Section 16 of the Act of 1865 enacted that annuities could be paid to clerks, etc., who were employed by Greenwich Hospital if they were removed. I understand from paragraph (1, a) of Clause 1 of this Bill that the Admiralty think it desirable to extend the principle of giving pecuniary benefits, pensions, etc., to other persons beyond what the 1865 Act allowed for. I am only concerned to ask how far that will be allowed to go. The expenditure for Greenwich Hospital amounts to £190,000 a year, and of that sum something like £90,000 is expended on pensions, annuities and grants, almost entirely for officers, seamen and marines. I only want an assurance from the Admiralty that the principle of extending the pecuniary benefits should not go so far as to imperil the original rights of the officers and men of the Royal Navy.
I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the proposals in this Bill are merely to bring into line and coordinate the administrative provisions for dealing with the staff and employees of the hospital. They do not in any way prejudice the rights of the men in the Services about whom my hon. and gallant Friend is concerned.
The staff and the civil employees of Greenwich Hospital have been very largely increased of late years since they removed from Greenwich. Do I understand that the staff, which is a very big one and on which large sums are spent, are not to be included in the possibility of getting remuneration and annuities from the funds of Greenwich Hospital?
If I may, I will remind my hon. and gallant Friend of the triple purpose of this part of the Bill. It is, first of all, to secure that the staff can get what one may call loosely a capital payment where the Greenwich Hospital Act now provides for a periodic payment in the character of a pension. That is merely an administrative provision which is for the benefit of the recipients at the time when their pension rights accrue. There is nothing prejudicial there. The second purpose concerns those who have passed into the service of somebody else. It is only right that Greenwich Hospital should contribute like any other Government employers to those who have served, them. There, again, there is no difficulty. The third purpose is to extend the power of the Admiralty to make a payment in the case of industrial workers employed by the Hospital. I think my hon. and gallant Friend will agree that if these rights are to be exercised in the case of officers and clerks, we should similarly exercise them in proper cases in respect of industrial workers in the employ of the Hospital. Those are the three provisions, and I think that the more my hon. and gallant Friend examines them, the more he will see that I was right in saying that they do provide administrative co-ordination and are without prejudice to the admirable objects of the Hospital itself.
There was one point which I should like to raise following what has been said with regard to Sub-section (3) by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish). I find it stated in Sub-section (3):
The said section twenty, as extended by the said section eight and by the foregoing provisions of this section, shall have effect as if the words "(subject to the approval of Her Majesty in Council)" were omitted therefrom.
It seems, to me, with very great respect, that we are going rather far when on an extension of the Act such as this Bill provides for we are now asked to abolish "the approval of Her Majesty in Council" not merely for the comparatively minor matters with which this Bill is concerned but, as I understand it, for every grant made under the said Section 20 as extended by the said Section 8. The point may be a false one, and I shall be glad if my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General will correct my misapprehension if I am wrong.
I should always hesitate to refer to any point raised by my hon. and learned Friend as a false one, but I hope he will not take it amiss if I say that this point really has not great substance. As he will remember, the original provision with regard to the engagement or alteration of Admiralty staff was that no additional staff should be engaged or alteration made without an Order in Council. That was altered in 1879, when the provision requiring an Order in Council was deleted, and provision was made to allow the Admiralty to make alterations with the consent of the Treasury. My hon. Friend will notice that that does not occur in this Bill, because the Greenwich Hospital funds are not the concern of the Treasury, being charitable funds having special provisions of their own. The provision to which my hon. and learned Friend drew attention is merely one to bring the provision as to Greenwich Hospital into line with the Admiralty practice which has existed since 1879.