HC Deb 05 April 1872 vol 210 cc814-31

rose to call attention to the recent accident to the boats of Her Majesty's ship Ariadne, and to move— That it was and is the duty of the Commissioners of the Admiralty to provide Her Majesty's ships afloat with a due supply of Life Boats, and with efficient apparatus for lowering their boats at sea in safety. Before approaching the subject of his Motion, the right hon. Gentleman—referring to the absence from the House both of the First Lord and the Secretary to the Admiralty—said, he regretted that neither the First Lord of the Admiralty nor the Secretary to the Admiralty had had the common courtesy to be present that evening. It was a new thing that the heads of the Department should not be on the Treasury bench when the Public Business commenced, in order to answer any Questions that might be put to them, with or without Notice; and not only that, but it was an affront to independent Members, and it was un-courteous to the House at large, that the chiefs of the Department should be absent. Therefore he protested against the absence of the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary to the Admiralty on that occasion, and he hoped it would be the last time that the practice was followed, or that he or any other hon. Member would have cause to complain of the discourtesy.


said, that his right hon. Friend should remember that his Motion stood third on the Paper, and that it now came on only because the two preceding ones had been postponed.


said, he conceived it to be the duty of the heads of Departments to be there at half-past 4 to answer any Questions that might arise; but still more when a Notice affecting their Department had been put on the Paper by an independent Member. He had now no choice but to proceed to say what he had to say in the absence of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who were supposed to represent the Naval Department. [An hon. MEMBER: Move that they be sent for.] He had no power to send for them; and if their own sense of duty did not prompt their attendance, he must speak in their absence; and he had the more reason to complain because the Secretary to the Admiralty came to him yesterday, and asked him to postpone his Motion, and he (Mr. Bouverie) told him that he could not do so, because he had now an opportunity of bringing the subject under the observation of the House, and he did not know that he might have another. The House would remember that a short time ago the Secretary to the Admiralty, in replying to the hon. Member for Woodstock (Mr. Barnett), as to whether the Ariadne had been provided with life-boats, stated that previous Boards of Admiralty had decided it should not be compulsory on Her Majesty's ships to carry life-boats; while, in answer to a Question put by himself, the hon. Gentleman said that there was no particular apparatus for lowering boats used on board the Ariadne, but that there was a system of unhooking boats, which was preferred by many officers. When, however, he asked the hon. Gentleman whether that system had been adopted on board the Ariadne, he was unable to give him any information on the point. That was not a position in which the Secretary to the Admiralty should stand with respect to the safety of Her Majesty's officers and sailors. He would not again recount the details of the terrible accident which occurred in connection with the Ariadne, but would merely observe that it fully illustrated the danger attending the old-fashioned apparatus for lowering boats at sea, and also the danger of having ordinary boats at sea. By means of some of the new-fashioned apparatus, a boat could be lowered in a minute if a man fell overboard; but in order to pick up a man with the old-fashioned apparatus the ship must be rounded to, and the wind taken out of her sails, involving, perhaps, a loss of time amounting to some 10 or 15 minutes before a boat could be safely lowered, by which time assistance