§ MR. GRAVES
, in rising to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the present means of manning the Navy, the keeping up of the requisite supply of men for the Naval Reserves, and to consider whether the services of the seamen of the Mercantile Marine, and the seafaring population generally, might not be made more readily available for the Naval Service of the Country in times of sudden emergency or war,said, that if any excuse was required for introducing this subject to the attention of the House, the events of recent months would have removed it. A very great portion of their time had been occupied in the discussion of our military organization with a view of strengthening that part of our national defence which was dependent upon the Army. Whether that policy was a right one he would not then discuss; time alone would answer that question satisfactorily and finally. But allowing, for the sake of argument, that all the results anticipated were realized, it would afford no answer to those who required that our naval defences should be looked 1605 to, and that the commerce of the country should be free to develop itself without being affected by those periodical panics which were to a great extent produced by the defenceless position of the country. In that view it was not our military, but our maritime forces that claimed our first consideration, and he hoped to be able to show to the House that our Navy might, without unduly burdening the resources of the country, be placed in a position of strength, as compared with the Navies of other nations, sufficient to satisfy the just expectations of the country. He should confine himself wholly to the personel of the Navy. Months would build ships; but it required years to man them efficiently, and he should hope to show the House that the time had arrived when it was desirable to cause an inquiry to be made into those Reserves on which we must rely in case of emergency, in order to ascertain whether they were sufficient, and, if not, how best they might be strengthened. It was just 12 years since a Royal Commission had been appointed to inquire into the best system of manning the Navy and of maintaining our Naval Reserves, and upon that Committee sat some of the most distinguished men in both Houses of Parliament—and notably the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War—many officers of high rank in the service, and able representatives of the mercantile and commercial world. As might have been expected from a Commission so constituted, they presented a most valuable Report to that House. It was quite true that many of the suggestions of that Commission had been carried out, either in part or altogether; but it was equally true that some of their most important recommendations had been wholly ignored. For instance, the suggestions made by the Commission as to the proper strength at which our Naval Reserves should be maintained had been disregarded, as the present state of our Reserves proved; so also their suggesting that training ships should be established in our principal commercial ports for the recruiting of Reserves had also been left unfulfilled. Since that Report had been presented to the House great changes had arisen in our Mercantile Marine, caused by the introduction of steam power, and also in the Navy itself; and every year 1606 served to show more and more clearly the absolute necessity that existed for having our men highly trained as gunners and as seamen. The Admiralty had adopted the policy of limiting recruiting to what was necessary in time of peace, and therefore it behoved Parliament to look with care into the condition of our Naval Reserves, which would be our sole reliance in the event of our being engaged in war. Of the excellence of the men actually raised in the Navy he could not speak too highly. Boys were most carefully selected, and men kept a sufficient number of years in training ships under the most perfect discipline, and they became in due time the most perfect seamen that any country could possess. Had we merely to provide a Navy for peaceful purposes, no system could be more efficient than that adopted by the Admiralty. The admissions of the First Lord of the Admiralty in moving the Navy Estimates on the subject of the difficulty of obtaining the requisite number of men for manning the Navy were so frank as almost to disarm criticizm. For many years it had been maintained that the number of boys in the Navy was insufficient, and the right hon. Gentleman had admitted most fully the truth of that allegation. Unfortunately the difficulty thus created was not easy of solution, for there was a wide gulf between the Mercantile Marine and the Navy, and no effort was made to draw the two services into closer communion. The Admiralty, in educating boys for itself, isolated itself from the great body of the Mercantile Marine. It was worth considering whether that system was a wise one—whether it might not be possible, and would not be prudent, to supplement it by some method by which common training schools should be opened for the boys intending to join either the Navy or Mercantile Marine. One of the most important recommendations of the Commission of 1859 was that boys destined for both the services should be trained on board the same ship. The Commissioners said that that plan would not only produce greater economy with regard to training, but would also create kindly feelings between boys destined for the two services. So far from that recommendation having been carried out by the Admiralty, the Navy was completely isolated so far as concerned 1607 the training of boys. The training in the Navy was excellent, but it was costly. The average net cost per boy per annum was £54 in the Navy; whereas the average cost of training in the training-ships belonging to industrial and reformatory institutions was £19 6s. per boy per annum. It was certain that, upon every ground, the extension of training ships was highly desirable; and when a short time ago he visited Greenwich Hospital, the idea could not but occur to him that it might be turned, with much advantage to the nation, into a great training establishment for the combined services. The branch of Reserve to which he particularly wished to refer was the Naval Reserve. That body had sprung into existence in consequence of the recommendations of the Commission of 1859. It had been found impossible to rely on the bounty system, the press-gang was out of the question, so that voluntary service was the only alternative they could fall back upon. The Manning Commission recommended that the country should possess a body of from 20,000 to 30,000 sailors as a Reserve force, that they should be employed in the Mercantile Marine during time of peace, and should be available for the service of their country if war broke out. Now, he was aware that there were differences of opinion respecting the value of that Reserve. On the one hand, it was maintained that the men were not equal in physique and morale to the regular blue-jackets; that it was not a reliable force, because their ordinary occupation took them all over the world; that they might be farthest away at the moment when they were wanted; and that for the same money a more reliable force might be obtained. On the other hand, it was argued that the creation of this force had tended greatly to break down the old prejudices between the Navy and the Mercantile Marine—that it was gradually bringing about the existence of a friendly feeling between the two services—that the physique and morale of the Reserve men were excellent, and that the reason why it had not increased to full strength was that the regulations under which it was now worked were not consistent with common sense or with the intention of those who recommended the creation of a Reserve. Some of them certainly did not recommend themselves to the general approval. 1608 For instance, the original rule was that men under 5 feet 5 inches should not be eligible for the Reserve, but that it should be in the discretion of the Admiralty or of the registering officers to accept men under the standard height, provided that their general character and physique were such as to make them useful and valuable men. A year ago, however, that discretionary power was withdrawn, and the 5 feet 5 inch rule was made a hard-and-fast one, so that even continuous service men who had served their full 10 years in the Navy, but who were under the prescribed height, were actually unable to enter the Reserve. A tall, lathy young man was allowed to enter the Reserve; but a powerfully-formed man, even if he should be a sea gladiator, was rejected if he was under 5 feet 5 inches. Now, he had taken the trouble to inquire into the average of the crew of one of Her Majesty's ironclads, and he found that out of 360 men no less than 42 per cent were under 5 feet 5 inches. Again, in regard to the men known as "riggers"—seamen who lived on shore and were occupied in moving vessels from dock to dock, and in and out of port, men of most excellent character and good seamanship, and upon whom the Admiralty could put its hand at any moment—yet those men were precluded by the regulations from volunteering for the Reserve. Again, it used to be the practice to allow the Reserve men to train at or near their own homes, but they were now compelled to proceed for that purpose to a port where there was one of the Reserve ships; and thus, for example, the Reserve men of the Isle of Man, about 70 in number, had to go to Liverpool for their training, and were consequently exposed to all