HL Deb 10 June 1864 vol 175 cc1535-42

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the Letter of Sir Richard Bromley to the Duke of Somerset, on the Reform of the Government of Greenwich Hospital, said that they must remember with gratitude that so noble a building had been founded by a Queen of England, and that it was supported by revenues which had been bequeathed to it as a provision for worn-out and disabled mariners. He believed he might place this Hospital at the head of the charitable institutions of the country. Its wealth was enormous. It possessed in the Three per Cent Consols £1,144,450, in the Three per Cent reduced £1,485,912, New Three per Cent £99,462, and in the Two-and-a-Half per Cent £8,800, making a total capital in the funds of £2,738,625. It had lent on mortgage to the Woolwich and Greenwich Trust £1,604; in Cumberland, £28,128; on an estate in Northumberland, £18,000; and to the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1861, £20,000; making in all, £2,906,358. It also possessed a landed estate yielding £49,611 per annum, which if capitalized might be fairly estimated at £1,200,000. From the mines in Cumberland it derived a yearly income of £7,663. From Greenwich rents it obtained £4,000 a year; from the market at Greenwich £130; annuity from Consolidated Fund, £20,000; freight of treasure, £6,000; making an annual revenue of £30,130. It had therefore, in all, an estate of nearly £5,000,000. But, unfortunately, this fine institution was sick, and the malady from which it was suffering was one under which it had laboured for many years. It might be aptly described as a house divided against itself. In 1860 a Royal Commission reported upon the state of the charity, and a Bill was brought into Parliament for the purpose of remedying the evil complained of; but the Bill was withdrawn. From that period nothing whatever had been done. Recently, however, the noble Duke, the first Lord of the Admiralty, seemed to have resolved to take some action, and he appointed Sir Richard Bromley to inquire into its condition and report accordingly. Now, if any document could demonstrate to what an extent the institution was demoralized, it was the report of Sir Richard Bromley. His object in bringing the subject forward was to elicit from the noble Duke, the First Lord of the Admiralty, his views upon the Report. After stating an instance in which he had attempted to introduce a change for the better, Sir Richard Bromley said— This is not a solitary instance of my endeavour to establish a better feeling of accord between the civil and military authorities at the Hospital, whereby much useless and acrimonious correspondence might be avoided, and the ordinary business of the institution be conducted at Greenwich, leaving the most important question only to be considered at the Admiralty. The abolition of the reference of papers to and fro, and the consequent saving of time and simplification of business at the Admiralty, would be also an important consideration. Under these circumstances, assure your Grace it will be useless to attempt to simplify the business at Greenwich Hospital, and adapt its machinery to the usage and economical practice of the present day, unless the recommendation of the Royal Commissioners for the complete amalgamation of the military and civil authorities be carried into effect, and the double system of government which now prevails at Greenwich, and has outlived the times, be put an end to. After suggesting the amalgamation of the military and civil authorities, Sir Richard Bromley proceeded to say— Let the amalgamation take place, and the reforms will be comparatively easy to effect; and from my long experience as Secretary to the Audit Board, when the accounts of Greenwich Hospital passed in review before me for many years, and from my knowledge of the manner in which the accounts are now kept at Greenwich, shall feel it my duty as a trustee to place them upon a sound system of double entry, even should the old system be continued for a time; and will take care that sounder cheeks are established for the due security of the funds and property of the institution than those which now exist. Mr. Tierney and Vice Admiral Richards, in a Report to the Secretary of the Admiralty, complained of the course adopted by Sir Richard Bromley, and stated their conviction that if his plan were carried out the result would be seriously injurious to the interests of the institution. They said— The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will doubtless fully appreciate the peculiar difficulty of our position, as well as the motives which induce us to refrain from making any comments upon the most unusual step of a single member of a Board framing a long and laborious Bill of indictment against his brother Commissioners, and urging the necessity of their extinction as the only means of effecting any real reform in the institution—a reform which he pronounces impossible to carry out in the face of their prejudice and obstruction. In 1864 it is now proposed, by a singular process of reasoning, to destroy the existing constitution, in the working of which the most hostile and unscrupulous tongues and pens have never ventured to breathe a suspicion of peculation or dishonesty, and which has largely added to the resources inherited from its predecessor. We may fairly be entitled to ask, where are the grounds for making this great and serious change? The spectacle was presented of one Commissioner making recommendations to which the other two Commissioners were decidedly opposed. Then, again, there was the evidence of the distinguished officer who was the Governor of the institution, who, referring to the document put forth by the two Commissioners, said, that however specious in theory it might he, there could be no doubts as to the evils which resulted from having two antagonistic authorities. The objections to the present system were well known, and the question was, what remedy could be applied for them. Their Lordships, as possessors of property, knew that the due management of the Hospital funds was really a very simple matter if proper steps were taken. It was a disgrace to the country that a great national institution should have been for so long liable to the heavy complaints which had been brought against Greenwich Hospital. The country desired that our seamen should receive the benefits of an institution which had been expressly designed for them; that those who raised our revenues by commerce in time of peace, and who defended them in time of war, should have the benefit of the very best management that could be devised. He, therefore, wished to ask the noble Duke whether he was prepared to state the intentions of the Government with respect to the future management of Greenwich Hospital?


