income is mainly derived from securities valued at over £3 million in the north of England, Greenwich and elsewhere. Income receipts are £326,000, and expenditure is £310,000, with a balance of £16,000. A lot of questions can be asked about the purchase and sale of securities and properties. What is the explanation of the loss of some £88,000 on the sale of British Government securities which cost £378,000 and which were sold for £290,000? This loss is greater than the total sum paid in pensions, which is only £65,000.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

I am trying to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I am grateful for the advice which he gave me earlier, but may I ask him whether he is referring to the Accounts or to the statement before the House at the moment?

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

The Civil Lord should know.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I know perfectly well what I am doing. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quoting a figure of £88,000 which I cannot find. If he will tell me where he finds it I shall be able to follow what he is saying.

Commander Pursey

I believe that this is one of the figures which I gave the hon. Gentleman in the information that I sent him, though it may not have been. However, if it is a question of saving him time in looking for something in his own document then I must do it. On page 4 of the document it shows cash paid £378,000 and cash received £290,000, and my Royal Hospital School arithmetic makes that a loss of £88,000. Admittedly, it is in the Accounts, but then I can get the information from somewhere else. One would naturally assume that the Civil Lord responsible for the transactions would have the two documents in the House with him.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I wonder whether I could help the House by stating what I believe the position to be? The House is considering the estimated income and expenditure of Greenwich Hospital for the year ending 31st March, 1961, as compared with the financial year just concluded. The accounts for past years are not within the scope of the present debate. These accounts have been reported on by the Committee of Public Accounts in its third Report of last Session and it would be possible to debate this subject in Committee of Supply, but not, I think, to debate it now. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will take note of that.

Commander Pursey

Of course, I defer to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but on previous occasions—I believe that I have not spoken on this subject for seven years—we were always allowed to refer to the two documents, basing our main arguments, admittedly, on the Estimates. But when it comes to the question of figures, a considerable number of them are in the two documents and in round figures they are probably much the same.

I took the opportunity to go through my notes to estimate figures, as far as I was able, the figures where they happen to be accounts figures. I regret that I have transgressed in omitting to change these figures over. I have turned all these figures which have a bearing on the Estimates into approximate figures. From the point of view of taking expenses on estates, there has been an occasion where £28,000 was taken out of the capital account when there was an excess of receipts in the income account of £16,000.

As regards the amount of pensions, grants, etc., without giving the details for officers, Rotely Bequest, seamen, etc., they are about £80,000 and the expenses paid out are about £60,000, which means that the expenses equal about 75 per cent. of the pensions paid. However, I will leave these financial mysteries and other similar conundrums for other hon. Members to try to deal with.

Tonight, I am concerned about the properties. The north of England receipts—I will take them if I can from the current estimates—are £38,000 and the expenditure £25,000. That is considerably high expenditure, for which I do not have the ratio at the moment. In Greenwich, the estimate is £51,000 and the expenditure £14,000, which is about one-third. For the other properties, the estimate is £29,000 and the expenditure only £1,300. I am now quoting from pages 2 and 3 of the Statement of Estimated Income and Expenditure.

Surely there must be something wrong here, especially in the expenses for the north of England properties. The total payments for properties and headquarters at the Admiralty are, in round figures, £50,000, which, again, is over 75 per cent. of the payments for pensions. Several important questions arise about these properties. Should the north of England properties be sold and the money invested for better results? Greenwich properties are a different matter, because there are naval pensioners who should occupy living accommodation, for example, Royal Naval College and the National Maritime Museum staff.

Who are the tenants of Greenwich Hospital living accommodation? By whom is it allocated, and on what grounds? What is the number of naval pensioners employed at the Royal Naval College? I understand that the college has difficulty in obtaining staff—for example, stewards and cooks for the officers mess—and that it has to employ young men from the employment exchange who are there today and gone tomorrow and ought to be gainfully employed elsewhere.

Naval ratings are pensioned after twenty-two years' service at the age of 40, when they have 15 or more years of working life. They would settle down and remain at the college. Obviously, pensioners should be employed there as far as possible. Certainly, the Admiralty, under the Disabled Persons Act, should be a model employer of disabled ex-ratings, particularly in buildings originally built for them.