the temptations and vices of that port. It could not be a question of gunnery, for the men were absolutely trained with the old exploded gun. Admiral Codrington, in his Report on the Reserves just presented to the House, speaking of what he had seen on board the Dœdalus at Bristol, said that the naval volunteers then in training, 104 in number, were a fine set of men, clean, orderly, and attentive, moving with alacrity, well up in their gun, cutlass, and rifle drills; but he much regretted that they were being trained with the old 32-pounder gun instead of on the system now in use in Her 1609 Majesty's ships. Again, when inspecting the Eagle at Liverpool, Admiral Codrington made use of nearly the same language, and strongly recommended that marine guns and marine drill should form the course of instruction instead of the 32-pounder which the men would now never find in Her Majesty's ships. When, therefore, comparisons were drawn between the men of the two services, it should always be remembered that justice was not done to the Reserves, whether from motives of ill-advised economy or some other causes he could not say; but when these men went on board other ships they found a gun practice there entirely at variance with that to which they had been accustomed, and which they would never meet with at sea again. Hon. Gentlemen would remember that a gallant Friend opposite put a Question to the First Lord of the Admiralty, a short time ago, as to the number of men in the second Reserve, which was created as an experiment last year or the year before by the then First Lord of the Admiralty. The answer was that seven men had joined within 12 months. That was not a very satisfactory answer, and could not leave on the mind the impression that in the second Reserve we had a numerous force upon which we could rely in time of need. He considered the paucity of this force so strange that he took the trouble of writing to some of our best shipping masters who were most acquainted with the matter to ask if they could account for the circumstances that there were only seven men in the force. One of the gentlemen to whom he had written stated that numerous candidates were rejected as either being too old or too young, or under the standard height, and expressing an opinion that boys ought to be admitted when they were of strong physique and likely to grow into strong men; some, it was said, had been rejected because they were too young, although they were above the standard height; many had been rejected on account of the hard-and-fast line which was drawn—many who would eventually have made first-class men, because they had not attained their full growth at 18. Had the rule been drawn up with the view of making the scheme a failure, it could not have been better framed. Too little discretion was left to the officers who were capable of exercising a wise and 1610 sound discretion. Another opinion which he had received stated that one of the principal causes of failure was that the age of from 18 to 25 was too limited; and another was, that the ports at which men would be admitted were not adequate, being only seven in number, men from Newcastle and Sunderland, for instance, would have to go to Hull, while fishermen from the Irish coast, the Orkneys, and the Shetlands would have to make perhaps a week's journey in order to make application for admission which, after all, might be refused. Under these circumstances, it was no wonder that only seven men had joined the second class Reserve during the past year. The only wonder was that so many had done so. And now a word as to the officers of the Reserve. These, he thought, were drawn too much from what he should call the highest class of the Mercantile Marine, men who had the most responsible employment of their own, who were rarely in port for more than a few days at a time, officers who commanded important ships in the East India trade, and came only once a-year to our shores. A greater effort ought to be made to recruit the Reserve from mates and from the boys who were being educated to become officers of the Mercantile Marine in such institutions as the Conway and the Worcester, who would be invaluable in a Naval Reserve, and who were only waiting to be asked to give their services to their country. One point more with regard to the Reserve. Some two or three years ago we had 17,000 able-bodied men in the Reserve. To-day we had little more than 14,000. There was a squeezing out process going on, under the idea, probably, of getting a better average of drill; but he could not help thinking that if the success of the Reserve in all its branches, if its maintenance in its full strength were to be held out as a qualification for promotion in its management, the result might be very different. A little more departmental responsibility might possibly bring about a better state of affairs. There was a curious thing connected with the officers' drill, of which he was reminded by a letter in his hand. A lieutenant in the Naval Reserve who had been constantly at sea during the last few years wrote that on his arrival at home he asked to be allowed to take 1611 two months' consecutive drill; but he was informed that he could not have it, it was contrary to the regulations, one month being the specified time, and the result was, as the writer remarked, that while the officers of the Royal Navy were allowed three months' drill on board a gunnery ship with the best instructors, no such advantage was afforded to the officers of the Royal Marine. The captain of one of a large line of steamers engaged in the American trade, which entered one of our ports on a Thursday, and who usually left on the Thursday following, was anxious to have two or three days' drill each time he was in port, but that he was told he could take nothing under a week, so that with the fixed periods of a month and a week, it was extremely difficult for a man to put in his drill at all under the regulations. He would now pass to the question of the Mercantile Marine, and he did not know, looking at it solely in a defensive point of view, whether he should be justified in doing more than merely introducing it into the discussion on the present occasion. The time would, he hoped, come when the progress of the Merchant Shipping Bill would enable the whole question to be raised of the recruiting of the Mercantile Marine from a Mercantile Marine point of view, and he should not now touch upon it but for the importance which must be attached to it by the country in cases of emergency. That there was a deterioration in our Mercantile Marine was, he believed, beyond all doubt. As the result of the labours of a Committee of Inquiry which investigated the subject in Liverpool, and which was not composed of shipowners, or mere philanthropists, but of a combination of representative men, he found that in answer to a circular which had been sent to numbers of leading masters and owners of ships in the Port of Liverpool, as to whether deterioration existed in the Mercantile Marine, and what were its causes, statements to the following effect had been made:—In 89 per cent of the answers it was stated that the seamen had deteriorated, in 65 per cent that they had deteriorated in physical condition, and in 71 per cent that they had deteriorated in subordination. The cause was attributed in 47 per cent of the replies to the doing away with the compulsory apprenticeship system, while in 54 per 1612 cent it was ascribed to the introduction of foreign seamen into the service. That brought him to the point that if our Royal Marine was to be regarded as an efficient Reserve, it was a matter of great moment that we should have men on whom we could rely, and who were British subjects at heart. That foreigners were employed in the mercantile service to a great extent was beyond all question, although the statistics which had been presented to the House did not afford full information on that part of the subject. He said so because, as several hon. Members were well aware, there were many foreigners in the service who called themselves Englishmen. We had 195,000 seamen, so-called, in the Mercantile Marine; but if from that number were deducted stokers, boatswains, boys, &c, it would be found that the number of able-bodied seamen amounted to, as near as he could ascertain, about 70,000, of whom 20,000 were foreigners. But even that did not fairly represent the state of the case, as illustrated by a letter from a coxswain to a gallant Admiral, which had been sent to him, and which gave a return of the number of foreigners composing the crew on board his ship. Among them was one named Charles Johnson who was a Greek, another named Smith who was a French Canadian, a Norwegian, a Frenchman, and a German, and a Russian, who had both been committed to gaol for stealing. The name of the ship he might add, was the Greyhound. Here was an instance, in which men appeared on the strength of a ship's crew under the names of Englishmen although they were actually foreigners. In the last Report of the Sailors' Home at Liverpool, through whose books 8,000 seamen annually pass, the committee state that the seamen are becoming more temperate, but that the old Jack tars are decreasing, and that the foreign element is on the increase. Now, when he spoke of deterioration, he did not refer to moral deterioration, because there was a gradual and perceptible improvement in the habits of the seamen. The Mercantile Marine was not, however, in his opinion, recruited as it ought to be, looking upon it in the two-fold light of what was desirable for its