said, he could assure the noble Earl that he, in common with all of their Lordships, fully shared in the earnest desire that the funds of Greenwich Hospital should be applied in the best possible manner for the benefit of those for whom it had been established. There had been for many years complaints made of the management of Greenwich Hospital. Some of the evils complained of belonged to the administration, and if they were examined it would be found that some were incidental to the nature of the institution. The Hospital was originally founded by Queen Mary for disabled seamen who were incapacitated by age or by wounds from obtaining a living by their own exertions. Afterwards, when the large Derwentwater estates were added to the property of the Hospital, it was thought that increased scope should be given to the institution. Accordingly the benefits of the Hospital were extended to a class of men who received a certain weekly pension, but who were not wholly incapacitated or disabled. Indeed many of them were perfectly able, and were at a time of life when they could occupy themselves in employments. Some of them were married. Endeavours were made to meet the requirements of all classes, and to make the Hospital as agreeable as possible; but the very nature of the building, with large halls and long Corridors, unfitted it as a place of residence for married men. It was therefore impossible to allow the men's wives to live in the Hospital; and accordingly the men lived there while their wives lived outside. The men were allowed to carry their dinners out of the Hospital. That arrangement led to a very unsatisfactory state of things, and produced many complaints from pensioners and their wives. When he first accepted his present office, the subject was brought to his notice, and he appointed a Commission to inquire into the facts. Those Commissioners made an able report, and recom- mended certain additional allowances to the men, suggested a division of the building to make separate houses for the married men, and further recommended that the governing body should be changed, and a special officer appointed to manage the finances of the institution. He (the Duke of Somerset) brought in a Bill to carry out those recommendations; but it was not received with favour by the noble Earl opposite, nor, indeed, by many of their Lordships. It was felt that the interest of the officers who at present enjoyed advantages from Greenwich Hospital ought not to be wholly ignored in any future re-arrangement of the institution. He admitted there was force in that view; but the Bill was withdrawn because, by the practice of Parliament, it ought to have originated in the other House. Since then, however, he had determined to see whether he could not carry out such of the recommendations of the Commissioners as did not require the sanction of an Act of Parliament. The pensions had been increased, married men received larger al lowances, and a variety of small changes had been made, but the best and most deserving class of men were still unwilling to enter the Hospital. Sir Bichard Bromley, who had been appointed the Civil Commissioner, in the report which had been referred to by the noble Earl, showed that a very unsatisfactory state of things prevailed in the Hospital, and he recommended that a change should be effected with regard to the civil and military elements in the management of the Hospital. It then became evident that it would be necessary to go further than had been recommended by the Commissioners. The reason for the double government which had been so much complained of was, that with the large funds belonging to the Hospital it was felt that it would not be right to intrust the uncontrolled management of those funds to the same officers who had the distribution of them. He had felt that it would be necessary to go even beyond the recommendation of the Commissioners, and to separate entirely the management of the income from the management of the Hospital. The business of the one was quite distinct from the business of the other. There was another question — whether they should bring seamen to the Hospital who were still able to take other employment, or whether it was not much better that they should live in the ports and maritime places where all their friends and relations were, rather than force them into a sort of monastic establishment. Instead of fitting up the long corridors of the Hospital, or building model cottages for the comfortable reception of the pensioners, he thought it would be much wiser to keep the Hospital