Is the problem one of accommodation? If so, the Admiralty has the accommodation in Greenwich Hospital property if properly allocated. In addition to the previous accommodation, there was accommodation occupied by the school staff before they were moved out to Suffolk, admittedly some years ago. At the museum last Thursday, I saw young men as custodians of the picture and other rooms. Again, this should be a job for disabled Greenwich Hospital pensioners or other disabled ex-naval men. There are some rebuilt Greenwich Hospital houses in King William Street, alongside the college, with the crest of the Seamen's Hospital Service. Admittedly, the old Dreadnounght Hospital, in which I was a patient, has a definite connection with Greenwich Hospital, but the question here is: what are the priorities for the selection of tenants from the staff of the college, the museum and the hospital?

More important still, what are the numbers and amounts of the present Greenwich Hospital pensions for seamen and marines? How many are paid to chief petty officers, petty officers, leading seamen and able seamen, who were originally intended to be paid, and what information is available to the public about them? Officers can get the information about their pensions through their societies. I know where to get information about seamen's pensions—namely, in the Appendix to the Navy List—but information about the Royal Hospital School and other educational benefits is in another publication, namely, as advertisements in the Navy List itself.

The Navy List, however, was for several years a confidential publication, not available to the public. In any case, it costs £1 10s. and the appendix 8s. 6d. Who will pay £2 for a lot of unnecessary information in these publications to try to find out something about Greenwich Hospital pensions? Why cannot all the information about these pensions and about the educational facilities be put in one document for the information of ratings and their dependants and in another document for the information of officers? Why cannot these documents be available in the Vote Office for hon. Members?

I pass to the subject of the Royal Hospital School at Holbrook. I have no intention of criticising the school tonight, but the Admiralty's administration of it. Two hon. Members, one from either side of the House, are governors and, of course, they would stick up for the school. Moreover, I am expecting an invitation to visit the school one of these summers. The fiftieth anniversary of my entry into and departure from the school has passed. I may have to wait for the sixtieth anniversary and it may be that if I reach my century I shall be able to go there as the last survivor of a bygone age. The present régime is not very interested in the old régime.

The old school at Greenwich was started in 1712 to board, clothe and educate the sons of poor seamen, with a priority given to orphans—children who had lost two parents—then to children who had lost one parent, and, finally, to children who had both parents alive. In my time there were 1,000 at the school and a waiting list, but once the new school was started there was lavish expenditure on an unnecessary scale.

First plans were for the spending of £1 million. The money was not available, so the provision of a church and two hostels was cut out. Later, more money was available and there was the opportunity to build the church or the two hostels. Hon. Members can guess which was built. One would have thought that the hostels would have been built but, no, the church was built. It was a marvellous place. A great organ was installed of a type one would only find in an Odeon cinema. The schoolmaster who sits up at the "bomber dashboard" to play it shuts off the gadgets and plays it as a harmonium.

An attempt was made to raise the money to build the two missing houses, with an appeal for a Jellicoe and Beatty memorial, but the "beans were spilled" on that and neither the public nor the Navy would subscribe and the houses are still missing. The attitude of the Admiralty and of the Greenwich Hospital authorities is that 800 is a better number of scholars to handle than 1,000. That is simply nonsense and an excuse for not building the two missing houses.

Today, at the new school, instead of taking boys and orphans who would not receive a full education otherwise, the cream of the boys is taken—boys who could do very well elsewhere. The Admiralty is now taking the sons of commissioned officers. It was never the case before and there is no reason why it should be the case now. The excuse given in the past has been that sufficient applicants did not come foward, the reason being that sufficient publicity was not given to the education that was available. The important point is that over a period of time we have got into a position in which poor orphans of my standing would not now be accepted. In other words, neither with pensions nor with the school is the Admiralty fulfilling the objects of the original charter of William and Mary which started Greenwich Hospital. Yet, at the beginning of the last war three of my contemporaries were captains and in command of cruisers. Two of them rose to be vice-admirals.