often came too late to be of any use. The first boat of the Ariadne, after it was lowered, drifted out of sight, and it was nearly three hours before the Ariadne came up with her; but they were within 200 yards of each other when the boat, not being a life-boat, was capsized, and her officers and men were struggling in the waves. In attempting to lower a second boat the accident happened—similar to many previous accidents of the same kind, involving the loss of hundreds and thousands of lives at sea, and which accidents would continue to occur so long as the present system of lowering boats continued in Her Majesty's Navy. In consequence of the old-fashioned system adopted for lowering the boat one of the falls jammed, one end of the boat fell into the water, and the men were all pitched into the sea. The men in her were indeed saved, but nearly all the crew of the first boat perished in sight and within 200 yards of the Ariadne, without it being possible to rescue them. That circumstance disclosed, as he thought, culpable neglect of duty on the part of the Admiralty; and he asked the House to declare that it was the business of the Admiralty to provide, in the event of boats being lowered, all those securities for the preservation of life which wore provided in passenger vessels, and in the large seagoing steamers of the mercantile marine. When it was known that apparatus could be provided, and that boats could be constructed so as to avoid the risk of throwing all in them into the sea, whether in lowering or by their being capsized when lowered, he thought it discreditable to the Admiralty that they did not insist on the captains of Her Majesty's ships being provided with life-boats, and with apparatus for safely lowering them. This class of accidents had been the cause of endless disaster in old times, and Parliament, in consequence—with great and praiseworthy vigilance—had enacted with respect to merchant ships, and in reference particularly to passenger vessels carrying over 10 passengers, that they should have a due provision of boats, one of which should be a life-boat, according to the amount of tonnage. The enactment was no empty one; on the contrary, the provision actually made by private shipowners went beyond the requirements of the Act, in the case of all the large sea-going vessels. For example, he had obtained from an official source the names of two merchant steam vessels, both smaller than the Ariadne. The first, of 2,875 registered tons, carried no less than 10 life-boats, and the other, of 2,081 tons, carried eight life-boats, all hung to the davits so as to be ready for the most sudden emergency. No doubt various methods had been successfully invented for lowering boats at sea, and opinions might differ on the respective merits of Kynaston's, Clifford's, Simpson's, or Gladstone's, which some thought the best—he was not referring to the Prime Minister—but with regard to these different inventions, he thought that the best course to pursue would be for the Admiralty to appoint a select number of skilled officers and engineers to decide upon the fittest apparatus for the rapid lowering of boats at sea, and the best form of life-boat, and then to insist on the captains of the Queen's ships being provided with apparatus in accordance with the approved plan. The waste of life had been wanton, and it was not to be supposed that, with a landsman at the head of the Admiralty, he could understand these matters; but the naval Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman were responsible for them, and for the loss of life that was occasioned by the neglect of these obvious precautions. He therefore asked the House to adopt this Resolution, and to approve—what no one surely could deny—that it was the duty of the Admiralty to avail itself of the apparatus best calculated to prevent such lamentable accidents as that to the boats of the Ariadne. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.


