§ LORD CHELMSFORD
rose to call the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the Effect of the Order in Council of the 1st of August, 1860, upon those Naval Captains who did not become Applicants for the Retirements offered by the Orders in Council of the 1st of September, 1846, and 25th of June, 1851. He was desirous of calling public attention to what he considered an act of great injustice inflicted by the Admiralty upon these naval officers, to whom all redress had been refused. He was glad to hear from a right hon. Friend of his fully acquainted with the subject, that it was likely to come under the notice of the other House of Parliament in the course of a few days. Captains on half-pay were entitled to different rates of pay, according to their standing on the List— the first seventy received 14s. 6d. a day, the next hundred, 12s. 6d. a day, and the remainder 10s. 6d. a day. Inducements from time to time were held out to officers to retire, and with this object the Orders in Council of 1846 and 1851 were passed. The Order in Council of 1846 offered to those who received 12s. 6d. and 1493 10s. 6d., an addition of 7s. 6d. to their pay on retiring, thus making up their incomes to 18s. and 20s. a day respectively. They were to advance to the rank of Bear Admiral, as though they were on active service, but they would be placed on a retired list, which was to consist of one hundred, the first twenty-five of whom would receive 25s. a day, but none of the others were to advance to that amount until the list was reduced below twenty-five. These Orders in Council left it optional to the captains whether they would accept the retirement, or remain on the active list, Several officers refused the retirement of 1851, and preferred remaining on the active list. They had a perfect right to choose for themselves, and by the exercise of their choice they acquired a vested right to advance ultimately to the rank of Reserved Rear Admiral, with a pay of 25s. a day. Under these circumstances, in the year 1860 a new Order in Council was issued, providing for the retirement of officers, giving them no option, but making it compulsory that all officers who had not served the proper time in their rank, and had arrived at the age of sixty, should be placed upon the retired list with half-pay, which would never exceed 20s. a day. That was a gross injustice, and a direct interference with the vested rights of the officers who had made their choice, and were entitled to receive all the advantages which had been promised to them. Under this Order in Council, nine of the captains who refused to accept retirement in 1851 had been forced upon this retired list. Their Lordships would naturally be anxious to hear what arguments were put forward to justify so arbitrary an act, and fortunately they had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with them. The noble Duke the First Lord of the Admiralty was examined on this subject by the Select Committee for inquiring into Naval Promotion and Retirement, and he said—The officers have benefited by the reductions. They have gained promotion by them, and obtained advantages from them quite unexpected when they entered the service." "For instance," said the noble Duke, "when any future measure touches thorn, they seem to forget all the advantages gained by former retirements and say that any new arrangement is a breach of faith with them.That was not an argument, but rather a statement of the very ground of complaint. These officers had refused to accept the retirement upon the view which 1494 they took of their position and of the advantages which they were offered, and no one had any right to deprive them of a right which was vested in them by their choice. The private secretary of the noble Duke, who was examined by the same Commitee, said, that he did not believe that any officer had been damaged by the order—The officers who refused the 18s. a day, and have been forced to retire, received 2s. a day additional, making 20s., and in several instances officers have preferred the retirement of 1860 to that of 1851.He admitted, however, that they were deprived of the prospective advance to 25s.; nor was it surprising that some officers—those, for instance, who were low down on the list, and above the age of sixty—should prefer this scheme of retirement to that of 1851, because it would advance them to a position on the list at which they would otherwise never have arrived. When this subject was mentioned in another place, the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty stated that the case of these officers had been considered by the Committee to which he had already referred, and that the conclusion arrived at was that they had no grievance to complain of. The noble Lord must have made this statement under an entire misapprehension. The subject of pay and allowances was never considered by that Committee, and in their Report they stated that—All that your Committee have ventured to do is to decide, so far as the limited nature of the inquiry would admit, what, irrespective of financial considerations, would be most conducive to the public service with regard to numbers, promotion, and retirement.He said that the Admiralty might as well have taken from the officers who accepted the retirement of 1851 the right to receive 25s. a day as have deprived those officers who chose to remain upon the active list of their right to advance to the rank of Rear Admirals on the reserved list with 25s. a day. He believed that nothing had ever created greater dissatisfaction and alarm among naval officers than had this Order in Council, which they felt had deprived them of all security as to their positions, or as to the pay which they enjoyed; and, therefore, he had thought it his duty to bring the subject under the notice of the noble Duke and of their Lordships.