§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £173,767, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1873.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
, in rising to move, That the Vote be reduced by the sum of £4,500, the amount of the Salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty, said, he wished to explain that he brought forward the Motion, not as a personal attack upon the right hon. Gentleman who held that position, but because he had been assured by the highest autho-thorities in the House that it was the only method by which he could, in accordance with the forms of the House, raise the question as to the advisability or otherwise of appointing civilians to the head of a Department concerning which they could not by any possibility know anything. In adopting that course, therefore, he disclaimed all idea of making any personal attack; he was attacking a system, and not individuals. So far, indeed, from desiring to say anything disparaging to the right hon. Gentleman at present at the head of the Admiralty or to his predecessors, his only regret was that men with so much 1151 energy and ability should be appointed to an office where their undoubted talents must necessarily be nullified, owing to their absence of experience on the subjects with which they had to deal. The present arrangement had existed so long, and was regarded so much as a matter of course, that he felt that any attempt on his part to induce the Committee seriously to entertain the point he had raised would be attended with extreme difficulty. Still, he would remind the Committee that a more important subject could not be submitted to their consideration, and the question at issue was, whether we were now under the best system for the government of the Navy of this country? He ventured to think that throughout the period during which the British Navy had existed—and especially within recent times, many cases had occurred which tended to show that there was a great defect in the management of our Navy which it was the duty of that House to remedy. No parallel could be found in any country in the world to the system upon which our Board of Admiralty was constituted, and he was convinced that when it should be abolished, men would marvel how such an absurdity could have been allowed. In 1855, during a discussion on the subject in "another place," Lord Malmesbury expressed an opinon unfavourable to the present system at the Amiralty, and deprecated its extension to the War Office. The practice in private shipbuilding yards was to seek out men who thoroughly understood the business, and to this circumstance was to be attributed the great success attending the operations of those yards. One cause of the enormous expenditure in connection with the Government Dockyards was the impossibility of any man at the head of affairs, whatever his talents might be, dealing with a subject with which he was not fully conversant. There were some civilians who were competent to discharge the duties of the First Lord of the Admiralty, but those were the managers of private yards; and as they could not be induced to relinquish their engagements in order to accept that office, the present system must be continued, or a sailor must be placed at the head of the Admiralty. Under the prevailing arrangement economy was impracticable, and there was often even 1152 great waste of life, though he would not now allude to the fate of the Captain, which had been mentioned so frequently. Take the case of the Megæra. If there had been a sailor at the head of the Admiralty, such a loss would never have occurred, for such a man would have deemed it to be a part of his duty to see the vessel properly surveyed; but while a landsman was at the head of the Admiralty, he naturally took the report of those about him. Thus, such a person had responsibility without knowledge. Then, as to the question of the expenditure of coals. He contended that the system which had been carried out of tying down captains of Her Majesty's ships to a small expenditure of coal was a system which would never have occurred to the mind of a sailor. The First Lord of the Admiralty was induced to adopt the system, with the best possible intentions; but the plan had led to loss of life and to the expenditure of money, for many of the greatest recent disasters in the Navy had arisen from the ill-ordered attempt to economize coal. If the First Lord of the Admiralty were a landsman, he could not properly understand this question. There was another mischief which arose from the same cause, and that was the dissatisfaction produced in the naval service from such a proceeding. Notwithstanding all the abilities of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) in other respects—and he must repeat that he was not attacking the right hon. Gentleman personally, but the system which he administered—a landsman could not administer the Department for the benefit of the country. He complained also that the Channel Squadron never had a moment's rest, because they got 500 telegrams a-day. [Laughter.] He was not speaking at random, because he had seen these telegrams. These might do no harm, but he was sure that they were unnecessary. There were statements to the effect that the Board of Admiralty was nothing but a hot-bed of confusion. It might be said that sailors could not administer the Department better—he was sure that they could not manage it worse. The report of the Megæra Commission showed that the business of the Admiralty was not carried on satisfactorily. Did not they show that the authorities of the Admiralty, whom he would at once admit 1153 as civilians were men of undoubted talent and ability, were trying to discharge business which, they could not understand. They were also told that the system had lasted many years, and that it had worked well; but the system which had worked well in former days was not the system which was in vogue at the present time, for then the First Lord of the Admiralty was merely the representative of the Department in Parliament and the naval authorities carried on the business, but now the First Lord of the Admiralty took all the responsibility of the Department on himself. These were not his own opinions merely; they were the opinions of men well qualified to speak on the subject. The late Sir George Cockburn, a man of acknowledged ability, who had been 17 years Senior Lord of the Admiralty, and during that time had acquired experience of the best means of conducting the affairs of the Navy, had written a pamphlet on the subject which he (Mr. Bentinck) accidentally became possessed of. He was informed that the pamphlet had been written by Sir George Cockburn with the view of leaving it as a legacy to his country. What did Sir George Cockburn say of the system in existence in his day, a system which differed from that of the present day, and which he condemned? He said—I have no hesitation in stating I consider the present system of that Board to be the most unsatisfactory and the least efficient for its purpose that could have been devised.He went on to say—Secondly, as regards the proceedings of the Board when united for general business, I must premise that nothing can well be more contrary to reason, and I may say to common sense, than for a person to be selected to preside at such professional Board who is totally unable, and admits his inability, to understand three-fourths of the professional statements or even expressions contained in the various documents read on such occasions to the Board, and which, therefore, the professional members of the Board become obliged to occupy time in explaining and endeavouring to make him comprehend, which, nevertheless, cannot always be sufficiently done.Sir George Cockburn proceeded thus—I experienced great difficulty and obstruction in carrying forward those objects which appeared to me essentially required and called for, and some of which I was obliged to abandon from the opposition of one or other of such disjointed ruling body; and such opposition in some instances sprung from parties having no real know- 1154 ledge of the professional matters under consideration, but objecting to them in consequence of something that might have been said to them by some irresponsible person.But Sir George did not leave the matter there, but went on to suggest a remedy. He suggested that the Admiralty Board should be abolished, and that the management of the Navy should be transferred to a flag officer as Naval Commander-in-Chief, to be assisted by two naval officers, Vice or Rear Admirals, and that a leading Member of Parliament should be appointed by the Government—to be in the Cabinet or not as they might think best—who might be described as Controller, to be in constant and cordial co-operation with the Naval Commander-in-Chief, the said civilian Controller to be charged with submitting the yearly Estimates to the House of Commons, and answering all the questions relating to them. Thus what was said to be the great difficulty was at once disposed of—namely, having the Admiralty represented in Parliament. Sir George Cockburn held that the best system would be of no use as long as it was liable to be upset by frequent changes of Government. As to the objection to placing a naval officer at the head of the service because he was likely to show undue favour to those of the profession that had served with him, Sir George said he saw no more reason why this should be the case in the Navy than it was in the Army. He thought he had shown the Committee that he was not asking them to adopt any crotchets of his own. He had quoted what he might fairly call the highest authority on this subject—Sir George Cockburn, who for several years filled the office of First Naval Lord of the Admiralty. The faults and mismanagement of the present system were obvious, and the only argument he had ever heard urged in favour of it was that it was too good a thing to give up—it was one of the best plums in the pie, and no Minister would willingly give up such a valuable piece of patronage. That, they were told, was the real difficulty in dealing with the question. It would be well, therefore, if a Minister were to show that such a charge was not well founded, and that he was prepared to deal with the question solely on its own merits. He asked the Government if they were prepared to assert that the present system had worked well, and that it had not 1155 shown the grossest and most grievous errors; and further, if they were prepared to state any ground on which the practice which applied in other Departments of the Government, or any undertaking in private life, would be a monstrous and practical absurdity in the particular case of the Board of Admiralty? The hon. Member concluded with moving the reduction of which he had given Notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £169,267, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1873."—(Mr. Bentinck.)
Sir, I will endeavour to give an answer to the questions which the hon. Gentleman has very fairly put at the conclusion of his speech. The first condition of our refusing his Motion is, we are told, that we should be prepared to defend all that has occurred at the Admiralty for a good many years past. Now, I at once own that I am not prepared to defend all that has been done in the administration of the Admiralty for a good many years; neither am I prepared to defend all that has occurred in the administration of any other Department of the State. What the hon. Gentleman has got to show—and what I think he has hardly attempted to show, and entirely failed to show—is that the administration of the Admiralty is attended with a greater number of grievous errors and miscarriages than the administration of any other Department of the State. I do not think the hon. Gentleman has borne out that proposition. Neither has the hon. Gentleman, although he has quoted the opinion of Sir George Cockburn, in the slightest degree shown, so far as I can gather from his speech, that it is the desire of the Navy that the change which he recommends should take place. I do not mean to say that if it were the desire of the Navy such a fact would be a sufficient reason for the change, but it would at least be an element in the case; but no proof has been given by the hon. Gentleman that such a desire exists. The second question he has put to us is, whether we are able to show any precedent analogous to the case of the administration of the British Navy? Now, it is material to observe that the hon. 1156 Gentleman, who always acts with fairness, attempts to charge us with sophistry; and I, with Christian principle, retort with acknowledging his truth and fairness; but what the hon. Gentleman finds fault with is the established administration of the British Navy. It is not a rule of yesterday that he is attacking, but the established rule—a rule upon which, with certain very rare exceptions, the British Navy has been administered from the time of Queen Elizabeth until now; and I believe Sir James Graham stated to the Committee on the Admiralty that perhaps the most conspicuous defects which ever occurred in the administration of the Navy occurred during the administration of Earl St. Vincent, when he (Mr. G. Bentinck) must admit that a sailor was at the head of the Department. The hon. Gentleman, I think, overstates his case if he contends that there is no precedent. Does he not admit that, substantially, the case of the British Army is the same? I am not sure whether he admits it or not. But how far does it differ? It is the same in this essential respect—that the supreme control and administration is not placed in the hands of a military man ex officio, but it is generally, I think, placed in the hands of a civilian. What is the difference, then, in the case of the Navy and that of the Army? The difference is, that in the case of the Navy a Naval Board, subordinate to the First Lord, takes charge of matters purely professional connected with discipline and patronage, and that in the case of the Army these matters are always referred to the Commander-in-Chief, but subject always to the responsibility of the Secretary of State—differing in respect to this—that in the one case there is a Board, and in the other a very high officer, under the control of the respective Ministers; but agreeing with respect to that upon which Parliament above all insists—that for everything done in the Army and everything done with respect to the Navy a political officer sitting in Parliament shall be responsible. Therefore, we have got thus far in the argument—that the case of the British Army as to every substantial point stands the same as the British Navy. But the hon. Gentleman says that it is not the case with other countries. Well, now, here he has overstated his case. I will take the case of Ame- 1157 rica. The American Navy has not usually been a large Navy, but it has usually been a very efficient Navy, and the Navy which, ship for ship, could best look the British Navy in the face in the conflicts of former years. Well, there I believe I am correct in stating that generally—certainly to a very great extent—the American Navy has been under the charge of a civilian. On the Continent, I admit that it is more common that the Army and Navy are under the charge of a man professing to belong to the particular profession. But there are many exceptions even there. At the present time, I believe, the German Admiralty is under the charge of a civilian officer, and in France there have been repeated cases in the Administration when the Minister of Marine has been a civilian. I believe M. Dupont was a civilian, and he was one of the most successful Ministers of Marine known in the organization of the French Navy. So that if the hon. Gentleman can accuse me of sophistry, I can accuse him of error; he has not got up his case with the accuracy required in recommending such an extensive change in the administration of the Navy. Now, the hon. Gentleman comes before us with a recommendation, on the authority of Sir George Cockburn; and I agree with him that Sir George Cockburn was a man whose name is always to be mentioned with respect in naval matters. What is the case with Sir George Cockburn? He made a recommendation to which I will presently refer. But let us look, first, at his personal authority. He enjoyed the confidence of Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington. The Duke of Wellington did not adopt the plan of Sir George Cockburn, but had a civilian for his First Lord. When Sir Robert Peel was Prime Minister he did not adopt the plan of Sir George Cockburn, but had a civilian for his First Lord; and Sir George Cockburn was perfectly content himself to live under and form part of the opposite system; and down to his old age—I do not know the date of his recommendation—
§ SIR JOHN HAY
explained that it was found among his papers, and published after his death by his executor.
