HL Deb 06 March 1888 vol 323 cc330-3

, in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether the Admiralty propose to take any steps to improve the position and pay of lieutenants and to remove the block which at present exists in that list? said, the Question had been answered to a great extent in the proposed programme of the First Lord of the Admiralty. In the Memorandum he was glad to see that the grave condition of affairs had been frankly acknowledged and was stated to be one of "undoubted hardship." It was there allowed that, whereas in 1875 the numbers of lieutenants of 16 and 20 years' service as commissioned officers wore 12 and three respectively, the relative numbers now were 208 and 53. The First Lord also confirmed the statement that only two out of every nine could ever be promoted, and thus the wretchedness of their position was made only too apparent. It was proposed to ameliorate in some measure this very grave state of things by giving a small addition of pay of 2s. per day after eight years' service, and the Memorandum gave the impression that there would be a further 2s. a-day after 12 years' service. But if he understood the matter rightly, the second 2s. was not increased pay—this was merely moving what was now given at the end of 10 years to the end of 12 years. He hoped the noble Lord would explain whether this was so or not, as it seemed very misleading. The greatest credit was due to the First Lord for proposing even this small additional pay at the end of eight years, but he felt bound to say that far stronger steps wore necessary to put the list on a sound and proper footing. Even in this question of pay he doubted whether they were doing enough. He questioned very much whether an English lieutenant was as well paid as a lieutenant in the French Navy, where he understood that about £50 a-year was allowed for table money. The senior lieutenants ought certainly to have more. In any case, there were many points in the positions of lieutenants which required improvement. The age of the list was so rapidly increasing—nearly a quarter of the list being now over 10 years' standing—that some step ought to be taken to remove the block. It was clear that if the Admiralty could only promote two out of every nine this state of things must rapidly increase. It had been acknowledged over and over again that this list, which was the backbone of the Service and from which all our captains and Admirals were drawn, ought to be a thoroughly efficient body of officers, young, and full of zeal. Everyone connected with the Service was aware that when a lieutenant was over 12 years in seniority he was bound to become discontented and unsettled, as he knew that he had little chance of being promoted, and had become too old for the position he filled. There was only one remedy besides promotion that was possible for this state of things, and that was to give officers when they reached the age of about 33 or 35 the opportunity of retiring if they so wished, and of seeking some other employment before they were too old. He was aware that at the present moment this could not be done, because the list had not reached its full strength of 1,000, and there were not sufficient sub-lieutenants ready, but, at the same time, the right course for the Admiralty to take was at once to make known to the lieutenants as a body that as soon as the list should have got up to the full number a considerable number of lieutenants would be allowed to retire every year, at the discretion of the Admiralty, at the age of 33 or 35, with an increased retirement of, say, £100 a-year over what they would get if they were to hang on till they were 40.


said, that he was the person who originally brought this question, so far as it related to increased pay, before the House five years ago. He had then asked that eight years' standing should be the period at which a lieutenant should receive extra pay. The following year the noble Earl opposite, then First Lord of the Admiralty, granted them 2s. a-day at 10 years' standing. He had only asked for 1s. Now, it appeared by the Memorandum of the present First Lord, just published, that, under certain conditions as to service, they would receive 2s. a-day at eight years' standing, and another 2s. at 12 years' standing. He expressed his thanks to the First Lord for this concession. He would abstain from saying anything on the questions of promotion and retirement, which he had not studied.


said, there was no doubt whatever that, owing to the stagnation of promotion, the position of many of the lieutenants was one of very great hardship. Their Lordships might remember that, in reply to a Question put by the noble Lord last year, he entered very fully into the causes which had led to the state of the various lists and to the difficulty of insuring a uniform and steady flow of promotion through those lists. With regard to the lieutenants, he pointed out that in 1879 the number of commanders was fixed at 225, and the number of lieutenants at 800. In that same year it was determined that the navigating class should be abolished, and the duties of navigating undertaken by the lieutenants, the number of lieutenants being increased to 1,000. One thousand lieutenants had, therefore, to be passed into a list of 225 commanders, which was, of course, an impossibility, it being impossible to make four go into one. Last year the present Board of Admiralty, finding that employment could be given to a greater number of commanders, determined that that list should be gradually increased by 45. The effect of this increase would be that, whereas formerly only two out of every nine lieutenants rose to be commanders, two out of every seven would now attain that rank. His noble Friend suggested that the pay of lieutenants should be increased, and he was glad to be in a position to inform him that from April the pay would be in- creased. Lieutenants of eight years' seniority, on completion of six years' service, three of them having been spent in a ship of war at sea, would get 12s.; lieutenants in independent command would have 13s.; lieutenants of 12 years' seniority, on completion of nine years' service, six of them having been spent in a ship of war at sea, would have 14s.; lieutenants in independent command receiving 15s. By the present regulations lieutenants might retire at the age of 40, and must retire at the age of 45, and the Admiralty did not propose to make any change. When, in 1879, it was determined to abolish the navigating class, all entries into that class were stopped. About the same time the number of entries of naval cadets was comparatively small and irregular. There had been a want of correct and sufficiently frequent calculations in past years. The result was that the combined lists—by which he meant the lists of lieutenants, staff commanders, navigating lieutenants, and sub-lieutenants—had fallen, were still falling, and would continue to fall until the year 1892 or 1893. The lieutenants' list and the sub-lieutenants' list were below their proper strength, and 42 lieutenants were doing sub-lieutenants' work. Therefore, until the lists should be in such a position as to supply a sufficient surplus of officers, no optional retirement could be allowed before the established age of 40. During the last two years the number on the combined list had fallen by 25, and until the recent more regular and systematic entry of naval cadets made itself felt the lists would be incomplete, and it would not be possible to allow officers to retire at an earlier ago than that of 40. His noble Friend referred to the lieutenants in the French Navy. He was not quite sure, but his impression was that the noble Lord was correct. He did not like to say so positively; but he should be happy to obtain the information if the noble Lord wished for it. The subject was one to which the Admiralty were really paying great attention. They felt the position of lieutenants was a serious and grave one, and they were trying in every way they could to meet the difficulties of the case.

House adjourned at a quarter past Five o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter past Ten o'clock.