, in seconding the Amendment, said, he did so with great pleasure, and would call attention to the fact, that in the engagement of troopships it was made an indispensable condition that they should be supplied with life-boats and with Clifford's lowering apparatus; but when ships were engaged for the conveyance of seaman no such obligation was considered necessary. Now, he considered that very strange, and he wished to know why such an inconsistency existed. It was not satisfactory that, in order to attain to necessary improvements, our deficiencies should have to be exposed by calamities involving great loss of life. He was afraid that the question of life-boats was left entirely to the captains of vessels, who had a natural pride in their smart appearance, and endeavoured to avoid anything which detracted from it. Lifeboats in the ordinary shape were not picturesque, and did not look as trim as the boats usually supplied to Her Majesty's ships; indeed, he believed there was an objection on the part of captains to have life-boats, because they were regarded as "nasty, lumbering things"—terms in which they were described to him the other day on board one of our iron-clads. Possibly, the non-supply of life-boats, therefore, was not altogether the fault of the Admiralty, because there was a certain discretion left to the captains of vessels. With regard to the loss of life in connection with the Ariadne, what occurred to him on reading the account in the papers, was that it was extraordinary that the men were allowed to go into the boat without having their life-jackets on. The other day when he asked a Question on this point, no certain information could be given; but he hoped that now it would be stated why the men were allowed to get into the boats in such a sea without putting on life-jackets or belts, and what were the instructions on this head given to the captains of Her Majest's ships. He had had some experience of the extent to which the lowering of boats was facilitated by the new apparatus, and he thought the suggestion that a small Committee of practical men should be appointed to consider the whole question of providing life-boats and lowering them was one well worthy the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty. With regard to the Ariadne, if ever there was an occasion on which the families of those who lost their lives in the public service had claims on the sympathy of the nation, that was one. The lives of the men had been unnecessarily sacrificed—he was not prepared to say by whom; but the families of the men had as strong a moral claim on the Consolidated Fund as the families of any men who had suffered in the service of the country on board Her Majesty's ships.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it was and is the duty of the Commissioners of the Admiralty to provide Her Majesty's ships afloat with a due supply of Life Boats, and with efficient apparatus for lowering their boats at sea in safety,"—(Mr. Bouverie,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he had a near relative on board the Ariadne at the time of the accident, and a letter from the ship which he had received suggested one or two points on which a little explanation was desirable. He believed that originally it was intended that the ship should not go beyond Gibraltar; but his correspondent, writing after the accident, believed that the loss of the boats rendered it necessary for the vessel to go to Malta for fresh boats. But within the last few days he read in the Portsmouth intelligence of one of the papers, that one of Her Majesty's ships, which was fitting out for the Mediterranean, was to take out two cutters for the Ariadne. It was desirable that it should be known whether at such a great naval station as Gibraltar, the loss of a ship's boats necessitated the sending either to Malta or England before the ship could be supplied with others. It was inexpedient that a vessel of this size should be left without her full complement of boats. In saying that, he did not know what number she ought to have had; but it appeared, from the narration of the circumstances of the accident, that when two boats had been lowered there were no more that were available at the moment, although it was possible there might have been others stowed away. He should, therefore, like to know from the Admiralty officials, what precautions had been taken for supplying the deficiencies of which he had spoken.