That is the more 1158 remarkable, because Sir George Cockburn ended his public career under Sir Robert Peel as a Lord of the Admiralty, and, therefore, Sir George Cockburn's opinion condemning the system cannot have been a very strong opinion. If Sir George Cockburn only came to that opinion after the dissolution of Sir Robert Peel's Government—I do not remember whether he survived that Government or not—but if he came to it when he was 80 years old, I am not sure that his opinion when he was 40 or 50 or 60 years of age is not quite as worthy of consideration as that which he entertained when he was 80. And what does Sir George Cockburn recommend? It is that there should be a professional man at the head of the Admiralty, and that within the Admiralty there should be a Cabinet Minister, who should be responsible for the finances, and for representing the Admiralty in Parliament. My great respect for Sir George Cockburn must not prevent me from saying that the plan when tried by whatever test we may choose to try it by, is hopelessly and obviously impracticable, entirely beyond the spirit of our Constitution, and diametrically opposed to the whole purpose which the House of Commons and Parliament have been pursuing for years in reference to the Military Department, where its great object has been to establish the responsibility of the man who sat in Parliament and answered any attack on the Department in the face of Parliament. Therefore, what the hon. Gentleman really asks of us, in quoting the opinion of Sir George Cockburn, is to reverse the whole of that policy, and to establish the rule that the Navy shall be managed supremely by a man who is not in Parliament, who has nothing to do with it, but who is to have under him a Cabinet Minister who is to answer to Parliament. That method of proceeding is absolutely and hopelessly impossible. Well, then, let us consider whether there is any other method of procedure. The hon. Gentleman said that if there had not been a civilian First Lord we should never have had the case of the Megæra. In what way does the case of the Megæra bring home responsibility to the civilian First Lord? If any inference is to be drawn from it at all, it is a very different one from what is drawn by the hon. Gentleman. He complains also that the 1159 Admiralty censures the naval officers in relation to stinting in the consumption of coal, and this stinting in the consumption of coal is owing to our having a civilian First Lord. As far, however, as I am acquainted with the authorship of those rules, a noble Friend of mine (Lord Clarence Paget), who has been Secretary to the Admiralty, was the main agent in giving the greatest stringency to them. [Mr. G. BENTINCK: He was only Secretary.] But there is no proof that any civilian First Lord was the main agent in bringing about the stringent rules as to the consumption of coal; and any First Lord, if he is a man of sense, however desirous he may be of economizing in that or any other matter, will be prepared to abide by the judgment of naval men in such matters. Indeed, distinguished naval men concerned in the administration of the Navy, have had most to do with the rules for restraining the consumption of coal. I must demur to the statement that the Admiralty has thrown on naval officers the blame of disasters occasioned by restrictions imposed by the Department. There is no proof that it imposed the restrictions, and they have not thrown blame on naval officers. They have but followed the opinion of courts-martial consisting of naval officers, and if in any case they have dealt with a point on which they did not follow such an opinion, they have done so in a manner agreeable to what they believed to be the evident dictate of the best naval authority. Well, the hon. Gentleman says there must be a naval officer at the head of the Admiralty. Now, my first proposition in reply is, that he must be a Parliamentary officer—with that I cannot dispense. It forms part of our Parliamentary system. The hon. Gentleman thinks that because a man can command a ship well he is sure to be a good Lord of the Admiralty. But what are the duties of the First Lord of the Admiralty? It does not follow that because a man is a good officer he will be more competent to direct the patronage of the Navy, or the training and direction of the Navy, or the manning of it, or the governing of the scientific men who are concerned in the shipbuilding department of the Navy; it does not follow that he will be able to govern the large establishments of the dockyards, for which establishments he 1160 is responsible as the head of the Navy. Still less does it follow that he will be able, better than others, to discharge those extremely important duties of the First Lord of the Admiralty which are strictly political duties. The First Lord is directly responsible for the Estimates he proposes and the amount of force he asks. He must be supreme judge of the distribution of the force; but the distribution of the force is not a scientific question; it is a political question; and a naval captain is not necessarily the best man to determine how the naval force shall be distributed over the surface of the earth. All those questions in relation to the conduct both of the admirals and officers in command of the ships abroad in cases of emergency like those in the China seas, which require the nicest consideration, come home for the consideration of the First Lord of the Admiralty, in conjunction with the Government. Now, I admit at once that the whole which the hon. Gentleman can fairly ask is, that if you can find a man who is possessed of every other necessary qualification, and is also a naval officer, it is an additional advantage that he is so. But you must keep in view that the field of choice is very limited. The number of naval officers in this House is very small, and it is impossible, when choosing who is to be First Lord of the Admiralty, to put out of view the important part he has to play in the discussions of the Cabinet, any more than you can put out of view the part he has to play in the discussions representing his Department in this House. I do not think the hon. Gentleman can ask more than that. I trust that the Committee will not accede to the Motion. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman represents any very widespread opinion upon this question; for it is a very broad statement to make that the man who governs the Navy should be a naval man, as if the man who is at the head of the Board of Trade should be a merchant, as if the man who is Secretary of State for India should be a man of large Indian experience, or as if the man at the head of the Foreign Office should be an old diplomatist. If, however, general qualifications are thus to be sacrificed for specialities, the result will be that you may make alterations, and find that you have broken up the whole machine, which, however defec- 1161 tive it may be, may bear comparison with that of any other country.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, there were various reasons which made it a matter of very great importance that the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. G. Bentinck) should receive the consideration of the House. The policy of having a civilian First Lord during great changes in the matériel of the Navy had been illustrated in a remarkable manner by the mistakes of the last few years. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had spoken of the rarity of professional First Lords; but be (Sir James Elphinstone) could mention from memory Lord Anson, Lord Keppel, Lord Howe, Lord St. Vincent, Lord Barham, and the Duke of Northumberland. There had been eminent civilians, none more eminent than Sir James Graham, than whom none committed greater mistakes in the course of his administration. He entered office upon the dawn of naval reconstructions, and selected Sir William Symonds, a man of great ability, but possessed by one idea, to carry it out; whereas had a sailor been First Lord, Sir William Symonds would not have been allowed so much latitude in building ships, which, though in many respects improvements, had such defects that they had gradually disappeared from The Navy List. The inexpediency of "swapping horses when you are crossing a stream" had been pointed out by President Lincoln, and we had experienced the full effects of neglecting that warning. When we began to reconstruct our Navy there existed in this country a School of Naval Architects superior to that of any country in the world, and our ships, which were built under the superintendence of men educated in it, were beautiful and effective. The Warrior and Black Prince were specimens of the vessels built under the superintendence of that School; but being called upon to go faster than the light of science would permit, the men who had been educated in that School were superseded by Sir Spencer Robinson and Mr. Reed, who were doubtless gentlemen of great ability, but who had had no experience in drawing the lines of ships, and the result had been that an immense amount of money had been spent in groping in the dark for principles which were perfectly well known to the School of Naval Architects which 1162 these gentlemen had superseded. Even at the present moment, after £20,000,000 had been spent on our ships, we had not a single vessel which could be regarded as the type of our future Navy. Such was the miserable result that had been attained by placing the administration of the Navy in the hands of civilians. The civilian knew neither fear nor embarrassment in the administration of the Navy; he rushed blindly on, and plunged into matters—of which he comprehended nothing. While, however, he admitted the necessity of having a statesman connected with the Navy, he thought that it should be under the direct management of professional officers, whose experience would preserve them from committing the blunders which had occasioned the disastrous accidents that had recently occurred to several of our ships. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that no man could be found in the naval profession who was capable of dealing with the construction, the manning, the education, and the distribution of our Navy. With that statement he could not agree, because he believed that men like Sir Alexander Milne were fully capable of undertaking the control of those matters. How had the education of the Navy fallen into the hands of the right hon. Gentleman himself? The manning of the Navy was now in as good a position as it could possibly be, while the construction of the Navy was at this moment in a state of the greatest possible uncertainty. As regarded the distribution of the Navy, he thought that a naval officer who had served in every part of the world with distinction was much better able to understand the requirements of the various naval stations than a civilian was. As it was, the civilian rule over the Navy had led to frightful catastrophes, for the withdrawal of our naval force from Greece, China, the Fiji Islands, and the Persian Gulf had been followed by massacres and disorders. Turning to a point with regard to which considerable controversy had arisen, he attributed the recent accidents which had occurred to several of our vessels to the penurious orders of the Admiralty with regard to the consumption of coal. He should like to ask those hon. and right hon. Members who were anxious to win their spurs by cutting down every species of expenditure to the lowest possible point, if 1163 they were aware how largely the safety of our vessels was affected by such orders? A huge iron-clad running at four or five knots an hour without adequate steam-power, was a danger not only to herself, but to all the other ships which might be in her company. In that way the disasters to the Agincourt and the Lord Clyde were caused. As to the Megæra, a naval First Lord would soon have discovered that there was a screw loose in reference to her, and probably she would have had her cargo taken out, and it would have been discovered what was the matter; and, certainly, he would not have sent her round the Cape when she could have gone through the Canal down the Red Sea, because she drew only 16 feet of water. Now, with regard to coal, the right hon. Gentleman denied that officers had been controlled in an undue degree in reference to the consumption of coal.
