HL Deb 14 April 1885 vol 296 cc1601-3

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether there is any truth in the report that the present Accountant General of the Navy, who was only appointed three years ago, is to be compulsorily pensioned, and that a gentleman unconnected with the Admiralty is to be appointed in his place; and, if so, whether this arises from the incapacity of other officials in the Admiralty to fulfil the duties of Accountant General; and whether, unless this is not the case, the appointment of a stranger to that office will not be contrary to precedent, a wrong to the officials in the Admiralty, and a loss of public money?


said, that the way in which the Question of the noble Lord had been put did not give a correct impression as to what had taken place. When Mr. Hamilton, now Sir Robert Hamilton, vacated the office of Accountant General, Mr. Willis, the Deputy Accountant General, was appointed. Mr. Willis was an excellent public servant; but being then above 60 years of age he was appointed on the distinct understanding that after filling the office for three years he should be retired at the option of the First Lord of the Admiralty. That time having arrived, he would now retire, and Mr. Fitzgerald had been appointed to succeed him. Mr. Fitzgerald was not in the Department of the Accountant General, and the noble Lord asked him whether it was not contrary to precedent to appoint a stranger to the Department to the office. It was not so, for the office had frequently been filled by gentlemen who had had no previous connection with the Department. A striking instance was that of Sir Robert Hamilton himself, who was appointed from the Audit Office. So far as the qualifications of Mr. Fitzgerald were concerned, he could speak from personal knowledge, as he had known him for many years in different Departments. When at the War Office in 1861, Mr. Fitzgerald was one of the clerks in charge of the Army Estimates. He was afterwards sent to India to assist in arranging the system of account, having been specially selected for the service; and for many years he filled a responsible office there with great credit to himself and advantage to the public. Subsequently he was chosen to fill a most important office connected with accounts and, finance in Egypt. From his own personal knowledge of Mr. Fitzgerald, as well as from the reports of his conduct both in India and Egypt, he believed that no man in the Public Service was better qualified by experience and general knowledge of accounts than Mr. Fitzgerald. Therefore, he was satisfied that the appointment was very much for the public interest. He was of opinion that where it was possible, consistently with the public interest, appointments such as that under discussion should be given to gentlemen in the Public Service and not to outsiders; but it would be detrimental to the Public Service if it was held that particular appointments were to be filled by gentlemen serving in those particular Departments. As long as an officer was in the Public Service generally his qualifications should be considered, and not merely the qualifications of those within the Department; and, however excellent the officers in the Accountant General's Department were at the present time, he believed that Mr. Fitzgerald, from his experience and general acquaintance with accounts, had claims for the appointment superior to any of them.


read a statement showing that the precedents as to appointments to the office of Accountant General of the Admiralty were not as stated by the noble Earl, as, with one exception, that office had been filled from officials of old standing in the Admiralty. He thought that Mr. Willis should not have been superseded, as he was quite able and willing to perform the duties of the Department. He would, however, be retired upon a pension of about £1,000 a-year, and, also, should Mr. Fitzgerald retire in a few years, there would again be a pension for him. The noble Earl's statement would go to show that he had made use of an opportunity for providing a snug place for an old friend.