own purposes as well as for naval purposes. There were 400,000 tons of shipping building at the present 1613 moment in this country, which consisted entirely, with the exception of about 10,000 tons, of steamers. Now, it was well known that steamers were not a nursery for seamen, the steamers of this country not having above 500 boys on board. Now as steam was displacing sail with rapid strides, it was but a question of time when the old nursery for boys on shipboard would be completely exhausted. There was, no doubt, something being done on board our training ships; but they did not furnish the class of boys which would be deemed desirable in a naval or Mercantile Marine point of view. The great bulk of those vessels were under the operation of the Industrial Schools Act. In Liverpool there were four training ships, two reformatories, &c, and while, no doubt, the merchants of Liverpool were quite willing to afford any aid in their power towards the maintenance of those desirable institutions which afforded a means of education for our street Arabs, he felt sure they were not desirous that the whole of the recruiting for our Mercantile Marine should depend upon that class. Some of the training ships experienced a difficulty in getting the boys taken off their hands, and the Chichester might be pointed out as an example. Boys of 10, 11, and 12 years of age, who were kept on board ship for 18 months, could hardly be supposed to be of any great value to shipowners, but if boys were taken at the age of 13 and kept, as in the Navy, for three or three and a-half years, there would be no difficulty in their procuring employment to any extent. He did not, however, wish for anything beyond the development of a system, in strict accordance with the ordinary rules of supply and demand. He did not know that there was any other point connected with our seamen to which it was necessary that he should refer, though he had merely glanced at what he regarded as a very important question. To sum up his argument on this branch of the question, he maintained that it was a matter of the utmost interest to the State that when we were depending on our Mercantile Marine as a Reserve in time of war that some little encouragement should be given, and care should be taken, as far as possible, to foster a system of education and recruiting, which would secure, when necessary, 1614 the services of good and suitable men. There might be differences of opinion as to the extent to which the State should go. He contended that there was a moral obligation upon the State to keep up, at least, the supply for the Naval Reserve—that the drain upon it should be maintained at the expense of the State, and not at the expense of the Mercantile Marine. If, for instance, the Reserve force was fixed at 20,000, and the annual drain was shown to be 10 per cent, it would require 2,000 recruits to be annually raised, and this was the measure of obligation from which the State could not escape. The most important, perhaps, of all the results which he contemplated was the possibility of drawing into some thoroughly digested scheme of organization the great bulk of our maritime population. The country had unmistakably asked for, and would have, flotillas to defend the commercial ports. He believed at each of the commercial ports around our shores there was at hand a mass of material, with all the loyalty and patriotism which attached to the Volunteers inland, ready to come forward, provided proper encouragement were given to them. There were innumerable fishermen around our coasts, there were pilots, and others who lived by boating, who were admirably adapted for the purposes he had indicated. He had seen a Return, from which it appeared that there were 153,000 fishermen, and 13,000 or 14,000 boys; and it was worth considering whether some scheme might not be devised which would cost the country little or nothing, and the mainspring of which would be the patriotism of these men, who would be found quite willing to come forward and enrol themselves as volunteers if the necessary vessels were provided for them. Those men might not have the larger knowledge of Reserve men; but they had all the knowledge required for their own particular localities, being well acquainted with the banks, tides, and currents, and they would be especially valuable for gunboat service. With the unrivalled maritime resources which this country possessed it only wanted the grasp of some comprehensive mind to bring the whole of those elements together, and place them at the service of the country, which might be done at a very small expense. The inquiry he sought would enable them 1615 to judge whether the commercial ports would do anything to encourage such a scheme. They knew what the towns had done in the matter of Volunteers; and he believed the ports were prepared to do something as well. He might mention that a letter had been sent from Dundee to the Board of Trade stating that in that port alone there were 400 men who would be willing to join such a force if called into existence. It was desirable that the question should be inquired into, and he would prefer a Royal Commission to a Committee of the House for conducting the inquiry, inasmuch as the subject required great care and deliberation, and would have more attention paid to it by a Commission than by a Committee of overworked and overstrained Members of Parliament. What he aimed at was such a Commission as had been appointed in 1859, consisting of men of the same high class, character, and reputation, bringing down the inquiry to the present day with a view to the organization of our maritime resources in a manner consistent with economy and efficiency. A Royal Commission would be more suitable than a Committee, because it would leave in the hands of the Government the direct nomination of every member to serve on it. What was wanted was a thorough and earnest inquiry. Various schemes were at the present moment occupying public attention for dealing with this very question which he had brought under the attention of the House. An officer high in the confidence of the Admiralty had issued an important Report for utilizing our mercantile population, and dealing more boldly even than he had done with our Reserves and continuous service men. He saw great objections to that scheme. The head of a department in the Board of Trade also propounded a scheme for dealing with the same question. A late Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Frederick Grey) had given his mind to the subject, and published his views on the question, and there were many other distinguished officers in the Service who had done the same. Mr. Lindsay, formerly Member for Sunderland, whose name was well-known in connection with this subject, and who served on the Royal Commission of 1859, had written to him (Mr. Graves) to say that a complete and comprehensive system was required, and that such a scheme would save from ruin, 1616 and provide with employment, thousands of friendless boys, who could be made of much value to the State and to the merchant service by being employed in industrial pursuits in time of peace, and in our coast defences in time of war, and Mr. Lindsay expressed his willingness to submit his views to a Commission, if one were appointed for their consideration. With so many various schemes in existence, it was extremely desirable that they should be well sifted. He would only ask, if the Government granted the Commission, that it should be as free as possible from the departmental or official mind. He said so with all respect, but he wanted Commissioners whose minds were free and fresh upon the subject. He hoped a Commission would not be objected to on the ground of expense. It might cost a couple of thousand pounds; but when they had been discussing for the last two months a most costly, he would say an extravagant scheme for military organization, involving an expenditure of millions, he did not expect he should be met with an objection to a Commission on the score of expense. He also hoped the objection would not be urged that there was evidence enough, and that the inquiry of 1859 had exhausted the subject. Up to that time, no doubt, the Royal Commission of 1859 had exhausted the subject. But there was much in the altered circumstances of the country, and much in its connection with other countries, as bearing on this subject, to be inquired into. He believed no mere departmental inquiry would be satisfactory; it would be of little use for the Admiralty to promise that an inquiry should be held. He asked the Government either cordially and freely to institute a Commission, or at once to negative the Motion. He did not think the recommendations of a mere departmental inquiry would have that weight and authority with this House which a Royal Commission would command. He had framed this Motion with no wish to rush into a large expenditure, and still less in any party spirit; but because he believed that the highest interests of the country were involved in this question. In his opinion we had made the mistake of beginning with the inner line of defence instead of the outer line. This error should now be repaired, as far as the House could do so, by sanctioning this inquiry, and in the conviction that the best 1617 guarantee for its defence which a nation could possess was the opinion of other nations that its shores were impregnable, he would submit his Motion to the House. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice, and which he felt sure would receive full, frank, and favourable consideration.