explained that he did not say that; but what he did say was, that there was no proof that under civilian rule at the Admiralty the rules referring to the consumption of coal had been altered.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
proceeded to refer to the Report on the subject which had been published in April last, from which it appeared that Sir Thomas Symonds, Sir Alexander Milne, Captain G. O. Willes, C.B., and other men of eminence in the naval profession, had expressed strong opinions in favour of smokeless Welsh coal as compared with the North-country coal, which emitted vast volumes of dense black smoke, which rendered our vessels conspicuous at 30 miles distance, and which would prevent batteries being approached when to leeward, and signals being observed in the Fleet. He ought to mention, in passing, that in addition to the difference of cost attending the introduction of that abominable mixture which made it impossible for our fleets to manœuvre, and caused the destruction of the clothing and equipments of the men, the whole of the furnaces in Her Majesty's Navy had to be altered at a very great expense to enable them under ordinary circumstances to burn that coal, because, as was stated by Admiral Hornby, while jogging along at an easy speed, they might consume a portion of their smoke; but if they began to drive the ship at all, the smoke 1164 came out of the improved furnaces just as badly as it did before. Admiral Yelverton gave it as his opinion, from the difficulty experienced in the late evolutionary cruise in distinguishing either ships or signals, that the use of that description of coal in the hour of need might lead to national disaster. Again, Mr. Swift, Inspector of machinery afloat, wrote to Commodore Phillimore, that on a comparison between the two kinds of coal under the same conditions, the economy in favour of the Welsh coal by itself exhibited almost the unexpected amount of 22 per cent. Yet the officers in command of our fleets were not only forced to burn that rubbish, but were restricted in the speed at which they were to sail their ships. That he held to be a thing which would never have entered the mind of any sailor. The first object of a sailor was to keep his ship in command for all emergencies; and one officer, in whose opinion he concurred, said that, in order to be able to meet any emergencies, the speed ought not to be allowed to fall below six or seven knots. What was the result of the Reports of those gallant officers? Why, two or three letters of the most extraordinary special pleading from the Secretary to the Admiralty and the Controller—letters which might almost have led one to suppose, though he did not believe it was the fact, that those gentlemen had a personal interest in the consumption of that abominable mixture. He was sorry to see any Department use the language which had been used towards men, certainly superior in nautical knowledge, like Sir Alexander Milne, who was himself every way qualified to be their First Lord of the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman said that the American Navy had always been administered by civilians. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, not always.] Well, no doubt it had generally; but then an American was a sort of amphibious individual, who could adapt himself to matters of this sort very rapidly. Moreover, in the American Navy there was much more left to the individual captain of the ship than in the British service. In the only period when the American Navy asserted what he might almost call its individual superiority to ours, the ships had been carefully built and specially prepared for some years for a particular contingency under the 1165 suggestions of the captains and officers who were to command them, and who knew that their ships were superior in weight of metal and in other respects to those which would be opposed to them. As long as that small American squadron existed, therefore, we had a difficulty in extirpating them; but we did extirpate them, and the war came to an end. The ground he took, then, was this—It must not be supposed because a man was a naval officer that he could not be an able administrator; and he believed that had the reconstruction of our Navy been placed in the hands of a professional man of the high calibre to which he had referred, the saving to the country would have been enormous. The Government had been lately arguing against the possibility of a Scotch Board managing the expenditure of £250,000 a-year, and yet they put into the hands of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) many millions to be made ducks and drakes of in the building of ships which could not float, and they had a Navy which, if it had to be concentrated for any practical purpose, could not carry 10 days' coal, or maintain itself off Brest Harbour in the month of March for a week.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
desired to withdraw the Amendment, as he did not wish in the present state of the Committee to divide.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
, in rising to move to reduce the Vote by £1,000—the amount of the Salary of the proposed Deputy Controller of the Navy—said, that it was on the 22nd of March that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty announced the change which he proposed to make in the Governing Body of the Admiralty; but unfortunately, in consequence of a new arrangement having been come to with reference to the conduct of Business, it was not until the Dog-days that an opportunity was afforded for discussing his proposals. That delay was to be regretted, and from what the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had said on a previous occasion, with reference to the importance of this Vote, it was to be presumed he 1166 joined in this regret. There was an increase on the Vote this year of £11,268, and, deducting a sum of £1,538 transferred from other Votes, the net increase appeared to be £8,730. That included the cost of an increase in the clerical staff, he believed; and to this he would have offered no objection, if rumour had assured him that the Department was better served in consequence. But questions connected with the office of the Permanent Secretary had lately come under discussion, and something had been said upon the question of the management of the Admiralty under this reformed system. The right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had commenced the changes. He had abolished the office of one Lord of the Admiralty and had divided the salary between two others; he had also abolished the office of Controller of the Coast Guard, formerly held by Admiral Tarleton, and had created the office of Chief of the Staff. He was very glad, for the best interests of the service, that the office of Chief of the Staff had disappeared; his was always an anomalous position, and a most irresponsible one. His emoluments were spread over several Votes, and great diligence was required to discover what were his duties. The Times, commenting upon the abolition of his office, had said that the duties of such an officer should be so important, that it was to be regretted he was not an officer included in the Board, so that everything he did and said would have the weight his position entitled him to. With reference to this point, he would mention that under the new regulation the Controller of the Navy would find himself in the same position as the Chief of the Staff, for he was no longer included in the Board, and therefore, according to the doctrine he had quoted, the decisions of the Controller of the Navy would in the future not have that weight and authority which would otherwise attach to them. He did not question the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety to do the best for the service; but proposals more calculated than those of the right hon. Gentleman to bring about want of harmony he could not conceive. There was one point on which he had real cause to quarrel with the First Lord of the Admiralty, and that was the statement that his system was the same as that introduced by the right hon. Member for Pontefract in 1167 1869, and that he was only amplifying and extending it. He must contradict that assertion; and, in passing, he would take advantage of the opportunity to say that in all that concerned the dockyard arrangements, he much preferred the plan introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract to the new arrangement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He could not understand the meaning of the continuous repetition of the statement as to there being no change in the system. Up to the year 1869 the number of the Lords of the Admiralty was five. The right hon. Member for Pontefract reduced them to four, and the present First Lord had restored them to the original number. In 1869 the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty was a political person, had access to all Admiralty papers and documents, and was ready, in case of need, to take the place of the First Lord in that House. The right hon. Member for Pontefract did away with that arrangement, and made the Parliamentary Secretary a sort of head to the Purchase Department; and now, the present First Lord restored the Parliamentary Secretary—and very rightly—to the position which all Parliamentary Secretaries of the Admiralty had before held. The Board sittings, up to 1869, were continuous sittings; but under the right hon. Member for Pontefract those continuous sittings were done away with, and now the House was told that they were to be restored. Again, the position occupied by the Controller afforded a remarkable proof that the systems of the late First Lord and of the present First Lord were diametrically opposite. Up to 1869 the Controller was the servant of the Board, and after 1869 he was a Member of the Board; and now, again, he was to be a servant of the Board, without any compensating honour being given him. When the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) said that nothing should be done in the way of shipbuilding without consulting the Controller, it must be observed that that was no new arrangement. During the whole period when the Admiralty was presided over by the Duke of Somerset, the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), and the right hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), the Controller had ample opportunity of discussing all shipbuilding projects with the Board. The right hon. Gentleman the 1168 present First Lord proposed to establish a third Secretary to the Admiralty in the shape of a naval officer. He could not understand why there should be three Secretaries to do the work which two had always done very well before. He admitted that there was much to be said in favour of the present Permanent Secretary being a naval officer, for that secured a permanent naval element in the Board; but that did not justify, in his mind, the appointment of a third Secretary. To the proposed appointment of a Deputy Controller, however, he had only the most unqualified opposition to give. The object of every Board of Admiralty from the time of the Duke of Somerset had been to draw closer and make more intimate the connection between the Controller and the dockyards, for then the more strict the responsibility, the greater was the security for the efficiency of the service. Moreover, the chief object of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract when presiding at the Board had always been to endeavour to carry out that policy; but the present First Lord did not, however, seem to appreciate the advantage of it. He (Lord Henry Lennox) would appeal to the heads of business firms whether they would employ a person to design an elaborate ship, and then leave it to the dockyard people to carry it out as best they could? Under the Board of Admiralty with which he had been connected several Orders in Council were issued giving facilities to the Controller of the Navy in his relations with the dockyard workmen; and, in his opinion, the connection of the Controller with the dockyards could not be too close. It was said that the business of the proposed Deputy Controller would be to attend the dockyards, and deal, without reference to the Controller, with those questions which merely touched the administration of the dockyards. Now, what were those matters which could be safely trusted to a subordinate officer without reference to his superior officer? He thought when the design of a ship had been made by the Constructor and approved by the Board of Admiralty, the work of the Constructor was only commenced; until the ship was in commission it was not at an end. With the rapid strides of science and information as to the strain upon the work in one part of the ship and the material necessary to meet it in another, there must be 1169 a constantly changing process going on in the mind of the Constructor; so that, unless he saw, watched, and directed everything, he could not be responsible for the designs he recommended to the adoption of the Board of Admiralty. He therefore hoped the right hon. Gentleman intended to remodel the instructions he announced on the 22nd of March, and the appointment of Inspector of Dockyards should be given up. He did not see what that officer could do that the Controller of the Navy could not do already. If they gave the Controller full responsibility in charge of the dockyards, he could carry out the duties of his office; but if there was an officer under him who could give orders without reference to him, it would be far from satisfactory. He would ask, also, what position Captain Hood would occupy as Director General of Naval Ordnance? There was nothing more important than that the connection should be intimate between the gentleman who designed a ship and the gentleman who had charge of the ordnance that ship was to carry. With regard to the Controller of the Navy, he was very glad to observe by a statement in the paper to-day that his gallant and highly-esteemed friend Admiral Houston Stewart was to have £1,700 a-year, and that he would be able to retain his half-pay; but he very much feared that he would not be able to enjoy his half-pay with his salary and emoluments. He had not seen his gallant friend for the last six months; nor had he had the slightest communication with him or his friends, but he hoped that a point would be strained if necessary, with a view to such an arrangement.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
There was a difficulty; but the Law Officers of the Crown have come to a different conclusion.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he was very glad to hear that the difficulty had been overcome, and that he had been fortunate enough to draw from the right hon. Gentleman the announcement. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider the matter to which he (Lord Henry Lennox) had referred; that he would remember that he proposed largely to increase the Vote; that he was appointing new officers that would increase the cost to £4,900 a-year for work that was done under the old Board for £3,200 per annum, and under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract for £2,900 a-year. He 1170 wanted to see the service placed on a solid and durable basis, and not made the subject of constant debates in that House; and he could assure his right hon. Friend that he was firmly convinced that if he persisted in the appointment of a Deputy Controller, it would only tend to produce a clashing of authority and a weakening of responsibility in the Department, and to content himself with those changes, both in the constitution and in the procedure of the Admiralty, which he had already enunciated. He would move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £172,767, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1873."—(Lord Henry Lennox.)