The greatest scandal about the school has already been referred to—the fact that fees are now charged at this poor seamen's boys orphanage. This has been done at a time when every attempt is being made to provide free education from the primary school right through to the university, and this is being achieved from public means. Why should the principle ever have been adopted in a poor seamen's boys orphanage, which was started with the main object of taking individuals who otherwise would not get the education? Then it was made into a "posh" school. Now things have gone further still and it has been made a fee-charging school in order to restrict poor people's children from ever getting in there.

Why has the Civil Lord not given a progress report? If the school is taking the type of boy originally intended for this naval orphanage for poor boys and the boys are doing well, why not say so? In the absence of a progress report, I must ask questions in an attempt to get the information. I provided the Civil Lord with these questions, so he has no excuse for not being able to provide the information.

What were the number of entry dates and the entries in the current year? What were the types of the previous schools from which the boys were entered? How many of the boys had both parents dead or the father dead or the mother dead or both parents alive? How many of the fathers were commissioned officers, warrant officers, petty officers and junior ratings? How many are paying no fees? How many are paying fees, and what amounts? Why have the estimated fees more than doubled in two years? In 1958–59, they were £23,000, but in the current Estimates they are £51,000.

The income of the Royal Hospital School comprises: Ministry of Education £2,000, fees £51,000, rent £5,000, miscellaneous £1,000, making a total of £60,000. But that is not the whole story by a long chalk. There is the figure of £534,000 in one of these documents. Mr. Reade provided a free site for the school—plenty of land—and a considerable amount of money. There is £37,360 to come from the Reade Foundation. There are investments of £100,000. The income for the Admiralty portion is £28,250. Also, from time to time Greenwich Hospital gets windfalls from prize funds, prize bounties, and so forth. So there is never a question of shortage of money. Consequently, why should any fees ever have been charged at all?

To sum up, as I have said, Greenwich Hospital has existed in various forms for three centuries. Throughout, Parliament has had control and appointed Select Committees and effected changes by Acts of Parliament, Orders in Council, Statutory Instruments, and the like. As I have said, the last Select Committee appears to have been in 1892, nearly seventy years ago. During these years great changes have occurred in the social structure of the nation and national social security services. The State is now wholly responsible for two of the main factors which Greenwich Hospital attempted to shoulder for disabled seamen, namely, medical care and education of children.

Surely the time is long overdue for another Select Committee to consider the ramifications of Greenwich Hospital, which of its original objects are still being fulfilled and which are not, its income and present disbursements, particularly overhead expenses, which of them could be reduced, and how greater benefits could be provided either by increased numbers or increased pensions. The Royal Hospital School is secure and will be continued, but it should return to its original object of training the boys of poor seamen and marines, and particularly orphans, not of officers.

The other main object which remains is the pensions for seamen and marines and widows and orphans. The question arises: who, today, are the most necessitous ex-seamen and marines and widows and orphans under the present scale of normal naval pensions and the national social security services?

The present Greenwich Hospital schemes have length of service as a factor. The longer the service, the higher the ordinary naval pension, so men who get the highest pension get the Hospital pension. On the other hand, National Service men and men with short service invalided out after Cyprus or Suez get the lowest naval pension—if any—and may not get a Greenwich Hospital pension. This cannot be right.

I admit that there is a disability factor in the pension. Nevertheless, broadly speaking, the Greenwich pension goes to the individuals with the longest service and with the highest naval pensions, whereas, on the other hand, there are people in necessitous circumstances because of short service. Similarly, the widows of these men suffer and get no Greenwich Hospital pensions. All hon. Members know of the 10s. per week type of widow. Surely this is the type of widow which should have the Greenwich Hospital pension under present national social service conditions.

The same argument applies to officers. In my time in the service, wealthy retired admirals were drawing Greenwich Hospital pensions of £100 and possibly £200 a year. When they died they left thousands of pounds. On the other hand, junior officers and their widows and orphans were in embarrassed circumstances. With only a limited number of pensions, and thousands of people eligible, there is no question but that these Greenwich Hospital pensions should go to the most deserving men and women, particularly the widows and orphans. I hope that I have said enough—

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Martin Redmayne)

Hear, hear.

Commander Pursey

I can still go on for a while.

