HL Deb 05 March 1883 vol 276 cc1366-72

in rising to call attention to the Bates of Pay of the officers of the Royal Navy, and to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether he could hold out any hopes of an increase in those rates in accordance with the increased expense of living at the present day in comparison with that when those rates were fixed? said, that although this subject was one of great interest to those who were affected by it, the question was really a very simple one, and he need not take up much of their Lordship's time. He would begin at the lowest rank. The pay of a naval cadet was 1s. a day, and that of a midshipman 1s. 9d. a-day. He need not, however, dwell on those ranks, as their pay did not represent their cost to the country, owing to the fact that they practically—if not literally—received a free education. He would pass on to the rank of lieutenant, the rank where the greatest grievance was felt. And here he would go into the history of the pay of lieutenants from a very early period. He found that prior to 1693 they received 2s. 6d. a-day, or 3s. in first or second rates. In 1693, 5s. a day, or 6s. in first or second rates. In 1700 this was reduced to 4s. and 5s. a-day respectively, and so it continued nearly all through the last century. In 1796 it was increased to 5s. a-day, but was the same in all rates except that there was 6d. a-day extra in flagships. In 1806 it was raised to 6s. a-day, with 6d. a-day extra in flagships. It so continued for 10 years until 1816, when it was increased to 6s. 6d. a-day, and 8s. 3d. for a 1st lieutenant of seven years' standing, with 6d. a-day extra in flagships. In 1840 it was raised to 10s. a-day, or 10s. for 1st lieutenants of seven years' standing, but flagship's pay was abolished. So it remained till this day, although the purchasing power of the sovereign was considerably diminished. Lieutenants in independent command received either 3s. 9d. or 2s. 6d. a-day command money, according as they were attached to seagoing or harbour ships, or their tenders, and lieutenants appointed for navigating duties, and gunnery lieutenants received sums varying from 4s. to 1s. 6d. a-day extra; but what he might call ordinary lieutenants, who had to maintain the position of gentlemen, only received 10s. a-day. If such an officer went into a Colonial port, such as Sydney, he would find artizans such as ship-caulkers receiving higher daily wages than his day's pay. When he (the Earl of Belmore) was at Sydney, ship-caulkers received 12s. a-day, whilst they had an inferior position to maintain, and, in fact, were so well off that they could not be relied on to stick steadily to work. But when he came to the half-pay rates, he found lieutenants receiving, according to standing, from 4s. to 8s. 6d. a-day. In these days many officers were lieutenants up to 37 or 38 years of age, and had themselves, and perhaps a wife and family, to maintain on 8s. 6d. a-day. He had seen a calculation made that only two lieutenants out of every nine could, on arithmetical principles, expect to reach the rank of commander. Perhaps this was rather an exaggerated estimate, as he understood there were 700 lieutenants, and that the Commanders' List was, or was to be, fixed at 150. This would give one only in every four and a-half who could hope for promotion. He was aware that there were different rates for retired lieutenants, but he did not propose to go into that part of the subject. This was varied for captains, commanders, and lieutenants from £600 down to £200 a-year. He now came to commanders. These officers received full pay at the rate of £1 a-day, with either 3s. 9d. to, 2s. 6d. command money. But their half-pay, according to their distance from the top of the list, and whether or not, if near the top, they had served a year at sea, was either 8s. 6d. or 10s. a-day. On this they might have to live and maintain a family until 47 or 48 years of age. Captains received £1 13s., or£l 7s. 6d., or £1 2s. 6d., according to their position on the list, with command money varying from 18s. to 5s. a-day. Perhaps there was not much fault to be found with the full pay of the captains, but their half-pay varied from about £301 to £228 a-year. He was aware that at the present moment a number of comparatively young captains were going on to the flag list; but these were officers who had entered the Service shortly before the Crimean War, and had had the benefit of the Crimean promotions and death vacancies. After a time captains would be getting up to 55 years of age. The noble Earl then stated the full and half-pay of chief engineers. He also said that he had been requested to draw the First Lord's attention to the case of Warrant officers. Having only received the communication since he came down to the House, he could only mention it. These officers complained as to their pensions, provision for orphans, and also that their rates of pay, or some of them, were the same as they were 80 years ago. He thought it better to content himself with drawing the noble Earl's attention to the subject, rather than asking their Lordships to agree to what could only be an abstract Motion, which was all that could be done in that House, as it was for the House of Commons to deal with the Navy Estimates. The noble Lord concluded by putting the Question of which he had given Notice.


wished to call attention to the fact that a post-captain when named to a ship was expected, as a matter of custom, to spend money on its embellishment, and he was told that even lieutenants had contributed in the same way. That was a thing which should not be allowed by the Admiralty.