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
Sir, in his interesting speech, the noble Lord who has just sat down has severely criticized the appointment of a Surveyor of Dockyards. If the relations between that officer and the Controller of the Navy were intended to be such as the noble Lord has described, the expediency of the appointment would be extremely doubtful; but if the duties of a Surveyor of Dockyards are laid down with judgment, he would be able to render valuable service. If a comparison be made between the constitution of the Admiralty and a commercial establishment charged with the control of a business of equal extent, the cost of the Admiralty Office bears an exaggerated proportion to the amount of business which it conducts. Yet, notwithstanding the large amount of the expenditure, the Department seems to be weak in its administrative power, while the clerical staff is unnecessarily large. Facility for the tabulation of returns and records will not secure good administration. It was well observed by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers), in the course of his examination before the Megæra Commission, that—No mechanism which the thought of man can devise will be perfect, unless those who have to work it do work it thoroughly. If somebody neglects his duty, there is no system of duplication or triplication which will effectually detect it in all cases. Responsibility is the keystone of good administration.The higher officers of the Admiralty are overworked; but if you want to relieve them of some portion of their burden, you must employ as their assistants 1171 persons of high qualifications, and with that technical knowledge, without which the management of a manufacturing business cannot be successfully conducted. In his examination before the Megæra Commission, Sir Spencer Robinson quoted a passage from a Memorandum, which he had addressed to the Admiralty in January, 1861, in which the necessity for such assistance is strongly urged. Having explained the increase of work, he had stated that he did not propose to their Lordships any increase in the number of clerks, but did most earnestly submit for their consideration, that the proportion of superior clerks should be increased. To the same effect, in another portion of his evidence, he said that each department of the Admiralty should have a secretary who should be under the general superintendence of the Chief Secretary. "As to each of the Departments," said Sir Spencer Robinson—"I can say confidently that the want of a secretary almost kills us; it wears us to death." The cry of despair, which was uttered by the late Controller of the Navy, has been sent forth before by many an exhausted official. The redundance of clerical, the deficiency of administrative power, which may be observed in every Department under Government, have been criticized by all who have examined the constitution of the public Departments in a comprehensive and philosophical spirit. In an able article in The Quarterly Review for July, 1869, three principal reforms are described as being urgently required in every branch of the public service—namely, greater concentration, fewer clerks, and higher pay. The reviewer very judiciously urges that while the clerks for the mechanical duties should be chosen from a class which could not aspire to high posts, the other class should consist of young men trained by the best education England can afford, desirous of a somewhat easier and surer life than the struggles of the bar offer; preferring administrative work, or conscious of administrative ability. How many such men are there in the Admiralty? This class is hardly represented at all, while the mechanical class is far too numerous. The justice of these criticisms is apparent when the expenditure under Vote 3 is carefully examined. The total amount of the Vote is £174,000, of which salaries re- 1172 present £160,000. For so large an outlay the very highest administrative talent, and constructive and mechanical ability, which the country affords, should be at the command of the Admiralty. Setting aside the Parliamentary officials and the naval officers at Whitehall, who are not responsible for the naval architecture of the Navy, or for the workmanship or expenditure in the different yards, how is the professional class, which is really responsible for these things, represented? With an expenditure of £974,000 for labour in the dockyards; £971,000 for stores; £690,000 for machinery; total, £2,635,000, in the current year, we have only two professional or civilian officers in the constructive and engineering department receiving £1,000 a-year—the Chief Naval Architect, and the Surveyor of Dockyards. This distribution of the Vote is the more extraordinary, because there are 22 salaries at the Admiralty of £1,000 per annum and upwards, and because the professional officers, whose responsibility in respect of the naval expenditure is so great, are not paid in prestige like the officers of the Royal Navy. Commercial men know well that the salaries paid to the civilians at the Admiralty are not sufficient to attract men of very high qualifications from the private shipbuilding yards. The locomotive superintendent at Crewe, until lately, received a salary of £5,000 a-year. The responsible agents in charge of a railway contract receive much higher pay than the civil officers of the Admiralty. The argument for higher salaries is not urged in the belief that the confidential managers of the private shipbuilding yards will be induced to leave a good employ, with which they have many ties: but a more liberal remuneration would be the means of preventing the most promising members of the Civil Staff of the Admiralty—men who have been for many years receiving a most valuable practical education at the public expense—from quitting the service when the time had arrived when their services were becoming most valuable. In endeavouring to strengthen their constructive staff, by the creation of a new and highly-paid, appointment, the Admiralty are pursuing a most judicious course. The appointment of a Surveyor of Dockyards, as a medium of communication between the Controller of the Navy and those establishments, 1173 should be the means of considerably reducing the too voluminous correspondence which is now conducted between Whitehall and the naval yards. The cumbrous nature of the present system cannot be appreciated without a few figures. Sir Baldwin Walker informed the Committee on the Management of Dockyards in 1860, that in the surveyor's department, in 1834, the number of letters amounted to 3,698 with 4 clerks; in 1848, to 6,758 with 7; in 1850—when the steam department was transferred to the Surveyor of the Navy—to 10,650 with 11; in 1854, to 22,259 with 11; in 1856—the period of the Russian War—to 32,178 with 16; and in 1859, to 36,296 with 16. Sir Spencer Robinson has recently made a statement to the Megæra Commission showing how the correspondence had steadily increased in recent years. He said that in 1863 the number of letters in his department was 60,000, and the number of clerks 29; while in 1870 the letters were 70,000, with 30 clerks. That such an increase should be allowed in the correspondence is conclusive evidence that the system of concentrating the management of the dockyards in the office of the Controller in London had been carried too far. If by the appointment of a Surveyor of Dockyards the immense mass of correspondence now conducted by the Controller can be diminished, a very valuable reform will have been effected. The Controller will be enabled to pay more frequent personal visits to the dockyards, and all who have had experience in administration know that the presence of the master's eye will infuse a vigour into the work which is being carried on, which cannot be secured by any other means. The necessity for strengthening the department of the Controller with an additional professional officer, holding a high and confidential position, has been recognised by many high authorities. Admiral Smart's Committee on the Management of the Dockyards, which was appointed in 1859, stated in their Report that they were of opinion that if the dockyards were frequently visited by a practical shipwright, and a practical engineer officer, representing the Surveyor of the Navy, it would be attended by many beneficial results. Better judgments would be formed of the persons most fit for the promotions which are constantly occurring in the different grades. The 1174 energies of the officers, from the principal officers downwards, would be more advantageously drawn forth. In 1861, in his evidence before the Committee of the Board of Admiralty, the Duke of Somerset said that the Controller, being at Whitehall, could not really know sufficiently well what was going on in those various distant dockyards, and had not the means of sending some one frequently enough to ascertain. In consequence, he had attached to the department of the Controller another shipwright officer to assist in those inquiries. In view of these recommendations, I trust that the Motion of the noble Lord may not be carried. I myself most anxiously desire to see an officer of the rank of Deputy Controller at the head of every yard; but even when we have improved both the position and the pay of the principal shipwright officers, an additional inspecting officer on the staff of the Controller is equally necessary. For his wise decision to increase the administrative power of the constructive department of the Admiralty, and to substitute for a redundant correspondence a more effectual system of supervision by personal observation and control, the First Lord of the Admiralty deserves the warm commendation of this House.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, without going into the whole question raised, he stated shortly what he proposed should really be the functions of the Surveyor of the Dockyards and how far his proposals corresponded with the representations made by the noble Lord. He wished it to be most clearly and distinctly understood that the appointment of a Surveyor of Dockyards was not in the slightest degree to interfere with the authority of the Controller of the Dockyards, and it was not to diminish the responsibility of the Controller. No one could attach greater importance to that power than he did. As in time past, he wished the Controller to retain absolute power with regard to the dockyards; but he was certainly anxious that the Controller should be aided and helped by an officer whose special function it should be to concern himself with what might be called the administrative part of the management of the dockyards, in the same way as the Controller was assisted by the Constructor, who designed 1175 ships. It was precisely in an administrative point of view that the Controller's department was at present weaker than the others; its constructive ability was very great. Hitherto the officer whose duty it had been to occupy himself with the highest scientific questions of the day connected with the designing of ships, and to follow the processes of shipbuilding in other countries, had also had to attend to the very smallest questions of administrative policy—such as the adjustment of the rate of pay between different classes of workmen. That had always appeared very undesirable to him, and he was anxious there should be in the Controller's department an officer whose continuous attention should be given to these administrative questions. It was impossible to insure that the man would be both the best naval architect and the best administrator that could be selected, for the capacity for building ships was distinct from the capacity for administering dockyards; and he thought no one would maintain that the man whose duty it was to produce designs for iron-clads should determine that the rate of pay between caulkers and joiners was properly adjusted. From considerations of this kind, it had appeared to him that this plan, which had caused him the greatest anxiety for the last three or four months, ought to be adopted. He had considered it in all its details, and the noble Lord opposite would not expect him to abandon it in consequence of the expression of a few adverse opinions. What he wished to secure was the presence in the Controller's department of a high officer, who, though he might be thoroughly competent to design ships, should consider it his main duty to deal with the particular class of questions which arose in regard to the administration of the dockyards—questions as to whether the various dockyards were producing the same quantity and quality of work in proportion to their resources, whether the number of men on the Establishment bore a proper proportion to the number not on the Establishment, and questions as to pay and promotion. He did not wish this officer, however, to deal with such questions without consulting the Controller; but, as the Controller had the Naval Architect and the Chief Constructor to assist him in de- 1176 signing, he ought also to have some one to investigate questions of this kind for him. One reason why