I hope that I have said enough to convince the House and the Admiralty that, in their own interests, a Select Committee should be appointed to consider Greenwich Hospital and all its operations. If not, I will say more next year. The Admiralty can move for a Select Committee. If not, next year I shall put down a Motion and seek the support of ex-naval and marine Members, of whom there are a number on both sides, and of Member for naval and other seafaring constituencies.

We must get these Greenwich Hospital anomalies and archaic arrangements cleared up and brought up to date for the increased benefit of disabled seamen, widows and orphans.

12.54 a.m.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)

At this late hour, I will try to answer as many of the points put by hon. Members as I can, but I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East (Commander Pursey) will understand that, despite his helpful warning, if I were to answer in detail all the questions he has put, I would have to put before the House a mass of figures which in many ways are better dealt with in letter form when I can make a more careful perusal of some of the issues he has raised. I hope to satisfy him in that way rather than in a verbal exchange at this early hour of the morning.

On behalf of the staff and headmaster of the school, I have to thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) for the very generous things which he said about the way in which the school is run. He will know that I am the Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Management Committee and I greatly appreciate what he has said.

It is true that the school's income has risen appreciably, because we have reinvested and reinvested fairly wisely over recent years and thus secured a bigger income which can be used to improve pensions and to make improvements in the school. I will, first, deal with what was said by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) about the distribution of fee payers. We have 644 boys in the school at the moment, but we said that we would introduce fees only as boys joined the school, so that about 200 of the boys at the older age limits are not making any contribution in the form of fees. That leaves 468 boys eligible to pay fees.

We must remember that for all three Services educational allowances can now be drawn, in our case from Navy Votes, which, incidentally, was one of the reasons why we sought to bridge the gap, which then existed, between our desired expenditure and our actual income by introducing an element of fees into the system. Fees are paid in full by local education authorities or the Royal Navy in respect of 272 boys, while 52 boys have fees remitted or reduced. There are 57 boys who have their fees paid in part by local education authorities and in part by parents and 87 boys have their fees paid in full by parents—87 out of a total of 468 eligible to pay fees. Whereas the cost of keeping a boy at the school is now £335, even the last group pays only £100 a year towards the education of these boys, so that about 70 per cent. of the cost in any case is subsidised from the income of this charitable institution.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East then asked me about the distribution as between the sons of officers and the sons of ratings, and the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East put the same question. In the current year, there were 29 officers' sons and 120 ratings' sons who entered the school, a reduction as to officers' sons on both last year's figure and the figure for the year before that. In 1957, the figures were 45 and 135 and they fell to 29 and 120.

The proportion of officers' sons is, therefore, not large. Now that we draw so many of our officers from the lower deck it would be carrying class discrimination to a considerable degree if we excluded people who have started their service in the Navy on the lower deck and become officers in the normal way. Why exclude the children of those men any more than we exclude the children of people who remained ratings, or those who go into the Navy as officers? All three categories have a chance of sending their children. I can only say that we give priority to the sons of ratings before the sons of officers.

Mr. Willis

Surely the point is that originally this school, as my hon. and gallant Friend pointed out, was for the benefit of the poorest sections of the Navy. What we have tried to stress for three or four years is that we do not want to depart from this principle. The country is littered with schools started for children of the poor and now the preserves of the wealthy. We do not want this to happen to the Greenwich School.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

During the course of my remarks I shall seek to show that that will not happen.

The hon. Member next asked how we distributed the pensions as between officers, seamen and widows. On the officer side, we have 230 officers' pensions, seven Canada grants to children—a special fund to which I shall refer later—six Rotely grants, 23 Greenwich Hospital grants to children. In the seamen category there are 973 Greenwich Hospital special pensions, averaging 15s. a week, and 15 Canada pensions, at a much lower average, about £7 12s. a year; 362 Greenwich Hospital widows' pensions, at £27 6s. a year, six Greenwich Hospital allowances to children in orphanages at £60 a year, and 151 Greenwich Hospital allowances towards the cost of the maintenance of children at home, at varying rates from £13 to £50 a year.

I realise that those figures are probably better studied in HANSARD than taken in in the course of a speech.