§ VICE ADMIRAL ERSKINE
, in seconding the Motion, said, he thought the House was under great obligations to his hon. Friend for the great mass of information he had laid before it respecting the Mercantile Marine, between which and the Navy he had long desired to see a closer connection. Such a Commission of Inquiry as now proposed would be of the greatest service in tending to reconcile conflicting opinions on this most important question of the Naval Reserves. There were two propositions on which there could be no difference of opinion—First, that at present we had in the Royal Navy 18,000 men, and, including the Coastguard afloat, about 22,000, seamen, who for discipline and efficiency left nothing to be desired; and secondly, that if we wished to increase that force by 100 men we could not do so by any possibility without calling out the Royal Naval Reserve, in which case we should get excellent seamen but not exactly the trained men required for naval service. Now, what was the cause of this serious state of things? It was, undoubtedly, to be found in the fact that we had persisted in maintaining a system which was founded on principles opposed to those adopted by the Secretary for War in creating a Reserve for the Army; and the remedy was simply to adopt the same plan as that of the Army Reserve, and which was of much easier application to the Navy than to the Army. The Secretary for War called short service the "soul of the Reserve;" the system being to train in the Regular Army as many men as possible, and make them efficient reserves for the future defence of the country. The Prime Minister had also stated that the object was to have an Army with the colours relatively small and reserves relatively large. Now, their contention was that for the purpose of securing such an expansion short service was the best system, and the readiest and most effective resource. Yet, while the sys- 1618 tem of short service was advocated for the purpose of establishing the Army Reserves, the system of continuous service was advocated for the Navy, and it might have been supposed that the First Lord was answering the arguments of the Secretary for War and the First Minister. Now, if continuous service in the Navy were unlimited service, he should despair of forming a Reserve. But the service was really for 10 years, from the age of 18 to 28, and at the end of that period a man could claim his discharge, freed from all obligations for the future. Under this system we were every year discharging a considerable number of men. In the year 1869–70 4,444 men were discharged, or, deducting deaths, desertions, discharges, &c, 2,943. From this number, again, must be deducted 444 men who entered the Coastguard in that year, though the average was not above 120. Thus every year there were discharged from the Navy not fewer than 2,400 trained men. Of the men so discharged from the Army the great Army of Reserve was formed; but in the Navy they were discharged, and not the smallest pains were taken to insure their coming back if their services were called for. Yet the Admiralty had the power, without coming to Parliament, to give these men a pension of 6d. a-day, or £9 2s. 6d. a-year, and thereby obtain a Reserve which could not be equalled by any other Power in the world. But instead of doing that they had recourse to the merchant navy, where they gave £10 4s. a-year by way of retainer and provisions to 14,000 men, and the whole expense of the seamen of the Naval Reserve, with drill ships, officers, &c, amounted to nearly £14 per man. They were paying at that moment £70,000 a-year for the raw material more than they ought to pay for the manufactured article, which they had been at great expense in making, and which they ought to be able to lay their hands upon whenever they pleased. The First Lord of the Admiralty had regretted not being able to recruit the Royal Navy from the merchant service; but the fact was that seamen had lost the habit of entering Her Majesty's service, and four or five years ago he pointed out that it was impossible to expect men to enter the Royal Navy when they were paid £10 4s. per annum to keep out of it. Those who 1619 did volunteer were not of the best class—for it would be calculating too much on the patriotism or simplicity of the first-class men to expect that they would surrender the advantages they now possess to accept a permanent position in the Navy, where their pay would be inferior to what they received at present. For a long time there had been a confusion of ideas between the flow into the Navy and the overflow from it, out of the latter of which the Reserve ought to be constituted. The boys who were especially trained for the service made admirable seamen; but, as it was necessary to fix their number according to the ordinary demands of peace times, it was impossible to fill up such a large loss as that occasioned by the foundering of the Captain; while, on the other hand, if the supply of boys was increased, and no casualty occurred, there would be an excess in numbers. That the confusion to which he referred existed in the minds of the authorities of the Admiralty was quite clear, from the attempt made last year to establish two different Reserves—the one from the young men of the naval service, the other from the old pensioners who had only five or six years to serve in them; but they had neglected the middle class of Admiralty-trained men from which the Reserve of this country ought to be gradually increased. Of the 930 bonâ fide seamen who entered the Royal Navy last year 848 were re-entered and the number of first entries amounted to only 82; but if the system of Reserves was to be good for anything those numbers ought to be reversed. Subtracting from the number of men discharged those who re-entered, and allowing for those who were discharged at their own request, there still remained near 2,000 men who were lost sight of every year instead of being draughted into a Reserve force. There ought to be no difficulty about offering to a man on his discharge a short-service pension, in order to induce him to join a Reserve, the most ready means of forming which would be to enlist boys for 10 years, on the understanding that for 10 years further they should receive a pension while in the Reserve. Objections had been made with respect to recruiting for the Army, that if they took young men from agricultural pursuits, after they had served a certain number of years they had lost all taste for agricul- 1620 tural operations and it was difficult for them to find other employment. But that objection did not at all apply to recruiting for the Navy, inasmuch as when men left that service they had the merchant service to retire to, if they pleased. According to the Trade and Navigation Returns it appeared that the maritime population, though it had increased in a greater ratio than the general population, had not increased in the proportion of the tonnage of the country, and therefore they were driven to the necessity of employing foreign seamen. As to the necessity for training merchant seamen, he quoted from a letter from The Times, written in December, 1860, by a well-known shipowner (Mr. Mackay), who wished to have every seamen brought up in the Navy and draughted thence into the merchant service, and pointed out that this plan would be an immense economy to the nation. Another point was the provision of officers who were to command, and the importance of this was shown in the speech of the Prime Minister on the second reading of the Army Regulation Bill, wherein he described the officers as the brains of the Army. He would now refer to the subject of the Reserve of naval officers. It would be in their recollection that in January, 1870, an Order in Council was issued, by which our active naval establishment was fixed at 150 captains, 200 commanders, 600 lieutenants, 265 navigating officers—total, 1215. On the 1st January, 1870, there were actually employed 94 captains, 162 commanders, leaving a reserve of only 38; 511 lieutenants, leaving a reserve of 89; and 284 navigating officers, leaving a deficit of 19. Now, assuming that 14,000 of reserved men was the gauge of our wants at sea, they would take the total number of officers employed at 1,051, whereas the total number which the Order in Council required was 1,215, leaving a balance of 164 of Reserve. If that were so they could, by a simple rule of three, calculate the number of officers that would be required. But let them take a more practical test. The number of officers employed in 1856, when we were at war with Russia, was as follows:—144 captains, leaving 6 to spare; 197 commanders, leaving only 3 to spare; 884 lieutenants, leaving a deficit of 284; and 290 staff commanders, 1621 leaving a deficit of 25. But that was not all. Since the Crimean War several establishments were added to the Navy in consequence of the discovery of our deficiencies. There had been established three training ships for cadets, and several other training ships for boys; seven large troop-ships, two armed transports, besides eight trial ships for the Naval Reserve. If these ships had been in commission in 1856, there would have been a total deficit of officers of all ranks of 395. The subject was one of great importance, as he considered that the number and quality of our officers at sea were of greater moment than the mechanical perfection of our Navy. He had great pleasure in seconding the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the present means of manning the Navy, the keeping up of the requisite supply of men for the Naval Reserves, and to consider whether the services of the seamen of the Mercantile Marine, and the seafaring population generally might not be made more readily available for the Naval Service of the Country in times of sudden emergency or war."—(Mr. Graves.)