he did not wish to bring this question before the House at an earlier period was that he might have the advantage of conferring with the present Controller on the subject. During the last three months he had listened to the representations made to him by the Constructors—that they thought his plan, as originally framed, would interfere too much with their power and control over the building in the dockyards. He informed them that if they thought the administrative officer would be placed in too high a position as compared with the Constructors, he was willing to waive that point, as he did not wish him to take the place of Deputy Controller in the sense of being second in the whole office, and having authority over the others. What he wished was to have an officer to discharge this particular class of duties, for the performance of which he would, under the Controller, be held specially responsible. He must point out to the Committee that there was at present a Council of Construction, the arrangements in regard to which differed to a considerable extent from those which existed when the noble Lord opposite was in office. Formerly the Chief Constructor made some designs without consulting any of his colleagues, but at present the plan adopted was as follows:—Though one Constructor designed a ship, all designs were submitted to the President of the Council of Construction and his colleagues. They met together and discussed each design in all its details before it was submitted to the Board of Admiralty, by which means they believed they insured more correctness, and each Constructor got the advantage of the opinions of the others, although, of course, he was himself the author of the design. Now, he proposed that the new officer should also be a member of the Council of Construction, in order that he might hear all that was going on in regard to construction, and give his opinion on the mode of carrying out the designs. He expected this Surveyor of Dockyards to relieve the Constructors from a portion of the work which, in his opinion, interfered with their higher duties at present, and to give them more time for working out their designs. The noble Lord opposite 1177 was aware that there was one Constructor less than the number which existed in his time, owing to Mr. Reed's place not having been filled up. He proposed to leave the number of Constructors as it was at present, but to maintain the strength of the department by separating the duties of the administration of the dockyards—to make one man responsible for them, giving ample authority to the Naval Architect and his colleagues to proceed to the dockyards, and to have the same control over the execution of the designs as they now exercised. He denied that the adoption of the plan would cause an increase of £1,000 in the Estimate, as far as the Surveyor of Dockyards was concerned, for in such a contingency it would not be necessary to appoint another Constructor. The noble Lord opposite had asserted that this Vote increased the Estimates by £8,000, and he mentioned the circumstance in connection with the reorganization—although it was true he did not say it was due to the reorganization. Of that increase of £8,000, no less than £3,000 was paid for the rent of certain houses which the Department had been obliged to occupy. [Lord HENRY LENNOX said, he could only take the figures as they were laid upon the Table.] The noble Lord, if he examined the Estimates, would find the details of this sum of £3,000 there set forth. Then a further addition of £3,000 was owing to the progressive increase in the salaries of the clerks, though he might mention that there had been no increase in the number of clerks employed; and only the balance of £2,000 odd was due to the reorganization. There was another change which he hoped would commend itself to the Committee. At present there was but one Engineer, although the sums passing through the hands of the Admiralty for engines, boilers, machinery, &c., in the dockyards were enormous. It was proposed, therefore, to appoint an Assistant Engineer. The cardinal point to which his right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) attached so much importance was, that each man at the Admiralty should be responsible for his own work, and that it should not be done jointly by a Board. Formerly the executive acts were the acts of the Board of Admiralty. His right hon. Friend separated the work, and made every 1178 man responsible for his own work, the First Naval Lord being personally responsible for the personnel, and the Controller for the matériel of the Navy, while the other Lords were responsible to the First Naval Lord. The noble Lord said he (Mr. Goschen) had reestablished the Board. But he had not re-established the executive functions of the Board, and each man was responsible in precisely the same way as he used to be. The responsibilities of some persons might have been widened, and the responsibilities of others modified; but the fact remained that each was responsible for his work, and that it was not the action of the Board of Admiralty. They had their daily meetings every morning. The various Lords and the Secretaries met and heard the most important of the letters read, so that they had every information as to what was going on, and had the opportunity of communicating freely. That was not the old system. Under that system the Secretary was present when the Board assembled, and he minuted a number of decisions. At present no man was relieved from his responsibility by saying that the Board met or had come to a certain decision. To the responsibility of individual members of the Board he attached the greatest importance, and he could not allow that the value of the reforms introduced by his right hon. Friend had been in any way diminished by the changes he had made. He had been anxious to explain to the Committee the spirit in which he wished to arrange the appointment of the Surveyor of Dockyards. He was convinced it was an appointment in the public interest, and he must decline to accept the advice tendered him by the noble Lord opposite that he should drop that appointment.
said, that in the earlier part of the Session he asked the House to agree to a Resolution affirming that the Order in Council of January 14, 1869, had tended to the disadvantage of the Naval Service, and ought to be reconsidered. He then pointed out the particulars in which the Order in Council had worked badly—namely, in regard to the disuse of Consultative Boards—the combination of the office of Controller with that of a Lord of the Admiralty—the reduction of the number of Naval Lords, and the change which reduced the position of the Parliamentary 1179 Secretary to that of a mere head of a department. These were the whole changes made by the Order in Council of 1869. The First Lord, in reply, conceded the whole question, and consented to revise the Order in Council in all those respects, and it was upon that undertaking that he allowed his Motion to be negatived without a division. The First Lord introduced each of these concessions with much circumlocution, and wished it to be understood that no change in principle had been made. He did not blame him for letting down the late First Lord, as sailors would say, "handsomely." He did not blame him for that. It was sufficient for him that the Order in Council had been subverted root and branch. The right hon. Gentleman said that his Predecessor had made great changes in the right direction. All he cared for was that he had reversed the Order in Council, which had introduced those changes, in every particular in which it differed from the old system. The right hon. Gentleman still asserted that there had been no departure in principle from the system established in 1869. If he thought that to be the case he should not be so satisfied with the changes made as he was. Although, however, the modifications now made in the Order in Council were a great improvement, there was still too much of the old leaven left. There was, especially, too great an attempt at adherence to the departmental system at the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman said that under the system introduced by the late First Lord each man was responsible for his own department. That was, however, also the case under the old system as it had been left by Sir James Graham. Each Lord brought his own business to the Board, and each was responsible as now, and there was a permanent officer at the head of each department. The First Sea Lord of the present Board, Sir Sydney Dacres, in his evidence, laughed at the idea of his responsibility being any greater now than under the old system, when he served with himself (Mr. Corry) at the Admiralty. At the Admiralty the departments were so dovetailed into each other that it was impossible to draw a hard-and-fast line between them. The most salient development of the departmental system was the appointment of three permanent Secretaries—one to each de- 1180 partment—for the Controller was to sign as a Secretary in his own department. Such a regulation could lead to nothing but confusion. There would be one set of men attending to one set of letters and one class of business, and another set of men to another class of business. There were to be two co-equal Secretaries—one to look after the personnel of the Navy, and another to attend to the financial business; while the Controller was to be virtually a third Secretary, responsible for the correspondence relating to the matériel of the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the new system to the House, said—After this arrangement has come into operation, I hope there will be no longer any doubt as to who is responsible for letters which leave the Admiralty."—[3 Hansard, ccx. 211.]He, on the contrary, thought that no one would ever know who was responsible for the letters leaving the Admiralty, and that it would be difficult to know where to find a letter. Formerly there was only one Permanent Secretary, and Mr. Romaine was not overwhelmed with work. He was responsible for all, and there was but one Record Office. Sir John Briggs, who had served a life at the Admiralty, said—If I was called upon to find a paper, it was brought to me in a minute, because all papers passed through one hand.That was the hand of the Permanent Secretary of the Admiralty. What did Sir Sydney Dacres say before the Megæra Commission?—Since the Admiralty was centralized so much more papers are lost in a day than in three months before. You never know where they are gone to. They go to the Store branch—they go to the Controller's branch—they go here and there.That was the difference between letters passing through one and many hands. Great hilarity was excited when Mr. Lushington, in his evidence before the Megæra Commission, talked about a "phantom Board," and said that the business was done "here and there." But that was the inevitable consequence of this diversity of Secretaries, each in charge of a separate Department, and he was certain it would be found that the three-Secretary system was one which would work as badly as possible. [Mr. GOSCHEN: There were two Secretaries—a Parliamentary and Permanent Secretary—under the old system.] Yes; but all letters passed through one hand—that 1181 of the Permament Secretary. There was now no one person in the Office who had his hand upon the whole business of the Office, as the Permanent Secretary used to have. Some time ago he wrote to a gentleman—not Sir John Briggs, whom he had so often quoted—of very great experience in Admiralty administration, and asked him what he thought of this division of responsibility between the Secretaries. He replied—With three Secretaries presiding over different departments, it would be self-evident there would be three acting independently of each other's acts, and probably not in unison. In the Admiralty all matters are so dovetailed together that departmental organization must be a failure. The Secretaries ought to be in subordination one to the other—the first Parliamentary, the second financial, the third assistant.He cordially concurred in that view. As long as all the business passed through one hand, that hand was competent to deal with everything. But when one man knew nothing about the personnel, another knew nothing about the matériel, and another knew nothing about the financial business, everything would fall into confusion. To make the Controller the signing officer for matters relating to matériel appeared to him a most extraordinary arrangement. The Controller had something else to do besides wasting his time in signing papers. He could speak from experience, for at one period of his service at the Admiralty half his time was taken up in signing papers, and he could not describe how much it bored him, if he might so speak, and how it interfered with his attention to the real business of his department. And was the Controller's precious time to be taken up in that way?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
He is to have the right of signing such letters about matériel as he wishes; but he is not bound to sign them.