Mr. Ross

Did the hon. Member say what the average was in respect of the 230 officers' pensions?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

No. I can get that information and give it to the hon. Member later.

The next point made by the hon. Member concerned the kitchens. I am delighted to assure him and my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport that at last, because of our increased income, we have been able to apply the extra money to getting on with the improvements to the kitchens. We shall not be able to start them during the summer holidays, as we had hoped, but we have in the Estimates a sum of no less than £12,000, which means a thorough overhaul and modernisation of our kitchen equipment.

We have had the best advice from the L.C.C. as to the way in which best to cater for the number in the school, and at last we are tackling a problem which has long been put off. The increase in the school estimates and in the cost per pupil to £335 have arisen largely because of the £12,000 for the kitchens, and there is also another increase in respect of the arrears of maintenance, which we are now able to undertake, and which has been postponed year after year ever since the war.

I would just mention that the percentage of officers' sons is not very different from what it was under the previous Administration, up to 1950. This ratio has not been inaugurated by this Government or their immediate predecessors. The Opposition also maintained the same percentage.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport asked what was the reason for the increase in fees, and I hope that I have satisfied her on that score. She also asked whether we could have a description of the work undertaken by the boys at the school. It so happens that this school was founded in 1712, so that it will be reaching its 250th anniversary in 1962. That might be an appropriate occasion to publish a much fuller statement than has normally been possible, with an historical review of the manner in which the school has grown. This statement might be on the lines of that published in 1909. It would enable the House and many well-wishers of the school to have the opportunity of purchasing a full record of the boys who have passed through the school, and the work that the school is undertaking.

I think that will be more satisfactory than trying to give the House at this stage a list of people taking O level or A level, etc. I can assure the House that the Committee of Management studies these matters. At every meeting it has a report from the headmaster. He attends the meetings and we question him. We are agreeably surprised to find that the level is rising all the time and more and more are entering the sixth form. We do not want to raise this too much because we have people coming from poor and broken homes, but we like to have education pace-makers so that those who can take advantage of the academic progress can go on to university.

Another point raised by tale hon. Lady was, what careers were these boys choosing? I am delighted to tell the House that 42 per cent. of those who left the school in 1959 chose to go into the Royal Navy. That is a steady and very satisfactory percentage. Of the others, 43½ per cent. chose a civilian career. About a third of that number tried to get into the Royal Navy but, because we at the Admiralty had raised our naval entry standards, were not able to achieve the entrance examination. As we raise our standards this will be a challenge to the school which I am sure will be readily accepted. Five per cent. went into the Merchant Navy, 7 per cent. into Her Majesty's dockyards and 2½ per cent. into the Army and the Royal Air Force.

Of leavers who did not go in for careers we had two entries to universities, two to colleges of advanced technology and four to student apprenticeships or sandwich courses, and so on. If I gave the whole list I would test the patience of the House, but I should encourage hon. Members in thinking that this school is doing a very good job.

The hon. Lady mentioned the equipment at the hospital. We took the tip she put us on to last year and sold the equipment. We did not raise a substantial sum of money, but it was better to do that than to leave the equipment as it was. We have raised the allocation of food by £2,650. We took a sample of boys reaching the age of 16 on 1st June, 1960, and found their average weight was 121 1b. as against the national average of 115 1b. Their height was one inch more than the average for the entire population at that age. So it seems that better feeding and the school health are reflected in the weight and height of the boys.

The hon. Lady asked about the timber which has been cut. The item concerns thinnings on the north of England estates and not income from the sale of timber on the school estate itself. We had cut down some trees on the school estate, but we have been carefully advised by the greatest experts about which trees to cut and we shall bear in mind the thoughtful contribution of the hon. Lady to this matter. In the northern estates, over the next thirty-five years, we hope to realise £600,000 from the sale of timber which will be cut. This will be a healthy contribution to this charitable foundation.

