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Navy—Retirement Of Sir S Robinson And Mr Reed

Volume 202: debated on Monday 27 June 1870

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Questions

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether it is true that Admiral Sir A. Spencer Robinson has resigned the Office of Comptroller of the Navy; and, if so, on what grounds?

In answer, Sir, to my right hon. Friend, I am glad to have to state that it is not true that Sir S. Robinson has resigned his office of Comptroller of the Navy. But as it is true that the question of his resignation was raised, I will endeavour to state the grounds on which the communications in respect to it were based. The House is aware that an Order in Council was passed in 1866 with regard to naval retirement and another Order in the present year. The latter Order in Council has already been the subject of discussion and Division in this House. The Comptroller of the Navy approved, on the whole, the Order of February last; but he objected on two grounds, which appeared to him to be very strong, to one portion of the Order, namely—that which omitted the provision in the Order of 1866, to the effect that the employment of a Flag officer at the Admiralty should be considered as equivalent to sea service with reference to the purposes of retirement. That which was admitted in 1866 is no longer admitted as equivalent to sea service in the Order of 1870. Sir S. Robinson thought, in the first place, that it was not just to himself and to other officers standing in a similar category for the same purpose, and he likewise thought, in regard to the question of general policy, that it was not desirable for the interests of the service that the change should be made. He considered it to be for the public advantage that an officer holding an office such as his should continue to hold his place on the active list in the Navy, and that if he were removed from that list it would be a change in his position affecting his authority in the discharge even of such an office as that which he fills. These are the grounds on which Sir S. Robinson based his opinion on the subject; but he never desired, as he has stated—and I am sure implicit reliance may be placed on any statement which he makes—to treat the question as one purely personal to him, or to found his objections on the retrospective action of the Order of 1870 with regard to service at the Admiralty. But when he found himself on the 1st of June actually on the retired list, he then, probably owing to the joint action of the motives I have described, was of opinion that it was his duty to tender his resignation, and communications passed between him and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and between him and myself, on that subject. We informed Sir S. Robinson that it was not possible for us to make any alteration in the Order in Council to the effect he desired. We stated to him that we deemed it necessary to the policy we had adopted, both on account of our view of that policy itself and because we feared that any alteration of it would virtually compromise the authority of the Crown with respect to the power of making regulations for the Navy according to its own sense of what the interests of the service demanded and what was consistent with public exigency. We had, at the same time, no hesitation in assuring Sir S. Robinson that nothing was further from our desire than that the office which he filled should in any manner be lowered in the eyes of the Navy. Thus much we said, not only on account of the office itself, but particularly because of its being held by an officer like Sir S. Robinson, whose services are most highly appreciated by the Government, as, indeed, they are by all those who have an opportunity of passing a judgment upon them. It was, therefore, most agreeable to us to meet his feelings by giving him this assurance, as was done by me in the first instance in private, and, in the second place, in answer to the Question of my right hon. Friend in this House, I do not hesitate to repeat that which I have already said to Sir S. Robinson that, for the sake of the public advantage, it was desirable he should continue to give his best ser- vices to the public by holding his present office. That, I think, is the whole of the case as it occurred. I do not understand Sir S. Robinson to have altered his opinion with regard to the measure taken by the Government, and the Government have felt it to be their duty to adhere to that measure. But Sir S. Robinson, after the assurances which he received from the Government, still continues to serve the public as he has long done with great advantage to the State.

According to public rumour Mr. Reed, the Chief Constructor of the Navy, has also sent in his resignation. I should like to know whether that is the fact?

I have heard the rumour to which the right hon. Baronet refers. But no communication to the effect that Mr. Reed desires to resign has been made either to the First Lord of the Admiralty or myself. I may add that I have no reason whatever to anticipate any such communication.