apologized to the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, and offered him an expression of sincere regret that he had not heard the right hon. Member's speech—the explanation of which was, that there had been a Cabinet Council that afternoon, that after the Council meeting he returned to the Admiralty for Papers and details relating to this case which were not procurable before, and he had thought it impossible that the matter could come on so early. In the short debate two questions had been raised—the supply of life-boats and the best apparatus for lowering them. The House might rest assured that the Admiralty had not been indifferent about the supply of life-boats. In 1868, when the right hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) was in office, most careful consideration was given to the question whether the supply of lifeboats to ships ought to be made compulsory or not. The question was carefully gone into, and there was a difference of opinion among the members of the then Board, and the opinion of those who thought that the supply of special life-boats should be made compulsory was overruled by those who thought it best that the captains of vessels should ask for them. The matter, therefore, did not rest either with the late or the present Board of Admiralty. In 1865 a large supply of life-boats was ordered to be constructed, so that they were kept on hand, provided they were asked for by captains. These officers objected to them, not because they thought them "lumbering things," as the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) had said, but because they were not so useful for other service as the cutters which were otherwise supplied. He quite admitted that this was a matter for grave consideration, and he would undertake that the matter of compulsory supply should be re-considered; that the decision of 1868 should be reviewed; and if on further investigation it appeared to be necessary that the Admiralty should take the responsibility of supplying lifeboats. There was every disposition on the part of the Admiralty to supply them; but they had not forced them on captains who preferred cutters. There was a difference between the Navy and the merchant service with regard to the precautions taken on board for saving life; the precautions were very much greater on board men-of-war than they were in the merchant service. With every fresh watch a separate crew was told off to man the life-boat; that was part of the regular routine of the ship; the matter was so organized that in one or two minutes boats were lowered, and generally a successful attempt was made to save life when men fell overboard. There was a liability to these accidents on board men-of-war; consequently, the saving of life was always uppermost in the minds of officers; their organization for the purpose was exceedingly good; and hence such accidents as this, which they now deplored, were very-rare in connection with Her Majesty's ships. That brought him to the question which the hon. Member for Liverpool had alluded to—of the supply of life-belts. There was in the official Correspondence nothing which showed what was done on this occasion with regard to life-belts; but he had seen a private letter from a young officer of the Ariadne, which stated that the belts were thrown into the boat while she was being lowered. The men did not stop to put them on, so eager were they to rescue their comrades. With regard to the best apparatus for lowering boats, his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock had alluded to several kinds from which a choice ought to be made. As a matter of fact, there was an order of the Admiralty that Kynaston's disengaging hooks were to be supplied to every ship in the Navy which had not got Clifford's apparatus. The rule was, that every ship should have Kynaston's hooks, unless the captains preferred Clifford's apparatus. Hon. Members might perhaps ask why the Admiralty did not select one of the two systems as the best, and apply it to all ships. The fact was, there was some vessels to which Clifford's apparatus was more applicable, but it was not successful in the case of the heavy boats belonging to the larger ships. Then, as his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty stated a week ago, there was a strong feeling entertained by many officers that Clifford's apparatus had failed in those ships in which it had been tried; and, indeed, it seemed to have failed in large ships which had higher sides and heavier boats than merchant vessels. So far, however, from it being true that the Admiralty had not taken pains to supply the ships of the Royal Navy with the best boat-lowering apparatus, the fact was that no subject had engrossed more of its attention. It appeared from the records that the question had been examined by successive Boards of Admiralty. They had received reports from naval officers, and after that careful consideration which the hon. Member for Liverpool now said the subject required, they selected Kynaston's hooks. [Mr. BOUVRIE, interposing, inquired whether that was a lowering apparatus?] He (Mr. Goschen) said it was not; but that the hooks were used to prevent the accidents which might happen to the ordidary lowering apparatus without them. It was proved by experience that these hooks, when applied to the ordinary lowering apparatus, were superior to Clifford's apparatus. He had before him reports of a number of cases in which Clifford's apparatus had failed, and it had become necessary to lower a second boat with Kynaston's hooks applied to the ordinary lowering gear. Of course, the House would not expect him to go into a description of the comparative merits of the various plans which had been devised; but he could assure the House that the subject not only had been examined, but was now being examined from day to day. Indeed, during the last two months new inventions had been under trial in order to ascertain whether further improvements could be effected. In his opinion, no case of negligence could be made out against the Admiralty in regard to the supply of either the one or the other of these apparatus. They had left an option as to whether life-boats should be applied, and captains also had the option of supplying themselves with Clifford's apparatus, instead of Kynaston's hooks. As far as that option was concerned, he admitted the Admiralty had taken a course to which objections might be raised; but he denied that the Admiralty had been indifferent in this matter, as, in point of fact, every exertion had been made to test the best gear which could possibly be devised. He admitted the immense importance of the question, and he should feel obliged if his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, or any other hon. Member who was conversant with shipping matters, would assist them in forming a correct judgment upon it. It was, of course, necessary to be guided by technical and professional advice, and it was impossible for him to express any judgment of his own as to the superiority of one apparatus to another. He agreed it was the duty of the Admiralty, as the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock said, to provide efficient boat-lowering gear for ships; but the Amendment implied that that duty had been neglected, which was not the case. If the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw the Amendment, he (Mr. Goschen) would undertake that the matter should be further investigated, and that every effort should be made to obtain the opinions of naval officers and other competent judges as to what changes it was desirable to make in the boat-lowering gear supplied to Her Majesty's ships.