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he wished to make a few remarks upon the subject before them, as he had served as a member of the Commission to which reference had been made. The time had now come when he thought it was absolutely necessary to take up the thread of the inquiry which that Commission had completed 12 years ago. The work of that Commission had then been exhausted, and the Government had thought fit to carry out most of its recommendations. But since 1862 many changes had taken place, and they now found themselves in the alarming position of having practically no reserve of seamen to fall back upon. The Commission recommended that there should be a Reserve of 4,000 seamen, 11,000 Marines, and 12,000 Coastguardsmen, and that altogether the reserved forces should amount to 30,000. Looking at the large armaments we were obliged to maintain in former wars, amounting to 147,000 men, they also recommended there should be an addition of 20,000 men, to be educated in gunnery and trained to bat- 1622 tery service. They further recommended the formation of a Royal Naval Reserve. The present state of things was this—that in consequence of the desertions from the Flying Squadron, the loss of the Captain, and the loss of another vessel in the Chinese seas, they were something like 1,000 men short of the required complement. The First Lord of the Admiralty had not a single man to fall back upon—he could not get them out of the merchant service, and if he could they would not be worth having. The Commission also recommended that school ships should be established in all the important ports of Great Britain, so as to give a nautical education to boys of good character from their respective localities; and that in those schools masters and mates of the merchant ships might be educated in the higher branches of their profession. For his part, he thought there ought to be a great central establishment for the nautical education of the youth of the country. It was a great reflection upon this country that, although able to supply seamen and officers to the whole world, we ourselves, from the result of our legislation, were obliged to rely to a great extent upon foreigners of a low description. There ought to be some such place as that to which he referred for the mates and captains of the merchant service, who might have the opportunity between their voyages of perfecting themselves in the study of their profession—a plan which he believed would work beneficially both as regarded the Navy and the merchant service. His hon. Friend had referred to what he called the red tapery of the Admiralty authorities, and to that part of their regulations relating to the standard of height. Now, he (Sir James Elphinstone) had had a great many seamen through his hands, and he could state that sailors of 5 feet 1 inch or 5 feet 2 inches, with the proper length of arm and breadth of chest, were infinitely superior to long, sprawling, splayfooted fellows, who had never any stamina in them. In reference to the training of the Reserve he might say that on the East coast there were small batteries erected, where the men could be well trained under the Coastguard officers of the station. To a very great extent he thought the deterioration in the Mercantile Marine was due to the fact that the practice of taking apprentices had been 1623 abolished. Formerly every ship was compelled to carry a certain number of apprentices, according to her tonnage, who, if they happened to serve under shipowners of character and kindness, were well cared for, became masters and mates of vessels, or formed the élite of the crews in our merchant navy. But that became a grievance in the early days of Liberalism, and it was supposed that there would be an impediment in the way of competition with foreign countries, unless shipowners were allowed to engage their men as they chose and were freed from the expense and trouble of bringing up apprentices. From that time there had been a decadence in the character of our Mercantile Marine, and the moral character of the men would not bear comparison with that of the men who composed the service 30 years ago, as would be seen if hon. Members would take the trouble to read the police records of our seaport towns. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would see to it that in future no boys be admitted to the Mercantile Navy except such as were the respectable sons of respectable parents; that to go to sea should no longer be the last resort of street Arabs and vagabonds of every description. What he most strongly desired was a Mercantile Marine which should not be in future a sink and cesspool of the outcasts of the country, and that the ships should be manned by respectable English seamen, instead of being filled, as was now too frequently the case, with Continental rubbish.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I have no complaint whatever to make of the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), who introduced this Motion. I think he has made a valuable contribution to our knowledge of facts on this most important subject, and in a great deal of what he said I cordially agree; and I am glad that the hon. Member, who is a great authority upon the mercantile and naval services, is diametrically opposed the hon. and gallant Baronet who has just sat down with regard to the moral character of the Mercantile Marine, in which he said there was a decided improvement. I trust the House will take his most valuable testimony rather than that of the hon. and gallant Baronet. Nothing can exceed the importance of the questions submitted by the hon. Member for 1624 Liverpool, and I do not wish to depreciate the force of his views if I venture to point out that he took too gloomy a view of the number of sailors in the fleet. We are not, I think, precisely in the position which he represents. The hon. Member spoke first of the Navy proper, and its relation to the Mercantile Marine, next he dealt with our resources. Then he came to the question of the Mercantile Marine; and, lastly, he urged arguments for the appointment of a Royal Commission. He said the course of events had not realized the the recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1869, with regard, to the number of men in the fleet; and I may remark that Royal Commissions generally are much more popular before they are appointed than after they have reported; while the Reports of many Royal Commissions have scarcely met with any approval at all. If the recommendations of the Commissioners had, however, been carried out to the full, we should at this moment have had an infinitely greater supply at an infinitely greater cost than the change of circumstances and of time would have justified. And for this reason—that the number of men required to man our present fleet is perfectly different from the number required to man the vessels of the former fleets. I think, therefore, I can show that as regards the number of seamen, and the work they have to perform, we are really in a very satisfactory state; but I would not at present apply that remark to the Reserve. The House should look at the question from this point of view. For a fleet of equal power do we at present require the same number of men, and if not, how many less than we did in former times? And there is another most interesting topic connected with this—namely, if we had many more seamen ready and available at this moment, how should we be able to employ them so that they would not positively deteriorate? The great difficulty with iron-clad fleets is, that you cannot exercise your men, because you cannot send them cruizing all over the world, as before, in these iron-clads on account of the difficulty of sailing and the enormous amount of coal which they would consume. Therefore one of the first principles which must guide us in determining the number of men whom we should keep, and the kind 1625 of reserves we should have, relates to the consideration of the number of men whom we can so deal with as to afford them the necessary training. In connection with that point, the number of blue-jackets whom we now have is perfectly satisfactory, and we can readily lay our hands upon them if we wish. I have requested a statement to be prepared showing the number of men that would have served in the 10 ships comprising the Mediterranean Squadron in 1861 as compared with the number required at the present moment; and the result is this—for the 10 iron-clads now in that fleet there are 4,056 officers, men, and boys, while in 1861 the number would have been 6,196, the power of the 10 ships, with 4,000 sailors, being infinitely greater than the power of the 10 with 6,200 sailors. [Sir JAMES ELPHINSTONE: The ships are undermanned.] That is a matter upon which I do not know whether the House will take the opinion of the hon. and gallant Member at once, in opposition to the opinions of many gallant admirals