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, that as this question involved a great many 1495 details, and was very difficult of explanation, it could be better discussed before a Committee, in which, questions and answers might elicit the facts of the case, than in their Lordships' House, and it had had the advantage of such a discussion. It was the subject of inquiry by the Committee to which the noble Lord had referred, and he was satisfied that the majority of that Committee were convinced that no great injustice had been done to these officers. The noble and learned Lord said that an injustice had been done to these men, and that faith had been broken with them. To ascertain whether there had been a breach of faith, their Lordships must look at the engagement which was made with these officers when they entered the service and the position which they then occupied. When these officers who were now complaining entered the service, they had no claim, to any Order in Council. The Orders of 1847 and 1851 were Orders made for the general good of the service. The Orders in Council were the gratuitous gift of the Crown for the benefit of the service; but no officer entering the service before they had passed had a right to say an Order in Council to a certain effect shall be issued; and no injustice, therefore, would have been done to them if no Order had been made either in 1847 or 1851. And where, he would ask, in the event of no Order in Council having been issued in the year 1847, would those captains stand? The senior captain who complained was then at the bottom of the list; the list of captains, instead of 570, was 730. And what was the rate of promotion? It then took a captain to rise from the bottom to the top of the list thirty-seven years on an average; and those captains, therefore, who were at the bottom could not reasonably look forward to having their names placed on the flag list before the expiration of that period. That was their position and they knew how they were situated. Assuming, under those circumstances, that no Order in Council had been issued in 1847, 1851, or 1860, those officers would not yet have reached the 14s. 6d. list, and would now be in the receipt of only 12s. 6d. a day, and for fourteen years more would be in the same position. Was he wrong, then, when he had stated before the Committee that the measure of 1847 had been to them a great advantage? Not one of those men, whose case is now specially brought forward, he 1496 might add, was in a position to take advantage of the Order in Council of 1847, because he must have been fifty-five years of age and must have served twenty years on the list of captains; while those very men who complained had not yet been twenty years on that list. He should next refer to the Order of 1851, which said that captains above fifty-five years of age, and who had been ten years on the list of captains, might be eligible for retirement, and would receive a certain rate of retiring allowance. When, however, the Admiralty again considered this subject in the year 1860, they had to take into account what was the condition of the Admiralty list. We had then passed through fifty years without a naval war. We had now 327 Admirals, and the question was naturally asked in the country how many Admirals are required for the navy. It could do very well with from twenty to thirty; but the taxpayers were called upon to pay for 242 Admirals, and were we to go on adding to the Admirals list? — for that was the real question. For his own part, he must confess that, even for the interests of the navy itself, he thought that great caution should be used in adding to the list of Admirals, otherwise there would probably be a reaction against the whole system. The senior of the captains in question, he might add, had served as a lieutenant for six years, and as a commander for nine years and nine months, and for that service he had been paid as a captain for a long time, while he claimed to be for ever after paid as an Admiral. The commanders' list, he might further observe, when he came to the Admiralty stood at 500, and it had been reduced to 450, a step which created more rapid promotion to the great benefit of the service. He, therefore, contended, that without the Orders in Council, which constituted, no part of the engagements of the Admiralty, the senior captain whose cause the noble and learned Lord advocated, would have stood in a worse position than that in which he was now placed.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
said, that the case was not without difficulties, but it might be understood exclusively of the list altogether. A certain number of officers on the post captain's list had been assured by the Orders in Council that they might accept their retirement or not, as they thought fit, on 25s. a day, with the rank of Rear Admiral; but that it was 1497 left to their own option whether they should accept the proposal or not. The great injustice perpetrated was the Order of 1860, which expelled these officers from the list and gave them only 18s and 20s. a day. If they had known in 1851, that such an Order as this was to be issued in 1860 they would, undoubtedly, have accepted the offer then made to them. The noble Duke asked, what was the moral under standing with officers who enter the service? He (the Earl of Hardwicke) answered that the moral understanding with officers was, undoubtedly, the state of the law of the service of the day, whatever that might be; and the great hardship of the profession was the uncertainty as to the different Orders which might be issued. This was the kind of policy which would take away all inducement to enter the navy, and would certainly, in the end, alienate the gentry of the country from it. But, after all the heartburnings and dissatisfaction which had been created, and after loading the country with a great additional outlay, the Admiralty had not yet succeeded in obtaining an active list of entirely able-bodied men perfectly fit to serve the country. The noble Duke, by some extraordinary oversight, had not touched on the strong point of his case; and as the case stood at present, and as he had defended it, an act of the grossest injustice had been perpetrated. There were upon the list referred to by the noble and learned Lord, only fifteen officers altogether, and to give those men what they were morally entitled to, would cost the country only £1,293 a year.