said, that as no naval officer rose to address the House, he, although a civilian, would venture to make a few remarks. He thought that an inordinately long time had been taken for considering a question of life and death, for, as his right hon. Friend had admitted, this question, which involved the lives of our seamen, had been under the consideration of the Admiralty since the year 1868, though he added that the last two Boards of Admiralty bore no responsibility in the matter.


said, he had distinctly stated that both the present and the last Boards of Admiralty were responsible.


replied that at last then we had fixed the responsibility somewhere. [Mr. GOSCHEN: Yes.] The Admiralty, however, had taken the strange course of leaving it optional for each captain to say whether he would have a life-boat or not. Was that fair when every merchant vessel was compelled by law to carry a life-boat? The right hon. Gentleman then took credit for the Admiralty, because the instructions given to the captain of every man-of-war contained a clause that a watch should be told off purposely to go into the life-boat, which life-boat, however, was not always on board.


was afraid that, coming into the House late, he was rather flurried, and that he could not have made himself understood. These crews were told off to man the cutters, which were practically life-boats, and which continually were the means of saving life.


said, his impression was, that the right hon. Gentleman had used the word "life-boat." After all that had been said of late about the Admiralty, it was clear we had not yet got to the root of the difficulty. He concurred with what the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentick) said the other day as to the inadvisibility of placing a civilian at the head of the Admiralty, for he believed the affairs of the Navy could not be properly administered except by a man who was thoroughly acquainted with the service.


wanted to know whether the Ariadne was fitted with either Kynaston's hooks or Clifford's lowering apparatus, as he believed was ordered by the Admiralty regulations? The casualty, however, appeared to have been due not to the want of life-boats, but to a fault in the hanging, in consequence of which the boat could not be disengaged from the ship; and he therefore concluded those regulations had not been complied with. He would ask whether that were so, for while emigrant and merchant vessels were compelled to carry proper life-saving apparatus, the country had a right to complain if those precautions were entirely neglected in the Royal Navy. A Committee should be appointed by the Admiralty to decide which of the two principles referred to was the best, and that having been done, there ought to be a permanent order that no British man-of-war should leave the hands of the inspecting officer without being fitted with the apparatus selected. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for having brought the matter under the notice of the House.


remarked that the question raised by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock would, after the sad event which had recently occurred, be considered with great interest by every man in the country. The statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty showed distinctly that the casualty to which he had adverted was traceable, to a certain extent, to the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. The naval members of that Board, he said, had no responsibility. That was just what he (Mr. Bentinck) complained of. The result was, that upon all professional questions the responsibility rested on a man who, be his talents what they might—and he was not now speaking in disparagement of those of the right hon. Gentleman—was perfectly incompetent to give an opinion on the subject. The hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) had complained it was left to the option of a captain as to what description of apparatus should be employed. [Mr. KINNAIRD: And whether there should be a life-boat or not in the ship.] With regard to that point, he (Mr. Bentinck) thought the best thing under the present constitution of the Board would be to leave the matter to the option of the captains, and not to interfere with them at all. If the matter was left to a practical seaman, he would prepare the best means of saving life that was in his power. He did not think a fair comparison could be drawn between the requirements of merchant ships and men-of-war, because the boats were required to perform different services. What was good in the case of a merchant vessel might not be good if applied to the boats of a man-of-war. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked the House to vote that it was the duty of the Admiralty to provide Her Majesty's ships afloat with efficient apparatus for lowering their boats at sea in safety. He feared that the result of any interference on the part of the Board would be a repetition of the casualties and misfortunes to which the present system had mainly contributed; and he hoped before the end of the Session to be able to test the opinion of the House in a substantial manner, as to whether a practical seaman ought not to be placed at the head of the Admiralty.


remarked that no merchant vessel carrying passengers was allowed to leave port without a properly found life-boat, which was to be used for no other purpose but the saving of life. The Board of Trade Inspector required that life-boat to be in perfect order, or he would stop the vessel; the seamen were required to be drilled in the lowering and management of the boat; and if the shipowner allowed his vessel to go to sea without the lifeboat on board, he would be liable to prosecution on a charge of misdemeanour, and incur severe penalties. That was the law as regarded merchant vessels, and yet the Admiralty had been considering for the last four years whether it was desirable to enforce similar regulations in the Navy. Last year, when the Merchant Shipping Bill was under discussion, it was proposed that it should be extended to the Royal Navy; and though he differed from that view then, the events of the last few months had changed his opinion, and he now thought that it would be advantageous if Her Majesty's ships were placed, not only under the clauses of the Merchant Shipping Act, but under the regulations of the Board of Trade. Indeed, he was not quite sure whether it would not be advisable to authorize Lloyd's surveyors to examine every ship of the Royal Navy.