and many excellent captains, and I cannot see why the hon. and gallant Baronet should think they are undermanned when I can point to the number of men we have now got in our home ports who are anxious for employment, and who would at once be put upon ships if necessary. So far from their being undermanned, we have the greatest difficulty in finding employment for our men, and the endeavour of the Admiralty is to fill the ships as much as they can, in order to find the men proper exercise. Of our 18,000 pure blue-jackets there are 2,162 on board the Channel Fleet, which consists of six iron-clads of the largest size, with a tonnage of 41,000 tons, about 9,000 horse-power, and 161 guns. In the Mediterranean Fleet, consisting of six iron-clads, nine sloops, and two gunboats, there are 1,700 blue-jackets; in the fleet on the North American and West Indian stations, 1,300; and in the fleets on other foreign stations, including China, the Pacific, and the East Indies, and those on particular service, there are 5,000 blue-jackets. I am not speaking of the whole complement of the ships, but simply of the blue-jackets; there are besides, of course, the engine-room complements, servants, officers, and boys, and a large force of Marines. But it is with blue-jackets that the House is concerned 1626 to-night. We have 7,400 blue-jackets in our home ports, of whom 1,200 are on board the nine Coastguard ships; but that does not include the 4,300 Coast-guardsmen. The remaining 6,000 are on board the drill, gunnery, training, and receiving ships, or on leave in the country. Thus we could man another Channel Squadron and another Mediterranean Squadron without wanting a single additional man. Besides these, we have 4,300 Coastguardsmen, who are of the very best class, and realized the kind of Reserve mentioned by the gallant Admiral behind me (Admiral Erskine). Therefore we have 10,000 men at home on whom we can put our hands at once without going to the Reserves proper at all; and these 10,000 men would be equivalent almost to the numbers we have got upon all our fleets. And I am prepared to say that we should be able to man all the ships we have got; and it would only be a question whether the ships could be brought forward rapidly enough in order to utilize the force we have. I admit that that would be a great effort. But it would not be very probable that we should ever need to have immediate recourse to the Coastguard or all the men at the home ports. The increased power of every man, as compared with the number of guns, and the amount of tonnage, is a very important point. I do not dwell on these figures in order to show that we ought not to deal with our Reserves, because I am of opinion that they ought to be dealt with. On one or two points of detail connected with the number of men I may possibly be corrected; but there can be no doubt that owing to the reduction of the number of sailors abroad, and the diminished complements necessary for the iron-clads of the present day, the Navy is now in a more satisfactory condition than formerly in regard to men, although they are fewer in number than when such very large numbers were required for the ships. I will state a few more facts. The Warrior has a complement of 709 men, of whom 315 are blue-jackets, while the Devastation, one of those great fighting ships now building, of which great things are expected, will have a complement of 300 men, of whom only 110 will be blue-jackets. It is evident how far we can make them go when we know that the Devastation will be of 4,400 tons. That 1627 is the favourable side of the question. I am as anxious as any man in this House that we should not diminish the number of our seamen, and that we should keep as strong a Reserve as possible; but still I hope no exaggerated opinions will be entertained in reference to our want of seamen. In introducing the Estimates I said we could not, in time of peace, suddenly replace one blue-jacket; but it does not follow that in time of war you would not be able to get them. In time of peace it is difficult to induce men—and I regret it is so to change from the Navy into the merchant service, and vice versâ. This difficulty partly arises from the gratifying circumstance that we are able to procure an excellent supply of seamen for the Navy through the training ships. It is to them and not to the Mercantile Marine that we must look for our supply of seamen proper. I believe that it is also a source of regret that our blue-jackets are almost as reluctant to enter the merchant service as the men of the merchant service are to enter the Navy. The two services are very distinct, and the habits of the men of the Mercantile Marine have disqualified them for the strict discipline and cleanliness of a man-of-war. On the other hand, the men of the Navy dislike the untidiness and sometimes dirt of the ships in the merchant service. In fact, the men-of-war's men say they do not like the "hugger-mugger" of these ships. The life of sailors on board a man-of-war is no doubt more confined than that of men in any other profession, and, therefore, they were apt to get more esprit de corps than any other profession, This difficulty arises in considering the proposals for change which may from time to time be made. The next point touched on by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) was the connection between the merchant service and the Navy, and the hon. and gallant Admiral behind me (Admiral Erskine) has asked how we can secure that the overflow from the Navy shall pass into the merchant service, and how the former can be supplied from the latter. The question is whether, if, after a certain time, we discharged our men-of-war's men they would be willing to enter the merchant service, and whether owners and captains would be willing to take them. It has been assumed that this could be accomplished, but it is very doubtful; and I am informed that until 1628 great reforms are made in the merchant service it will have very few attractions for men-of-war's men. Therefore, if we discontinue our present system, by which we can get sufficient men, we may find the other plan break down. I wish I could speak with the same confidence of the Royal Naval Reserve as I have done of the mode of manning our fleets. I think the Royal Naval Reserve leaves very much to be desired, and the hon. Member for Liverpool was perfectly justified in calling attention to the dangers which threaten it. He mentioned some objections, and I think it would be possible to find some more. I was glad he did not say, as others have done, that we could not increase that Reserve, because I do not believe that 14,000 men have exhausted all the men we could get. I think it is far more likely that the hon. Member is right in saying that the difficulty lies with the regulations, and that a modification of them would increase the force. The first objection he took was as regards height, and that point has been under the consideration of the Admiralty, and will be decided without waiting for any Royal Commission. Precisely similar calculations have been made by the Admiralty to those brought forward by the hon. Member. We find that a considerable percentage of the men on board these ships is below the standard of 5 feet 5 inches maintained in the Royal Naval Reserve, and consequently it is under consideration whether that cannot be reduced. Another matter to which the hon. Member referred was the amount of sea service, and on that I do not entirely agree with him. The expense of this force is so great that any change in this respect ought not to be made without very careful deliberation. Evasion, as to the amount of sea service is easy, and the more the time is shortened the greater will be the probability of getting men who are not real seamen at all. There may be a question about other classes, such as riggers and fishermen, and that is a part of the question as regards seamen proper. Everyone will agree with me that care ought to be taken that the men are really efficient. Another objection which the hon. Member took was as to the length of the drill. One point on which naval men are strong, as regards the Royal Naval Reserve is, that they would be amenable to discipline, and that drill given in very 1629 short periods would make them really valuable additions to the fleet. The question arose where were they to drill?