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that having listened with considerable interest to the speeches which had been made, it appeared to him that there was one very important point upon which the noble Duke had not answered his noble and learned Friend. The noble Duke had argued that there was great advantage to the service from the Orders in Council of 1847 and 1851, and there was no doubt that by these Orders almost all the officers in the service had gained considerable advantage in more rapid promotion and in the clearing of the list. But the question was, whether the Order in Council of 1860 did not do away with the option which had been given to officers by the Order in Council of 1851. Now that Order gave to the officers the option of either receiving an immediate increase of pay, or, on the other hand, prospective advantages if they remained at 1498 the lower rate. From 1851 to 1860 they received the diminished rate of pay instead of the higher rate that they would have had; they took the alternative; on the footing of the Order in Council they consented to remain on the lower rate until the time when they would succeed to higher rank, on the distinct understanding that they would receive the progressive increase of pay to which they would but for this Order have been entitled. The hardship of these officers was that they were left at a low rate of pay for a series of years, and that by the Order in Council of 1860, they were deprived of the advantages that had been held out to them by the Order of 1851. He defied the noble Duke, if he could not contradict these facts, to say that there had not been a gross breach of faith committed in reference to those officers who had consented to receive the reduced rate in order to get the prospective increase of rank and pay.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, he could no tat all agree with the view of the noble Earl. Arrangements had been made in 1851.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
Were they proposed as conditions of a bargain between the officers and the Government?
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
No, they declined to take it. They said they would remain where they were. With the men who accepted the terms there was a bargain, but with the men who refused them there was no bargain. If there was a bargain with these particular officers, then, there was a bargain with every commander and lieutenant in the navy.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, that it was perfectly clear that under the Order in Council of 1851 certain captains on the list were offered retirement upon a certain amount of pay, and that Order in Council left it entirely optional to officers upon the active list to accept that retirement or not. Certain of the officers, in view of the advantages that the Order in Council held out, accepted the retirement, and, as the noble Duke said, entered into a bargain. Certain other officers upon the active list preferred to remain there, and did not accept retirement, and therefore, in a certain sense, did not enter into any bargain. Remaining upon the active list upon a lower rate than they would have had if they had retired, they would advance in due course until they became reserved Rear Admirals, when they would receive 25s. a day. The noble Duke would not 1499 deny that they had an undoubted right to choose for themselves whether they would retire or would remain upon the active list with the prospective advantages. Having remained upon the active list they received between 1851 and 1860 the old rate, instead of having had 7s. 6d. added to their pay in the former year, hoping that they would in, time advance to 25s. a day as being on the reserved list of Rear Admirals. He asked whether they had not a vested right to do as they had done; and whether the Order in Council did not deprive them of the rights which they had expected to enjoy, because, instead of advancing to 25s. a day, that Order forcibly put them upon the retired list, and the maximum of their pay was 20s. a day. The question was, whether these officers had in 1860 a vested right to remain on the active list and to advance till they became Rear Admirals upon the retired list, for if they had that right then the Order in Council of 1860 was arbitrary and unjust.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
said, the case of these officers seemed to be a very hard one, and would, in his opinion, have met with different treatment in a court of justice from that which it had received at the hands of the Admiralty. In private life, if a person had made such a bargain he would have been bound to carry it out.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, that the officers who did not choose to accept the terms offered in 1851 remained on the active list subject to any Order in Council which might be made afterwards, and had no right to complain because the arrangement did not turn out to be as advantageous as they had expected.
§ House adjourned at Seven o'clock, to Monday next, half past Eleven o'clock.