What became, then, of the departmental system? and who was to sign the other letters relating to matériel? In former times the Controller was the servant of the Board; the late First Lord of the Admiralty made him a Member of the Board; but under the system established by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Controller was neither servant nor member. That being so, on whose behalf was the Controller to sign? How was it that an officer, who was neither servant of the Board nor member of the Board, was to exercise 1182 the functions of the Board? He had objected to the arrangement of the right hon. Member for Pontefract, which made the Controller a Lord of the Admiralty; but in this respect it was better than the present arrangement. Here was a man who was neither a member nor a servant of the Board, but a mere abstraction, and yet the whole details of the matériel of the Navy were to be regulated by him, and he was to sign letters relating to the whole business of the dockyards; by what right, he was at a loss to understand. There was another part of the present arrangement to which he should attach very much importance if he did not know that the whole thing was, to use a vulgar word, "bosh," from beginning to end. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract had attempted to establish the principle that there was to be no intervening influence between the Controller and the First Lord; that no one of the Naval Members of the Board—not even the First Sea Lord himself—was to have any right to interfere with the Controller. But he defied the right hon. Gentleman to carry on the business of the Navy on such a system. Would the right hon. Gentleman inform him that Sir Sydney Dacres never interfered? The instance of the difference between Sir Sydney Dacres and Sir Spencer Robinson, in the evidence before the Duke of Somerset's Committee, respecting the building of the Raleigh, would be recollected, in which Sir Sydney Dacres not only interfered, but said the notions of the Controller ought not to be considered. He did not agree with his hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck) when he dwelt this evening on the danger of having a civilian First Lord of the Admiralty. But if the First Lord was to take the superintendence of the whole business of the Controller into his own hands, the question would assume a different aspect. The First Naval Lord always had, and always must have, a direct right of interference. What did the right hon. Gentleman's own Order in Council say? It said this—The Naval Lords shall be responsible for all business relating to the personnel of the Navy and to the movement and condition of the Fleet.Who on earth was it that put the Fleet into a condition to be moved but the Controller of the Navy, and how could the First Naval Lord be responsible if 1183 he had no right to interfere? He had reason to believe, however, that things were managed pretty much as usual. He met a distinguished officer the other day who was likely to know something of the matter, and he told him that things were carried on now very much as they were in former times, which he thought creditable to the good sense of the First Lord. The question, therefore, was really hardly worth discussing. There was one appointment to which he meant to have taken very strong objection, but for the fact that it had been so fully and ably dealt with by his noble Friend the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), and that the matter had been explained to-night in a more or less satisfactory way by the First Lord of the Admiralty. He referred to the office of Deputy Controller. The Deputy Controller was stated by the First Lord in his opening speech on the Estimates to be oneWhose special business is to attend to the efficient working of the dockyards and to deal, without reference to the Controller, with most of those questions which touch merely the administration of the dockyards."—[3 Hansard, ccx. 208.]He was glad, however, to find that the strict subordination of the Deputy Controller was to be provided for. He did not think, however, that the appointment was likely to conduce to the interests of the service. One argument used in favour of appointing a Deputy Controller was that the Controller was so overworked that he had not time to perform his proper functions. But the right hon. Gentleman himself and his predecessor were the cause of that by throwing on the Controller business with which he ought to have nothing to do, and adding to his proper duties those of the Storekeeper General, whose office had been abolished. The Controller of the Navy was responsible for the success or failure of such enormous and complicated ships as the Devastation, the Sultan, and others—vessels upon which millions of money had been spent. And was an officer, whose attention ought to be devoted to these most important duties, and to the economical and efficient working of the dockyards—was he to be mixed up with the petty details of the purchase of stores, and such miserable questions as whether "Baxter's Mixture" was to be used on board Her Majesty's ships or not? There 1184 was another very unsatisfactory arrangement. When he was commenting on the defects of the system introduced by the right hon. Member for Pontefract, he ventured at some length to speak of the confusion which prevailed in the Admiralty in the absence of the First Lord. Sir Spencer Robinson, in his evidence before the Duke of Somerset's Committee, speaking on this point, said—"When the First Lord has been away nobody has known to whom to apply." In fact, there was no captain of the ship. It was, then, every man for himself, and God for us all. He asked the First Lord of the Admiralty to put an end to this unsatisfactory state of things. The right hon. Gentleman said—In the absence of the First Lord, the First Sea Lord will have the chief authority concerning the Fleet, and he will be the head of the whole Admiralty, in connection with the Parliamentary Secretary, on all other questions."—[Ibid. 210.]But what if the First Sea Lord also was away? In nine cases out of ten when the First Lord of the Admiralty was absent on official business, he would have the First Sea Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary with him. Who then would have the chief authority at the Admiralty? When the late First Lord hoisted the Admiralty Flag in command of the Channel Squadron, Sir Sydney Dacres was naturally the Lord who accompanied him, and the Parliamentary Secretary would almost necessarily be present at the visitations of the dockyards. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to have a morbid apprehension of a Board as a governing body; but was it not a most reasonable proposition that, in the absence of the First Lord of the Admiralty, the work of the Admiralty should be carried on by the Board? He was glad to say there was one part of the arrangements made by the First Lord of the Admiralty with which he cordially agreed, and that was the restoration of the office of Chief Engineer. He thought that the abolition of that office in 1869 was a great mistake, and the substitution of an Engineer Assistant, with a reduced salary, was a most lamentable piece of economy. The best men ought to be put over the Constructive and Engineer Departments, and he quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) that in securing the services of the best men for those offices money ought to be no object.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, he had hoped from what happened on the last debate on the Navy Estimates that an opportunity would have been given on the present occasion for a discussion of the general question of the administration of the Navy, and he confessed that he was greatly disappointed in finding that instead of a general discussion on that subject only fragmentary propositions were the subjects of debate. The topic that ought to be the subject of this debate was the re-organization of the Navy, not the condition of details with regard to it. When the Navy Estimates were introduced, he gathered from the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty that the Chief Constructor was to be merely in the position of a naval architect, and not interfere in the construction of works designed in his office. He (Mr. Samuda) ventured to think there could not be a more reasonable proposition than that the Chief Constructor should confine himself to the scientific portion of his duties apart from the Administrative. But if the Chief Constructor was to be confined simply to the work of designing and of scientific construction, without having the advantage which naturally flowed from directing the execution of that which he had designed, he would never improve in the production of work. He thought, therefore, that the connection between the construction department and the Executive departments could not be divorced without most serious injury, and that confusion, imperfection, and other serious mischiefs would certainly result from doing so. [Mr. GOSCHEN said, the hon. Member had misapprehended what he had said with regard to the Chief Constructor.] He was extremely glad to find that he had misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman on that subject. It was not advisable that this Committee should go further than to suggest what should be the particular character of the Admiralty Board, and he thought the Government had made a mistake when they accepted the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, and vested responsibility in regard to Admiralty matters in a single head. It was of the utmost importance to the country that a Board should be formed upon which the Government and the country could rely for possessing the greatest possible amount of professional knowledge, and 1186 for ensuring a continuous improvement in the character of the work performed, and he was opposed to the hand-to-mouth system that now existed. He admitted that the matter was a difficult one, but the difficulty was increased by the attempt to concentrate power in one man, and he was glad to hear that that policy was to be changed. A single Member of that House could not possess sufficient knowledge to take a comprehensive view of what was required, and instead, therefore, of carving out the work into several departments, there ought to be a Board comprising men experienced in naval knowledge, gunnery construction, and engineering, presided over by a statesman acquainted with the requirements of the Empire, who could lay down a plan of operations for 10 or 12 years. Instead of a change of system on every change in the Administration, a complete programme of the number of ships to be built, the proportion of each class, and money to be spent during the long period referred to ought to be drawn up which should not be lightly departed from, and which an incoming Minister must either adopt or give good reasons for deviating from. It would be a fatal mistake to do nothing for a few years, and wait for the experience of the next naval war, because, possibly, attack would become so much more formidable than defence, that armour-plating might have to be thickened and ultimately abandoned altogether. The country required a good state of defence, should be always preserved, and required that the Navy should always be the best that the knowledge of the day could supply, and it was undesirable either to look too far ahead or to reject any improvement. The First Lord should have colleagues able to furnish him with the best information, and supplementing that by information from outside, he with his Board ought to lay down a comprehensive plan, in which case many of these discussions—which were of little use, for if they affected one Government they did not influence another—might be dispensed with.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he thought the Committee were bound, before voting £174,000 for Admiralty administration, to see that it was satisfactory, which he feared was not the case. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) urged on a former occasion that, under the pre- 1187 sent system, work being done separately, it could be ascertained by whom anything was done; yet it took an able Commission four months' labour and 17,000 questions to find out, not by whom the necessary work on the Megæra was done, but by whom it was left undone. He doubted whether, should a necessity unfortunately arise, it could be traced by whom work could be done or left undone, and he was convinced that the blame in the Megæra case had not been placed on the right shoulders. He believed the responsibility of her leaving our shores in her actual condition rested on the Minister who boldly and manfully assumed that responsibility at the time, yet it had never been brought home to him, and every one, except the right man, had been censured. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of the business being divided into three principal departments—the personnel, headed by the First Sea Lord, the matériel, by the Controller, and the finance. The great fault in the recent Admiralty system—if, indeed, it were not the fault of the present system—was a straining for over-consolidation. Sir Charles Trevelyan, in giving evidence before Lord Strathnairn's Committee, had stated, in reference to military matters, that when consolidation was carried beyond a certain point it ceased to be consolidation, and became dangerous and unmanageable accumulation. If that were true with regard to the Army, why was it not equally true with regard to the Navy?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
explained that the appointment which was to be provided for by this Vote was intended to obviate the inconveniences of too great consolidation.