—and, as the hon. Member said, it is rather a hardship that they should not be drilled at their own homes or in shore batteries. Drilling them in shore batteries is almost impossible, and the one aim at which we should strive is that the Reserve should be trained on board a man-of-war. If they had 28 days' drill on board a man-of-war instead of the drill taking place on shore, the object would be attained of letting them have some idea of what a man-of-war was. If that could be secured it would be the best plan. I also concur with the hon. Member that the idea must be abandoned of enforcing, or attempting to induce men of the second Naval Reserve to drill on board men-of-war; and the attempt to drill them must be made in some other manner. Another objection which had been raised, but which had not been considered, was whether, and to what extent, the Royal Naval Reserve would be available in case of emergency. I would wish to mention to the House the position in which they are placed as regards remuneration. They get £6 a-year for a retainer, and £4 for their rations and allowances during the 28 days' drill, so that every one of those men cost the country £10 a-year. Another great source of expense was, when they reached 60 years of age they were to have a pension of £12 a-year. A Royal Navy man might engage for five years, and discharge himself at the end of that period, and if a man is in the Royal Naval Reserve, and discharged himself at the end of five years, he gets £50, and has never done any service whatever. Then, as to the question of seamen pensioners, it is only after 20 years that the seamen pensioners begin to be called into existence. The condition of the blue-jacket, under the continuous-service system, is this; he starts at 18 years of age, and at the age of 38 he is done with his service, unless he re-enters, and is entitled to a pension of £28 a-year. At 38 years he is still capable of rendering efficient service to the State, and as a matter of fact he is bound to render that service. There is a Reserve of 6,000 men in that position receiving pensions at the end of their full time, and bound to serve the State in case of emergency. My right 1630 hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) thought that it was unsatisfactory to have a Reserve of whom we knew only so little as that they simply received their pensions every year. Therefore, he directed that it should be ascertained how many were really fit for service; and it appeared that there were 3,500—a very valuable body if they could, be immediately laid hold of. Accordingly, a scheme has been made by which, in addition to their service pension, they are to receive a small retainer for drill, to keep them up to the mark, and to enable Government to have its eye upon them. That brings me to this question. There are two entirely separate objects to be attained by this system of retainers and pensions. One is to secure your knowing where a man is to be found when wanted, and the other is that he should be efficient. The system of pensions which exists is one that requires very grave consideration on the part of this House, because pensions are now being offered which will come into force 10, 15, or 20 years hence, both in the Reserve and in the Marine service, and Estimates are being prepared to show what the ultimate liability will be; and I hope to be in a position to call the attention of the House to that subject on a future occasion. The House may ask me why I have not at once gone into the point raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool—and why, if I admit the question requires so much consideration, I do not say — We will have a Royal Commission. I think it is important to the House to know what kind of questions will have to come before such a Commission, and what kind of questions will come before the House for legislation. As regards this question connected with the manning of the fleet, there are questions connected with the Reserves and with the question now operating on the Navy through the Mercantile Marine; and the endeavouring to strengthen ourselves, not directly by increasing our forces or Reserves, but by dealing with the Mercantile Marine and making grants from the public exchequer in order to assist in the creation of the mercantile service. The hon. Member for Liverpool raised the point of the employment of foreigners, and the hon. Baronet (Sir James Elphinstone) raised the question of apprentices. I understand one of the questions that 1631 would come before the Commission would be this—What means must be taken to increase the number of seamen in the Mercantile Marine as compared with foreigners? I understood the hon. Member for Liverpool to say that the employment of foreigners in our Mercantile Marine was becoming such that it was necessary that Parliament should use means of dealing with it with a view to checking it. Well, now, I ask the hon. Member as a shipowner why, if the employment of foreigners is so detrimental to the Mercantile Navy, shipowners employ them? It is not because they can get no other men. The reason why they are employed is that foreigners work cheap, and that shows the difficulty with which the Royal Commission would have to deal. If I were suspicious, I should say that the idea in the minds of some is that the mercantile seaman is to have a retainer from the State to enable him to work so much cheaper, and thereby compete with the foreign sailor. The hon. Member for Liverpool has not put the matter in this way; but the broad view taken in evidence I have received is, that the Navigation Laws have ruined the Mercantile Marine, and that steps ought to be taken to reverse our policy in that respect. With respect to apprentices the proposal is to compel the shipowner to carry a certain number of boys in order that there might always be a certain number of seamen to fall back upon; and in the abstract there is a great deal to be said for such a proposal; but, if it would be for the advantage of the shipowners, why do they not take measures which are within their power in order to attain the object? One of the main schemes put forward is that there are to be training ships in which boys are to be trained under the authority of the Admiralty; that they are then to go, for a couple of years, on board a man-of-war; and that they are afterwards to enter the Mercantile Marine, with a retainer which should secure the State their services if it required them. That is a scheme which would be exceedingly agreeable to shipowners, and I do not mean to say it is not a matter worthy of being considered; but I have heard from the superintendents of training ships that they cannot place these boys out because the shipowners prefer taking premium boys, for whom they are paid, and many of whom do not remain 1632 in the service. With regard to the employment of foreigners, I do not think that the shipowners are doing as much as they might for supplying the merchant service with British seamen. The hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir James Elphinstone) spoke not only of creating seamen, but thought that schools should be established. These are all important questions, and they must be dealt with and considered. I wish to put it to the House how far it thinks that a Commission is the best form of dealing with these questions. When the hon. Member for Liverpool some time ago moved for a Commission—To inquire into the present condition of the Seamen of the Mercantile Marine, with the view of ascertaining whether, within the last 20 years, the supply of British Seamen has or has not fallen off either in point of numbers or of efficiency; and, if in either a continuous decline should be apparent, then to ascertain further what are the causes which have led to such decline, and whether any remedy can be suggested,the President of the Board of Trade in the late Government (Sir Stafford Northcote) observed that—Though a Royal Commission might be excellent for the purpose of collecting information, it by no means follows that it is the best body for suggesting remedies because it is not responsible for the legislation which would be required to give effect to its own recommendations. A Royal Commission consists of a certain number of gentlemen cognizant of the subject matter to be inquired into, but with no knowledge usually of the feelings and temper of Parliament, and fettered by no consideration of expense. They make inquiries, which are very valuable no doubt, occupying a considerable length of time, and they then present a Report, which in all probability contains recommendations which are more or less at variance with the feelings of Parliament."—[3 Hansard, clxxxiv. 