said, he rose for the purpose of repeating what had already been observed—that the Admiralty fully recognized its obligation to provide all things necessary for the safety of the men, and no money would be spared that was necessary for the purpose. The only question was, what apparatus should be supplied; and, in determining a matter of the kind, it was necessary to consider the professional advice, and not throw all the responsibility upon civilians. That point had been most carefully considered by two successive Boards of Admiralty, and the decision come to was upon the advice of naval officers of the greatest experience. There was a difference of opinion among the professional men who were consulted; and the Admiralty, after careful consideration, came to the conclusion that it would not be wise to supply those life-boats to officers who did not wish to have them. At the present moment, there was a large supply of life-boats in the dockyards, ready for any vessel for which they might be demanded, and there was no practical difficulty in the way of the supply. He now came to the question whether the Ariadne was supplied with Kynaston's hooks. When he was asked that Question the other night, he was not able to give an answer; but he might say that the orders at the dockyard were plain and explicit that all vessels were to be supplied with that apparatus. He had since telegraphed to Malta for further information, and had ascertained that that vessel was not so supplied. The officers at Portsmouth were unable to say with distinctness whether that was or was not the case; but it must be remembered that the Ariadne was commissioned in 1868, and was afterwards sent with the Prince of Wales to the Mediterranean. [Mr. R. W. DUFF: Had she then neither Kynaston's nor Clifford's apparatus?] He believed not. It was, however, the explicit order of the Admiralty that all vessels were to be supplied with Kynaston's apparatus, and if any were not so supplied it was the fault of the dockyard officers or the captains of the ships. If he were to read all the reports sent to the Admiralty by naval officers, the House would have little doubt that the balance of merit was in favour of Kynaston's apparatus over Clifford's. No doubt, there were some advantages in the latter, especially for the smaller classes of vessels, but for large frigates and men-of-war, it was considered that the former was most suitable. Therefore, the Admiralty came to the conclusion that all vessels should be supplied with Kynaston's hooks unless the officers in command demanded Clifford's apparatus instead.


said, he was surprised that the obligatory precautions for saving life in merchant vessels had not been taken in the case of the Navy. He had frequently seen merchant ships detained at Gravesend on a fair wind, simply because her life-boats were not ready; and yet a man-of-war was allowed to go to sea without lifeboats. He did not think that a captain having 300 or 400 men on board should be allowed any option in the matter. He did not wish to blame the present, or any other First Lord; but he trusted the Admiralty would lay down a strict rule, that no captain should go to sea without life-boats and proper lowering apparatus, and insist upon that rule being carried out.


thought this debate proved there was something rotten in the state of Denmark, as the speech of the Secretary of the Admiralty made matters worse than before. It appeared strange—and at the same time painful to reflect—that, while the public paid for a number of life-boats to be built, those were lying in Chatham Dockyard while sailors were drowned for want of them. That had been the case always. They had been told that it was left to the option of the captains whether they would adopt Kynaston's or Clifford's apparatus. They ought to have no such option, but the Admiralty ought to decide whether the one or the other should be adopted. He did not find any fault with the present First Lord; but, as regarded the composition of the Board, it was monstrous that right hon. Gentlemen should be appointed to offices which it was impossible they could undertake with credit to themselves, however talented they might be. The misfortune under consideration occurred before the present First Lord had been translated from his former position, which bore no resemblance whatever to that he at present occupied; but whatever his assiduity and soundness of judgment, it was impossible he could manage the Department without some misfortune—more or less the result of his want of naval experience. They were told that the Admiralty ordered certain things to be done, and that those things had not been done. What would be the case elsewhere? What would have been the consequence if the Megæra, for instance, had belonged to a private firm? The fault would have been fixed on the shoulders of the right man, and he would have been summarily dismissed. The Admiralty must act in the same way. It must not pass by gross negligence, and say—"It's everybody's fault, and therefore it's nobody's fault." The fault must be brought home and the offender punished.