§ MR. LIDDELL
If that were the case, its proposal was a condemnation of the existing system. With reference to the proposal to appoint a Surveyor of Dockyards under the Controller, he begged to remind the House of a Report published 20 years ago by a Parliamentary Committee of the French Chamber appointed to inquire into the whole system and scope of Admiralty administration and organization as it then existed in France. The French nation were entitled to special credit for their aptitude for organization, and any conclusion they came to on such questions was deserving of great weight. The Committee to which he had referred 1188 were of opinion that if an officer were appointed to the headship of any Department, who was to take the place of his chief in any administrative function, either jealousy would arise between them if the officers were equal in ability, or the more able would absorb the authority of the less able officer, who would become a nullity. That was precisely the danger that was to be apprehended from the present proposal. How was it to be ascertained that the gentleman to be charged with the administration of the dockyards was not a superior man to the Controller, in which case jealousies would be sure to arise between them? Nothing could be more fatal to the administration of the dockyards than that a conflict of power should occur between these two officers. Before sitting down, there were one or two statements that he wished to refer to; the first was, that the Prime Minister had attempted to draw an analogy between the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the First Naval Lord of the Admiralty, but there was no analogy whatever between those officers. In the first place, the Commander-in-Chief was a military man of the highest possible position and experience; and, secondly, he was a permanent officer, while the great defect of the Board of Admiralty was its want of permanence. Another point of difference between them was that the personal status of the Commander-in-Chief was far higher than that of the First Naval Lord, and his weight and personal authority proportionately greater. Doubtless, the right hon. Gentleman who held the office of First Lord of the Admiralty with great ability and energy, would in the course of a few years render himself thoroughly conversant with the requirements of the Navy, but just when he had obtained the knowledge he would be superseded by some person who might be as ignorant of them. That was one great blot on our Naval administration, and he thought they ought to take a leaf out of the book of the sister service and appoint a permanent head of the Navy. A permanent First Lord ought to be insisted upon by the House of Commons—a permanent head, though under the control of the Secretary of State for the Department. Another point was this—that the naval element in the Board of Admiralty was unrepresented in the 1189 House of Commons. [Mr. GOSCHEN: Hear, hear!] That used not to be so. When he first entered the House, two—and he had even known as many as three—naval men connected with the Admiralty sat on the Treasury bench, and were able to afford the House whatever information it desired on naval matters. But now—though hon. Members might hear rumours of conflicts of opinion between the civilian and naval Members of the Board—they were able to obtain only the civilian version of the controversy through the lips of the civilian First Lord. Lastly, although he believed that the manning of the Navy in time of peace was all that could be wished, still he was of opinion that the system was very defective in not providing for manning the ships in sudden emergencies. The general condition of the Naval Reserve, including the Coastguard, Naval Coast Volunteers, and short-service Pensioners, was a discredit to the Government, and a source of apprehension to the country. The whole of those Forces were at a miserably low ebb, and the Royal Naval Reserve was also in a declining condition in point of numbers; and it must have been with pain and apprehension that the country heard the statement last year of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord, that out of 500 men required to make up the deficiency in the Fleet, only 50 had been obtained in six months. He wished to know what steps had been taken since that time to establish efficient Reserves.
§ MR. RYLANDS
presumed that the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) had no intention of dividing the Committee on the proposed reduction of the Vote by £1,000 after the explanation which had been given, and therefore the question before them reverted to the main subject of Admiralty administration. He must enter his protest against the observations of the last speaker with regard to the office of a First Lord of the Admiralty. It was, no doubt, a blot in the system when the First Lord of the Admiralty was not a man who had had previous experience in the Department; but it would be unfortunate if the position of head of the Admiralty were confined to naval officers. Under the present system statesmen of great capacity and industry were, no doubt, appointed, and after the necessary period of appren- 1190 ticeship succeeded in becoming well acquainted with their duties; but by that time either the Government of which they were Members had run its course, or internal changes of the Cabinet had to be made, the result being that the affairs of the Navy were handed over to some one else, who had to learn the very rudiments of his new duties. The right hon. Member for Pontefract—the late First Lord—had previous experience of the Department before being placed at its head, and he administered the affairs of the Admiralty in a manner which, in his opinion, left nothing to be desired. They wanted a system that, while it would be efficient and economical, would insure a sufficient measure of responsibility. It appeared to him that they did not now secure that responsibility. Again, the cost of the Department, apart from its efficiency, was gradually increasing, and the First Lord had not given quite a satisfactory explanation of that increase. It appeared from Returns that that expenditure had risen nearly £12,000 in the last two years; and if it went on increasing every year they would soon lose all the benefit they expected to derive from the changes made by the right hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Childers), and those changes, instead of ending in economy, would be followed by a considerable loss to the public. He did not want to cut down salaries, but to get rid of unnecessary and inefficient officials, and a great portion of the increase of expenditure was owing to the increase in the number of appointments. He agreed with the hon. Member for Hastings that they should have a first-class man at the head of each department of the Admiralty, and that to secure his services they must be prepared to give him a good salary. The present administration of the Admiralty was not satisfactory, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) would impress on his subordinates a sense of responsibility.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
desired to congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty on the changes which he had made, and on what he trusted would be the restoration of the Board to a more efficient state. The changes which the right hon. Gentleman had explained to the Committee showed that although he had not yet fully determined upon having the consultative aid of the Board on all occa- 1191 sions, still he proposed to avail himself of constant meetings with the Board, and to obtain from them the information that was necessary to enable him to conduct the affairs of the Navy. Of the changes made by the late First Lord (Mr. Childers), the one which brought the greatest difficulty upon himself, and which proved most disadvantageous to the conduct of public business, was the doing away with too many heads of different departments. The permanent heads of departments ought not to have more business thrown upon their departments than they could fully look after and control. He would recommend the present First Lord, instead of endeavouring to draw a hard-and-fast line between personnel, matériel, and finance, to place permanent officials at the head of great departments, which would require the whole time and attention of one man. If they assigned to a man more than he could possibly control, they could not expect him to be fully responsible. There were, he thought, 14 departments at the Admiralty, at the head of each of which there ought to be a permanent official. The manning and the discipline of the Navy certainly required a permanent official to superintend them. The Coastguard and the Reserves also required the constant attention of a separate officer. Then the Marines, of whom there were 18,000, ought to have at their head an officer who was in direct relation with the Board of Admiralty. The Director General of the Medical Department ought also to be an entirely distinct officer, and in direct relation to the Admiralty. So likewise should it be with the Accountant General, the Storekeeper General, and the Controller of Victualling. There was nothing so likely to lead to disaffection among their seamen and men who were serving their country, as the supposition that the food and the clothing with which they were to be supplied were not of the best description, and that there was not to be an officer who should be personally responsible for the excellent quality of all those articles. Therefore, the Controller of Victualling ought to be a separate officer. Then there should be a Registrar of Contracts—an officer who should see that all contracts for the Navy were made in a proper form and with proper persons. The office of Controller of the Navy should be subordinate to the 1192 Board; he disliked the ambitious name of Controller of the Navy, and would prefer the old name of Surveyor. The office of Chief Engineer ought to be a separate one, and he was glad the right hon. Gentleman was about to re-introduce it. The office of Director of Naval Ordnance was created at his own suggestion, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich was at the head of the Admiralty, and ought to be continued in an independent position. The office of Director of Transports must be continued, as well as that of the Hydrographer. This, with a proper system of record, would make a good working system of administration. If there were 14 departments—and 10 of them now existed—with a permanent officer at the head of each, responsible for details, he believed there would be no difficulty in attaching responsibility for everything to the proper officer. It would be for the First Lord to decide which of the Lords of the Admiralty should superintend and consult with these principal officers, who ought to be brought into direct contact with the Board on all important occasions. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman, having made such considerable changes, would frankly accept the counsel and advice of the naval members of his Board, and if he did so he would, no doubt, avoid a recurrence of disasters such as had recently happened. The hon. Member for Warrington had scarcely given the information to be desired from the Return to which he had alluded. In 1868–9, when the right hon. Member for Tyrone was First Lord, the charge in the Navy Estimates for the aggregate salaries of the town department was £186,292; the aggregate salaries at the dockyards amounted to £177,920, and pensions to £91,435, making a total of £455,647. There were many reductions during the year, and some were due to the closing of Deptford Dockyard. In 1869–70, when the Estimates were moved by the right hon. Member for Pontefract, they showed a reduction of £59,013; this was partly due to reductions made by the right hon. Gentleman himself, and partly to the reductions made by the right hon. Member for Tyrone. The salaries in the two departments amounted to £167,213; those in the dockyards to £146,434; and the pensions to £82,987, making a total of £396,634. In 1870–71 a further re- 1193 duction of £9,131 was made, but the pensions were increased from £82,987 to £114,893; the town charges were £156,773; those for the dockyards, £115,837; and, with the pensions, the total was £387,503. In 1871–2 the total was increased to £406,045, and the pensions rose from £114,893 to £121,736. In 1872–3 there was another increase to £410,034; so that between 1869–70 and 1872–3 there was an increase of £22,531. He had no reason to suppose that appointments were made unnecessarily; but there would have been economy in employing those who were enjoying pensions, through having been withdrawn from the public service, for he doubted very much whether the class of gentlemen who now performed the duties were equal to the old and skilled officers who had been pensioned off. The Returns showed that the saving which had been effected by the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor was not so great as had been supposed, and that because the pension list had received such enormous additions. In conclusion, he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman opposite upon having so far reversed the policy of his predecessor.