968.]I would be the last man to dogmatize on any of the questions raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool; but, though the Government do not assent to the appointment of a Commission, the hon. Member may rest assured that those important questions will not be dealt with departmentally only, but that the Government will use all the machinery at their disposal in order throughly to investigate the matter and to act on the information collected. The Admiralty are not satisfied with the condition of the Reserves at the present moment, and do not think themselves bound to continue all the restrictions and regulations which have been adopted; but they feel that the subject should be approached in a large 1633 spirit. It will be matter for consideration whether the Reserves can be increased in the manner indicated by the hon. and gallant Admiral—namely, by passing the men into the Reserves when they have gone through a course in the Navy. The system of giving a pension and a retainer at the end of 10 years instead of 20, has been abandoned some time ago; but that is a point which should be considered, for a man entering the Navy at 18 years of age, and going out of the service at 28 years of age, after 10 years' service, is still fit for any duty, and if he then enters the merchant service, and remains connected with the Navy by means of a retaining fee, that will be an excellent arrangement. It maybe considered whether 10 years is not too long a period of service; but I should not like to undertake the responsibility of touching the present system without very careful consideration, for, in the endeavour to increase the Reserve, due caution must be observed in order to avoid decreasing the actual active force. I repeat that these questions are under consideration; but as I have been only two months in my present office, I am sure the House will not consider that I acted rightly if I were to say that I had as yet prepared a plan to lay before Parliament, and it will be a wise course on the part of the hon. Member for Liverpool to leave the Government a little more time to mature a scheme which they will be prepared to submit on their own responsibility to Parliament, rather than to hang up the matter by means of a Royal Commission; for the recommendations of Royal Commissions are not always followed. A Royal Commission is a most valuable instrument to deal with an intricate subject which few men understand; but with respect to the matter now under discussion, there are many Members in this House—shipowners and gallant Admirals—quite as competent to pronounce an opinion on it as any members of a Royal Commission. I would suggest, therefore, that the hon. Member for Liverpool should be content with the discussion which has arisen, and should not press his Motion to a division, being assured that the Government will attempt to deal with this matter, and will endeavour, on their own responsibility, to submit to Parliament a proposal in reference to it in the course of next Session. If 1634 the Government scheme shall be deemed inadequate, or if it shall be thought desirable to collect more information, it will then be in the power of the hon. Member to renew his Motion for a Commission.
said, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to him to misapprehend the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), which did not contemplate the necessities of a peace establishment, but the exigencies of a war. He believed that there was great misapprehension as to what we should require in the event of a great emergency. People had come very much to consider our Navy merely as an instrument of home defence, and as a means of resisting an invasion; but in every great war during the last 100 years, by far the greatest portion of our Navy, and even of the largest ships, had been required to protect our Colonies and our commerce in distant seas. It was difficult to say what number of ships we should require in the event of a great war; but it would undoubtedly be very much more than we at present possessed. Speaking in a general way, we had no ships which would be efficient for the protection of our commerce in the event of a great war. He purposed dealing with this matter when an opportunity offered for bringing forward the Motion of which he had given Notice. The greater part of our cruisers consisted of old ships of eight or nine knots, whilst what would be required were ships of 14 and up to 16 knots, such as ships of the Inconstant and Volage classes. We should commit a great mistake if we were to conclude that in the event of a great war we should not require as many ships as in former times; and the object of his hon. Friend's Motion was to organize the most effective possible Reserve to man these ships, as well as the gunboats we should require for coast defence. There were some evils connected with our system of Reserves, because the retainer paid to the men of the Royal Naval Reserve was an effectual check on their volunteering for the Navy, and the greater comforts, and the habits of discipline in the Royal Navy, disinclined the continuous service men from entering the merchant Navy when their period of service had expired. This was unfortunate, as he thought a greater interchange of men between the two 1635 services was to be desired. On the other hand, however, great advantage resulted from the continuous service system. He remembered the time when a line-of-battle ship sometimes had to wait six months before she could get her men, whilst under the present system the men could be supplied in 24 hours. He saw great difficulty in destroying the present arrangements, though he did not think that those arrangements were perfect. He could not concur in the suggestion that a short service system for the Navy would work well. If they entered men for only three or four years, and at the end of that time the men entered the merchant service, there would be this evil—that the Navy would be manned by very young men. [Vice-Admiral ERSKINE observed that he had deprecated such a system.] He was sorry he had misunderstood his hon. and gallant Friend; but he imagined he had wished to introduce something like the Army short-service system into the Navy. Even under the present system some persons had been very much struck with the youth of the men of the ships companies, and very young men really had not strength to handle the sails of the enormous ships of the present day. In conclusion, he would only say that the First Lord having said that he intended to turn his attention to the subject, he would suggest to his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool that he should be content with this assurance, and not divide the House.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he hoped there would be no division. He did not, however, think that the speech of the First Lord was altogether satisfactory, or that it would allay the curiosity felt by the country as to what the policy of the Government would be in reference to the Naval Reserves. It seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman did not look sufficiently far ahead; and he had not laid before them any scheme which was calculated to meet an emergency. The Government, however, said they were prepared to give this great question their consideration before another Session, and then to present them with fresh legislation upon the subject. It happened, however, that though very good laws had been passed for the creation of Reserves, yet they had become of no use, because the Departments framed bad regulations for carrying them out. It 1636 seemed to him that there was a perversity both in the naval and military Departments in framing regulations so as to defeat the purposes of the law. They had, however, heard that some of their frivolous regulations were going to be abandoned, and he hoped that there would be no more of them, and that the Departments in carrying out the law would regard the feelings and habits of the men with whom they had to deal, and not even disregard their prejudices. He was very sorry to hear an hon. Friend near him speak with contempt of the school ships, and say that he hoped that "street Arabs" would never be brought into the Navy, or that the Navy should be made a sink and a cesspool for the receipt of bad boys. In his (Mr. Liddell's) opinion there was no institution more worthy of the country than these school ships, and he hoped that they would be maintained. He hoped that they might engraft upon the wise and humane policy of these institutions this—that the naval profession might be held out as a reward to children of honest but poor parents, and that they would in consequence of good conduct enter the merchant service, and through that the Royal Navy. He hoped that the policy of bringing the two services into closer connection would form part of the Government scheme, because such a plan would provide them with efficient Reserves.
§ MR. GRAVES
, in reply, observed that he should much regret that a Royal Commission should be forced upon the Government against their will. It was absolutely essential that the inquiry, if instituted, should be stamped with the most cordial approval of the Admiralty. The First Lord of the Admiralty had met the matter so fairly that it would be unreasonable in him to refuse to accede to the right hon. Gentleman's wishes, and therefore he accepted a proposal which would throw on the Government the entire responsibility of dealing with the whole question, and which would oblige the Executive to prepare a scheme for the consideration of this House. He placed the fullest confidence in the pledges of the First Lord; but, if necessary, he would renew the subject next Session.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.