strictly to the purpose originally intended — namely, an infirmary with a helpless ward—and apply the income of the Hospital in increasing the pensions of the seamen elsewhere. One of the recommendations of the Commissioners was, that the pensioners should be allowed to go and visit their friends, their expenses being paid; but surely it would be much better that the pensioners should live along with their friends. In that way they would be enabled to provide for a class of seamen whose services it was most desirable to reward; for the best class of seamen preferred to live with their families, and would not come to the Hospital unless they were in a state of destitution. With some little additional income they would be enabled to live among their friends and have there both occupation and amusement. To show the position to which they were coming under the present management of Greenwich Hospital, he would observe that one of the recommendations of the Commissioners was that every sort of amusement should be invented to induce the men to remain at Greenwich; and one suggestion was that some part of the Hospital should be fitted up like the deck of a ship, and that they should be provided with a fiddler every evening, and that they should have lectures on different subjects. He did not think that was the way in which to treat seamen, but that it would be much better to provide them additional means of living among their friends. Without going into details, he might say that, after reading and considering the report, he had prepared a memorandum on the subject explaining what he thought should be the future management of the Hospital, restricting it to the purpose of an infirmary. It was admitted that the infirmary was an admirable institution, worthy of the generosity and liberality of the country. It was conducted in the best possible manner. He proposed to retain the infirmary; and also the schools, which had been improved during the last three years, and which he believed were now working very well. These schools were a great boon to seamen; their sons received there an education which fitted them at once for Her Majesty's service, the mercantile service, or any other situation in life. He also proposed to keep a certain portion of the Hospital, so that, in the event of war, they should have a hospital for seamen close to the water. As to the rest of the building, and the best mode of using it, he should like to take some further time to consider that point. The outline of this plan would leave a surplus which has been estimated at £70,000 or £80,000 a year, which would be applied in the best manner for the relief and encouragement of seamen, and a certain portion would be laid aside to meet the claims of officers on the Hospital. By these means they would be enabled to effect more good in the Hospital than had been effected in past years. He had prepared, as he had stated, a memorandum on the subject; and, if the noble Earl would move for it, he should be happy to lay it on the table.

THE EARL of COLCHESTER and the Earl of SHREWSBURY and TALBOT made some observations which were not heard.


replied, observing that he thought it would be very much better financially that a large number of the in-pensioners should be out-pensioners.


said, there was one point mentioned by the noble Duke which required some explanation. As he understood him, he proposed to divert a certain portion of the funds of the Hospital for the purpose of rewarding persons who had deserved well of their country. To reward such persons might be very desirable; but it was not quite clear that it should be done by the diversion of funds set apart for a different object. Such a proposal demanded careful consideration.


said, that in selecting the seamen who were to receive pensions, they would select them from that class who would be entitled to enter the Hospital. There were many excellent seamen who quite deserved to be admitted to the Hospital, but who did not like to go there. Last year, some £12,000 had been devoted from the surplus funds of the Hospital to make provision for the widows of sailors who had been drowned in the service.


said, that one of the original objects contemplated in the charter of the institution was the bene- fit of the merchant seamen. That object, he thought, ought not to be entirely lost sight of. Considering the national importance of our mercantile marine, and the relation it bore to the Royal Navy, it was most desirable that some mode of bridging over the interval between the two in this matter should be adopted.