said, that that class of Votes for the last two or three years had been of that nature that he could hardly refrain from saying a few words on them. With true liberality Parliament had been attempted to be muzzled, but whether successfully or not he did not know; at all events, that afternoon they had had the advantage of a free fight. When the Suez Canal was opened there were some of our ships went out red-hot from Admiralty training, and went bump ashore. There were criminations, recriminations, and a Report on a bad misfortune to the Captain; and then there was an old tin-kettle with a hole in her bottom, and the Admiralty were not men enough to find out the cause of that hole, she was run ashore, and then they had a Commission. What that Commission revealed as to the reign of the blessed state of confusion in that Department he did not think it was possible to conceive, but for the graphic way in which these facts had been brought out. He did not blame either the present, or the late, or any particular Board of Admiralty, for those who had been in the habit of watching these matters for some years could not help seeing that the dis- 1194 solution of the unity of the Board began at least 14 years ago, and that was the opinion expressed by Sir James Graham in the year 1861. Indeed, Mr. Burnaby, when examined before a Committee, stated that the whole Board of Admiralty as to information on the matter of the Megæra, was in a fool's paradise. But that was not the most curious thing which came out on the Commission. In 1870, what was called an "untoward" circumstance broke out, and when it appeared that there was very likely to be a war, the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the Controller of the Navy were at loggerheads as to the state of preparation we were in. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he had been misreported; but so far as he (Mr. Henley) recollected, no explanation had been given on that point. The First Lord and the Government of which he was a Member had always assumed the responsibility of all that had been done; but, curiously enough, in 1869, not satisfied with the traditions of 170 years, the Government established that responsibility by a curious Order in Council. Nothing could be more definite on paper than the Order in Council of January, 1869, but during the criminations and recriminations which were consequent upon the disasters that happened, the then First Lord gave an interpretation of the Order which, in his judgment, differed materially from the spirit and meaning of the Order itself. According to the Order, the First Naval Lord was reponsible to the First Lord for advice as to the personnel of the Navy, and the Controller was to be similarly responsible in matters relating to construction and material; but then this responsibility was limited by the right hon. Gentleman only so long as these and other officers whose functions were defined by the Order in Council faithfully performed the duties of their departments, communicating with each other when necessary, and advising the First Lord and taking his decision upon all matters requiring his authority. This was a queer kind of responsibility, fined down as it was, and only existing while those officers "faithfully performed their duty." The existing confusion need not be wondered at. It was the natural result of the system. Each of the officers whose responsibility was thus marked out would naturally be jealous. At the 1195 Admiralty there had always been an almost insane jealousy of any man taking an order from anybody else; and so it seemed in these matters. It suggested the old and trite simile of the bundle of sticks—strong when bound together, but when separated showing exactly the weakness and the confusion which had existed at the Admiralty for the last few years. He hardly wondered when he remembered the changes which had occurred—from sailing to steam vessels; from paddles to screw; from wooden screws to iron; from iron to iron-clads; and, after all these changes, a new Commission issued to see whether we were not all wrong, to find that it was helplessly divided in opinion, and actually recommended nothing. He believed that, instead of weakening the Admiralty by dividing it, prudence would have suggested that its strength should be increased and its different parts bound closely together. This separation into different departments, each department standing on its own legs, had its rise in a pamphlet called Faults and Defaults, but whither had it lead us? The old plan had stood us in good stead for something like 170 years, and had never failed us, though whilst it lasted some things might have been more expensively and less rapidly done than they were now. The last trial of the old system occurred at the beginning of the Crimean War. Those who were in Parliament before that period would remember how the House was exercised night after night by old Sir Charles Napier, who told the House that the French were far quicker than we were, and would sweep the Channel if war occurred. But what happened? War did break out. A sudden necessity arose. The English and French Fleets were to proceed on a joint expedition to the Baltic. Who were there first? The English Fleet. Had it been a war of another kind we, therefore, should have swept the Channel; and though Sir Charles Napier complained of his men, and said many of them were cabmen and people of all sorts, Sir Michael Seymour's evidence was that the crews were less raw than the French, and that the Fleet was able to do good service. In his evidence before the Megæra Commission, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract said, in effect—"See my position, with some of the de- 1196 partments at Somerset House, and others at the immeasurable distance of Spring Gardens!" The right hon. Gentleman did not use the word "immeasurable," but if such a complaint as this were made in a time of profound peace, what would happen during war? Under the old system no such complaint would have been dreamt of. Then the Controller said that 70,000 letters passed through his office in a year, and he had only 30 clerks to answer them, and no first clerk to tell him what to write. What a humiliating statement, again, in a time of profound peace! He could not conceive anything more painful to an Englishman. It was bad enough five or six years ago, when the present Prime Minister, then Chancellor of the Exchequer—to induce the House to adopt some financial scheme of his—said we should never have the mastery of the sea which we had before. This was a painful statement; and the disorganization of this great Department was painful too. It was equally painful when those who were appointed to consider the best form of ships dwarfed down their inquiry by saying they supposed they should have to consider the maintenance of a naval force capable of meeting that of any one Power. Good gracious! what premises to start from! Formerly, when we were as a nation only half what we were now, we had the pluck to meet successfully the whole world. Some little change seemed to be occurring at the Board, but he believed it was better to go upon the experience of the last 170 years than to set up these ninepins to be tumbled over so easily. Our first line of defence was the best, and, if we did not keep masters of the seas as we did once, he doubted whether anybody would think it worth while to come here, but we should be kept like rats in a cage. Nobody would think it worth while to put his hand in with the risk of being bitten. Considering how we depended on foreign countries for corn and for the money to pay our workmen, he was anxious that our first line of defence should be a good one, so that we could not only encounter all comers, but thrash them. Unless the Government could manage naval matters better than they had done for the last few years, they ought to revert to the old system, and restore the unity of the Board, for by that course of conduct they would be 1197 restoring its strength, and so enabling it to turn its attention to those matters only which concerned its well-being. The tendency now at outports was to shirk responsibility and to smother the Admiralty with details, whereas it ought to be kept free from these and enabled to attend to greater matters.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that but for a sentence which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley) he should not have wished to take part in the debate, for with regard to the proposals of his right hon. Friend, though there were some which he did not think superior to the arrangements he should have desired, while in others he cordially concurred, he would willingly waive any doubt as to details in his right hon. Friend's favour, for he (Mr. Childers) knew the immense difficulties with which a First Lord had to contend, and the constantly fluctuating character of the questions with which he had to deal, and he was ready, therefore, to give him a steady support. He did not intend to enter into the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire about the business of the Admiralty during the last 14 years, either as to the amount of details—which he was happy to say were much reduced while he was in office—or as to the pamphlet mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, the merits of which he would leave him to settle with three or four hon. Gentlemen sitting near him (Mr. Henley) opposite, who were, on its appearance, zealous advocates of its principles. It would not, however, be respectful to the Committee if he omitted to notice the quotation unexpectedly made by the right hon. Gentleman from his own Minute on the Court Martial which sat on the loss of the Captain nearly two years ago. He had the misfortune of being unable to take part in the debates on that and two or three other subjects last Session—a misfortune which he felt to be irreparable, since it allowed statements of great importance made by persons of weight to go forth to the country without any power of challenge on his part. That misfortune he must bear; but the right hon. Gentleman having without notice alluded to a particular sentence in his Minute, and founded thereon an imputation against him, he felt bound even at this late stage of the debate to give 1198 at once as clear and precise an explanation as he could. The right hon. Gentleman had construed that sentence as implying that he had in some way endeavoured to escape from or lessen the responsibility which he from the first had claimed and assumed as to all the business of the Admiralty under his charge. Now, he wished to be allowed, though it was somewhat foreign to the question at issue, to state distinctly that that had never been his intention, and that he did not think his words were reasonably open to such a construction. The whole policy of the change which was made at the Admiralty in 1869 was that the First Lord assumed towards the House and the country the entire responsibility for all the administration of the Department. He assumed that responsibility with a full knowledge of the gravity of the task which he was undertaking, acting solely from a sense of duty, and he believed he abided by it to the last. If, therefore, there was any expression of his which could bear a construction inconsistent with that view, it was quite opposed to his intentions. He could not at the moment refer to the Minute, but he believed the expression referred to was to the effect that, having laid down that responsibility in the strongest possible words, he added that the First Lord was responsible for all decisions connected with the Naval service when the servants of the Admiralty brought the facts before him and sought for his decision. Now, that was obviously a sound view of responsibility. No head of Department could be responsible in any case for the acts of his subordinates when he had no knowledge of them, and no means of having that knowledge. He was responsible for them when he had knowledge of them afterwards, and had means of bringing those concerned to account. He was responsible for punishing or excusing them, or, at any rate, for the decision which he arrived at upon their acts. He must repeat, that without being able to refer to the exact words used in the Minute referred to, he had distinctly accepted and still accepted the entire responsibility for all the decisions of the Admiralty while he was First Lord. He had never shrunk from it or thrown it upon others, and should never think of doing so.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, that before withdrawing his Amendment, he 1199 wished to say that were he to enter into the question he might differ from the conclusion drawn by the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken from the words he had employed; but he had always felt that the right hon. Gentleman was entitled on such a subject to much consideration, and he did not intend to depart from the rule on which he had acted. He had moved the rejection of a Vote for the salary of a gentleman who was to have the official dealing with the dockyards and was to be entitled, without reference to the Controller, to carry on the administrative details of those establishments; but he was happy to have elicited from the First Lord an explanation that no such power was to be entrusted to him. He trusted from what he had heard that that official would have nothing to do with the administrative duties of the dockyards, with the construction or repairs of ships, and the other objectionable duties to which he had before alluded, and he would, therefore, ask the Committee to allow him to withdraw his Motion, and thus to add another phantom to what had been described as "the phantom Board of Admiralty."
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
said, he should like to know when the Navy Estimates were coming on again, and whether the Government would appoint a Morning Sitting in the course of the week for their further discussion? It was now the middle of July, and the House had as yet no opportunity of discussing the great question of naval stores.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he thought they had treated the Government that year with very great forbearance. That was the 15th of July, and they had not yet finished the Navy Estimates. He was informed by a most competent authority that the Navy Estimates were ready to be submitted to the House by the middle of April or beginning of May, and the House was perfectly ready at that time to discuss the various questions that came before them. There should be some little consideration shown to private Members who remained there during the greater part of the year, and gave as regular attendance in the House as they could. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the same course would not 1200 be pursued next year, for they would not spare Government next Session, [Laughter.] He meant what he said, and they would make more stringent efforts than they had during the present year.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
, in reply to the right hon. Member for Tyrone, stated that it was perfectly impossible that the Navy Estimates could be brought on again in the course of the week. They could not be brought on before Friday week.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock;
§ Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.