asked, whether the Ariadne was not at Portsmouth for several weeks in February last? [MR. GOSCHEN: Yes, in commission.] He had put the question, because the impression left by the statement of the Secretary to the Admiralty was, that for the last four years she had been continually away from England. He should like to know whether anybody at Portsmouth was responsible for what had been done or neglected to be done in the case of that vessel? It appeared that the Admiralty were driven to the extraordinary necessity of telegraphing to Malta to ascertain the state of the ship, as no one at Portsmouth could give the necessary information. They might as well have telegraphed to ascertain whether she had her guns on hoard.


asked for permission to reply, and said, that the Portsmouth officers were asked some time back whether the Kynaston hooks had been supplied to the Ariadne. Their reply was, that under the Warrant of 1868 there had been no demand and no supply of Kynaston's hooks, and that the Ariadne had not since returned into their hands, having been in the First Reserve. When a ship was put into any other than the First Reserve, the whole of her stores were gone through; and she was supplied afresh with every requisite. In other cases, it was the duty of the captain to say whether or not he had every requisite; but the officers of the dockyard would be responsible only, if the Ariadne had been put into their hands. The answer from Portsmouth being inconclusive, the Admiralty sent to Malta, because the hooks might have been put on board before 1868. In case the answer should be unsatisfactory, an investigation would be instituted, and all persons implicated would be called to account for the omission or neglect, if any. In reply to the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), he said the Admiralty would gladly appoint a departmental Committee, and bring in practical men, shipowners and others, from outside to decide upon the question of supply of life-boats, and the best lowering apparatus. The question was rather one for a departmental Committee than a Committee of the House of Commons.


said, that what he suggested was, that the Committee should be independent of the House, and should consist of skilled professional men, with an admixture of the lay element. If the right hon. Gentleman assured him that such a Committee should be appointed he would not press his Motion.


explained that the right hon. Gentleman had gone beyond what he said. The Admiralty did not shirk responsibility. The Committee would report to them, and they would have the responsibility of deciding. After that investigation, and after further inquiries, he should be prepared to state whether the Admiralty considered one apparatus should be invariably used, or whether for different ships different apparatus should be adopted.


asked whether their Report would be laid upon the Table of the House, as he considered it highly important it should be?


was sure we should never see the end of these disasters until a stop was put to the extraordinary practice of placing at the head of technical departments men totally ignorant of the profession they essayed to control. He therefore entirely concurred in the opinions which had been expressed by the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. C. S. Read) and the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), that it was not proper to place a civilian at the head of the Board of Admiralty. Such a thing would not be tolerated in any other profession. Last year the Minister for War was ably assisted by a military man; but that hon. and gallant Gentleman having been appointed to a permanent place at the War Office, he had been succeeded by one who had no knowledge of military matters. It would be absurd to appoint any hon. Member, not a lawyer, however clever he might be, to the office of Lord Chancellor, and he thought it was not less absurd to appoint the President of the Poor Law Board to the chief office at the Admiralty. He fully recognized the ability of the right hon. Gentleman, and he objected, not to the individual, but to the system. It was a monstrous one, unworthy of a great and intelligent nation.


said, he must protest against the view propounded by the hon. Member who had just sat down. It was contrary to the Constitution of the country that they should expect that the headships of Departments should be conferred exclusively upon practical men. If it were decided that there might be only a sailor at the head of the Admiralty and only a soldier at the head of the Army, the House of Commons would find itself occasionally placed in a position of considerable difficulty. They did not find that an engineer was placed at the head of the direction of a railway company, nor were the general body of the directors expected to be conversant with gradients and familiar with the making of a railway. They took the opinion of professional men upon such points, and applied it according to their own judgment. Such was, he contended, the principle which had prevailed, and should continue to prevail, in the selection of the heads of Government Departments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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