I now turn to a number of points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East—

Mr. Willis

What about the increased grant from the Ministry of Education?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I am sorry, I missed that point. I am sorry to have to tell the hon. Member that I must not hold out too many hopes on this. After the last debate I went to my right hon. Friend and pointed out that I was under pressure in the House and it would be useful to have a larger contribution to the school. I could not persuade him any more than my predecessors were able to persuade his predecessors. Even hon. Members, in their time, were not able to get an increase in the capitation grant. What has happened is that they have cut the teachers' superannuation grant—a grant which they used to give us—and have made it up, almost as an accounting adjustment, in a slightly increased capitation grant, but it is only a small drop in the ocean and is not very encouraging.

Mr. Willis

Have another go.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I will take the hon. Member's advice.

The hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East asked about the categories of pupils in the school at the end of 1960 and suggested that we were taking in pupils who were not deserving of it. I can assure him that we are meticulous in this matter. Of those in the school, we had one orphan; 67 whose fathers were dead; 14 whose mothers were dead; 412, the great bulk, or about two-thirds, who were the sons of ratings, either active or retired; 21 coming from the Lloyd Patriotic Fund nominees; and 129 who were the sons of officers, active or retired; which makes the total of 644 in March, 1960.

We categorise and give priority according to what we believe to be the greatest need. At the top of the priorities are the sons of seamen both of whose parents are dead. Next are sons of officers both of whose parents are dead. Next we have the sons of seamen in cases where the father's death is accepted as attributable to Royal Naval service. So it goes all the way down the priority list. There has not been too much clash and we have been able to meet all the higher priorities among those who wish their children to go to the school.

The hon. and gallant Member asked what we were doing to advertise the benefits which could be obtained, not so much from the school as from the pensions. Anyone who applies to any naval charity—and there are several—will be given full data on this issue. We have other ways of advertising it, too. S.S.A.F.A. has full information, as has the Royal Naval Benevolent Fund. As the hon. and gallant Member acknowledged, we have notices at the back of the Navy List. We advertise Greenwich Hospital in the Charity Digest, which brings all the charitable institutions under one heading. I am quite prepared to look at any other ways of doing it, but, from the many letters which we receive and contacts which we have, it appears that among those who have had close association with the Navy, Greenwich Hospital is not unknown. Most of them know through friends or colleagues or have themselves heard of it in one way or another.

The hon. and gallant Member asked about the form in which we put the accounts this year. I agree that we have changed the form, and that was done in deference to the recommendations of the Committee of Public Accounts. I hope that they are more acceptable in this form than they were in the last.

The hon. and gallant Member also asked whether the objects of the school had changed. They have not changed. He read them out. The exception is the fifth object, for we did not feel it right—nor did my predecessor—to undertake instruction in navigation, which was one of the objects of the school 250 years ago. The first, second and third objects, in particular, are very much before us, and we are honouring them.

I want to return now to the maximum which can be granted as a pension to officers. This applies to 99 per cent. of the officers, but there are still one or two left who receive £100. The maximum now is £50 a year, or, rather, under £1 a week. The maximum for seamen is 35s. a week, although the average over all the pensions given to seamen is nearer 15s. a week. Up to now the pension paid to widows has been 10s. 6d. a week, but under these Estimates we are raising this to 15s. a week, which is the maximum which can be disregarded in the assessment for those widows who are already in receipt of a State pension or National Assistance. So we go to the limit we can. That is why the pensions estimate is up.

But it is not a question of length of service, as the hon. and gallant Member suggested. Our main consideration with all classes of applicants is that they must show need for pension, and we check that, if need be, with S.S.A.F.A. and by local inquiry. It is supplementation of pension only, and it is not intended to be lived an. There is no fixed application to various classes. There is 8.2 per cent. expenditure on officers' dependants and 27.5 per cent. on ratings and their dependants, and the remainder, over 60 per cent., is on the school at Holbrook.

I hope that I have dealt with the major aspects. I am sorry to have kept the House so long, but a number of points were put to me. I certainly undertake to read most carefully the points which I have not been able to cover in this short reply to the debate, and will answer them on paper. I hope that that will satisfy the House, and that it will now approve the Statement.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Statement of the Estimated Income and Expenditure of Greenwich Hospital and Travers' Foundation for the year ending on 31st March, 1961, which was laid before this House on 26th May, be approved.

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