HC Deb 07 August 1866 vol 184 cc2138-40

in rising to put a question to the Government with reference to the Royal Naval Coast Volunteers, said, that as he wanted to make a short statement, he would place himself in order by concluding with a Motion. The Force from which the navy was supplied, was derived from three sources — the Continuous Service Men, the Naval Reserve, generally able-bodied seamen, and the Naval Coast Volunteers, who were for the most part fishermen and were employed in the coasting trade, who, though not in the first class of able seamen, were consi- dered to be a most efficient body of men, who lived on the sea shore, and might be said to fringe the coast all round Great Britain and Ireland. The Royal Naval Volunteers were established by the late Sir James Graham. There was one particular clause in the Act, regulating the force, which made the service extremely popular not only to the men, but to the families of those engaged in it. By that clause it was made a condition that the Royal Naval Coast Volunteers should not be sent on foreign service, or, in other words, should not be sent beyond 300 miles from the coast of Great Britain and Ireland. The force was so popular that its ranks filled admirably, and it seemed likely to fulfil its destined purpose; but in the last Session of Parliament the Duke of Somerset and Lord Clarence Paget came down to Parliament for the purpose of repealing that clause, which was the very spirit of the Act. As to the effect of that proceeding, he was content to take the declaration made by Lord Clarence Paget, who, in the course of the present year, stated that the Force was entirely ruined by the removal of the clause referred to.


intimated that the hon. Member was out of order in referring to a debate which had taken place during the present Session.


said, he would beg to explain that he was not stating where Lord Clarence Paget made the declaration; but, nevertheless, such a declaration was made by that noble Lord, and the reason assigned for the removal of the clause was that if one of Her Majesty's ships with these Volunteers on board chased an enemy's cruiser, that ship dared not, under the clause, chase such cruiser beyond 300 miles from the coast. Now, he thought it manifested very little knowledge of the character of English seamen to suppose that if those men saw an enemy's ship of war which they had a chance of fighting and making a prize of they would not chase her 3,000 miles if called upon without raising any difficulty. Still, the Force was constituted for the defence of the coast, and the Admiralty would do wrong, unless on the first intimation of war they recalled these Volunteers, and placed them where they were intended to be for the defence of the coast, in flotillas and harbour vessels or floating batteries, as might be deemed best. Under these circumstances, he wished to know, Whether the Admiralty would take this subject into their consideration?


said, the Force had for the last two or three years remained stationary—that of 5,000 men. The reason why they were less this year arose from more care being taken in the selection of the men. The subject, however, would have the consideration of the Board of Admiralty during the recess.