HL Deb 02 August 1853 vol 129 cc1139-41

moved the Second Reading of this Bill. His Lordship stated that this Bill was a measure of considerable importance, and was intended to correct a practical inconvenience affecting Her Majesty's naval service, arising from the services of the men not being continuous. By an Act passed in 1835 the duration of service in the Fleet was limited to five years, but practically it was found that on an average, seamen, by enlisting in ships already in commission, served not more than three years. The consequence was, that as soon as men had acquired a perfect knowledge of their business, and became valuable seamen, the country lost the benefit of their services, and not unfrequently they engaged themselves to serve under foreign flags. The Bill was founded on the report of a committee of naval officers appointed by the late Government to consider the subject, and it proceeded on a voluntary principle. In order to induce seamen voluntarily to change the period of enlistment from five years to ten, an increase of pay was accorded. To second-class ordinary seamen the increase would be 1d. per day, to first-class seamen 2d., and to petty officers 3d. a clay. Besides these advantages, other inducements to enlist for the longer period of service were offered to seamen. A considerable increase of pay was also given to warrant officers; and, all circumstances considered, it appeared not unreasonable to suppose that under the provisions of the Bill men would more readily enter the Navy than heretofore. Several clauses of the Bill were framed with the view of promoting the comfort of the men, and by that means increasing the general efficiency of the service. As regarded boys, the Bill provided that every boy entering the service when under the age of eighteen should continue to serve until he attained the age of twenty-eight years, and that every person entering the service above the age of eighteen should serve ten years continuously from the time of entering. These were the principal provisions of the Bill. With respect to its minor details, though extremely useful and salutary, it was unnecessary to trouble their Lordships. He might, however, mention that one of the provisions gave summary jurisdiction to magistrates for offences committed on shore; and another by which sailors should be carried on railways on the same terms as soldiers and police. He did not anticipate any objection whatever to the measure, for he believed it would be admitted that it was in all respects calculated to render the naval service popular, and to promote its efficiency.


said, he did not, by any means, object to the principle of the Bill; and he frankly admitted that it would remove several evils and anomalies to which the naval service had hitherto been exposed; especially that vibration of seamen between the services of foreign countries and the service of their own which at present existed. It was most absurd that able seamen who had served afloat with efficiency should be sent adrift at the very moment when they were most capable of duty. He approved of the terms upon which the service was in future to be regulated, for he believed they would place a large number of men at the disposal of the Crown, and prevent that wholesale emigration of seamen to foreign countries by which this country had suffered so much loss and inconvenience. The 7th clause introduced what appeared to him a novel principle of compulsory service, by calling out a new class of men not wholly fitted for the Navy; but he should reserve his observations upon it until the Bill arrived in Committee.

Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Thursday next.

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