said, that, in answer to the Question of the noble Earl, he was sorry he could not give any assurance that the rates of pay of the officers of the Navy would be increased, for the Estimates had been framed for the ensuing year without any such increase having been provided for. The noble Earl had given particulars as to the pay of various classes of officers, and undoubtedly this was a question of very great importance and must be always interesting to their Lordships and the other House of Parliament, although it must not be forgotten that those who entered the Military and Naval Professions, or sent their sons into them, were not influenced altogether—often, indeed, not at all—by pecuniary considerations, but by other motives. The question of the adequacy of the pay of officers must not be lost sight of. On inquiring into the history of the pay in the Navy, as he did on seeing the noble Earl's Notice, he found that successive Boards of Admiralty had bestowed great attention on the subject, and had from time to time made such alterations in the pay and allowances of the officers as they thought expedient, and thus the position of officers had of late years been considerably improved. He himself occupied rather a curious position, inasmuch as he had had the great advantage of serving as Private Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty when his noble Friend (Viscount Halifax) in 1856 was First Lord. His attention had, therefore, been particularly directed to these questions; he naturally looked back to the time when he was first connected with the Service for a comparison between the pay and allowances then and at present, and he found that the position of almost every rank of officers had been considerably improved since 1856. The allowances to admirals, commodores, and captains had been increased, and the pay and allowances of commanders had been considerably augmented. Although the pay of lieutenants had remained the same for a long time, yet since 1856 they had received a considerable increase in allowances. There was an increase in the allowances of lieutenants in command, and of 1st lieutenants of ships commanded by captains, and also for proficiency in gunnery and other matters. It was a necessity of the Service to have a reserve of officers, and that obliged a certain number to remain for some portion of their time on half-pay, when most of them would be only too glad, if opportunity offered, to serve their country in active service. He could assure their Lordships that the Board of Admiralty and he himself sympathized with those officers, but it was absolutely necessary that there should be a reserve. With respect to the half-pay, it had been increased for officers of the rank of captain. It remained the same for the rank of commander, but had been considerably increased for the rank of lieutenant. Extra half-pay was given to officers according to the number of years they had served afloat. While the half-pay had been improved, the pensions of officers of all ranks upon retirement from the Service had been very considerably increased in 1870 by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Childers), who was then First Lord of the Admiralty. That was an advantage given to officers to which the noble Earl had not adverted. In 1856 the highest pension of a captain was £456 5s.; it was now £600. In 1856 the highest pension of a commander was £191 12s. 6d.; it was now £400. In 1856 the highest pension of a lieutenant was £155 2s. 6d.; it was now £300. Their Lordships would therefore see that a very large increase in pensions had been given. That increase had proved a great advantage to the Navy. It had had the effect of inducing officers to retire, and, therefore, of reducing the numbers on the Active List in all branches of the Service. By reducing the number on the Active List, officers remained for a shorter time on half-pay. Therefore, the indirect effect of the increase in the rate of pensions was to improve very much the condition of the officers. And whereas in 1856 a captain took 10 years before he received the second scale of half-pay, now he took only five years. In 1856 a commander would have been 22 years on the list before he received the highest scale of half-pay, and now he would be only five years. In 1856 a lieutenant would not have got 7s. a-day, the highest scale of half-pay at that time, until he had been 43 years on the list, or the second rate until after 26 years; but now, in 1883, a lieutenant of nine years' standing could get 8s. 6d., which was now the highest rate of half-pay, if he had sufficient service. In 1856 there were 394 captains on the list, of whom 138 were employed; at the present moment a far greater proportion were employed. In 1856 there were 568 commanders on the list, and 199 employed; in 1883 the numbers respectively were 223 and 141. In 1856 there were 315 unemployed lieutenants; in 1883 there were only 136. It was difficult to supply a greater proportion of the lieutenants; but the Admiralty had by no means lost sight of the most important question to officers of that rank—namely, their prospects of promotion to the rank of commander. An addition of five had been made to the annual number of promotions, that number having been raised from 20 to 25, which had given an opportunity of promotion to some deserving officers who otherwise could not have obtained it, and six additional appointments in the Coast Guard had been allotted to lieutenants. Thus a very sensible improvement had been made in the position of the senior lieutenants. With respect to the general question of the prospects of a young man entering the Navy, he could only say that he had not found any indisposition on the part of fathers to send their sons into the Service. The expenses and prospects of young men entering the Navy would compare favourably with those of young men who went in for the Church, the Bar, or the Medical Profession. Indeed, having regard to the comparatively moderate cost of a naval education, and the subsequent advantages of a naval career, he could not say that a case had been made out for any considerable increase in the rate of pay. His noble Friend at the Table had commented on the practice of captains spending their own money on the decoration of their ships; but he believed that this was far more often the case with the 1st lieutenants and commanders than with the captains themselves. He believed that the practice was not nearly as common now as it had been before the increase of the Admiralty allowances of paint and other materials for the purpose.


said, he hoped the noble Lord would give attention to the case of lieutenants on half-pay, and, if possible, would improve their position. He was of opinion that many men who would otherwise be valuable officers were driven from the Service by the inadequacy of their pay. It was true, no doubt, that the Navy was not regarded as a lucrative Profession, and that-no one expected to receive a large income from it; but the pay ought, at least, to be such as to suffice for the proper maintenance of an officer and his family. He feared that officers had still to incur a great deal of expense in the decoration of their ships, and he hoped the Admiralty would consider the question of increasing the allowances to cover that expense.