§ MR. GRAVES
, in rising to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the present means of manning the Navy, the keeping up of the requisite supply of men for the Naval Reserves, and to consider whether the services of the seamen of the Mercantile Marine and the seafaring population generally, might not be made more readily available for the Naval Service of the country in times of sudden emergency or war,said:—The House will probably remember that towards the close of last Session I submitted for its consideration a Motion similar in terms to the one I desire to propose to-day. The sense of the House was not then taken in consequence of an assurance given by the First Lord of the Admiralty that he would, on the responsibility of the Government, submit a scheme to Parliament this Session for dealing with the subject-matter of my Resolution. The assurance was conveyed in these words—I would suggest, therefore, that the hon Member for Liverpool should be content with the discussion which has arisen, and should not press his Motion to a division, being assured that the Government will attempt to deal with this matter, and will endeavour, on their own responsibility, to submit to Parliament a proposal in reference to it in the course of next Session. If the Government scheme shall be deemed inadequate, or if it shall be thought desirable to collect more information, it will then be in the power of the hon. Member to renew his Motion for a Commission."—[3 Hansard, ccvi. 1633.]The right hon. Gentleman was then but two months in office. I felt his appeal was reasonable, and having the fullest confidence in his ability to grapple with the question in a large and comprehensive spirit, I accepted his proposal, though I did not doubt then, nor have I doubted since, that the course I suggested would probably prove the more valuable mode for guiding this House to a right conclusion. We are now very near the close of another Session, and as no scheme has been laid on the Table of this House, I have thought it right to afford the First Lord an opportunity of unfolding his scheme, in order that I might, if I deemed it inadequate, take the sense of the House on it at the opening of next Session. It is not my intention to-day to enter into the subject so minutely as I felt was necessary on a former occasion. I do not wish to oc- 119 cupy the time of the House one moment longer than is necessary to put my views clearly before it; besides, the question is better understood, and there are indications that the public mind of the country is becoming more alive to the necessity of laying down a clearer and better defined policy as to what are the real requirements of the country—what, in fact, is sufficient for times of peace, and necessary for a great war; and having arrived at the best conclusions we can, then to base on that policy our naval and military expenditure, in place of resting our expenditure, as is our habit, on no settled principle, and without any consideration for the offensive and defensive requirements of the country. If we keep up great fleets and large armies through times of peace, the less thought we need give to our Reserves; but if, on the other hand, we aim at keeping down our annual expenditure on our Army and Navy, and still be ready for war—which we all know is the desire and the interest of the nation—then, I say, there is but one way of accomplishing this, and that is to have large Reserves trained, drilled, ready for the manning of our fleets, our gunboats, and our transports—Reserves which can be maintained through long years of peace in the ordinary industrial avocations of the country, and which can be relied on in periods of emergency. The experience of recent years clearly shows the policy of non-intervention which England has of late laid down for her general guidance is not a policy that leads to international friendships; on the contrary, it is calculated to weaken alliances. When the American struggle and the Franco-Prussian War terminated, we heard more or less dissatisfaction with England expressed by each of the contending parties; so I fear it ever will be, that a policy of non-intervention is regarded as a selfish policy, directly leading to isolation in the end; and we must not shut our eyes to the fact that the nation which adopts it must be prepared to rely upon her own resources and her own strong arm for resisting unaided every attack, come from what quarter it may. No one could have attended that remarkable gathering at Wimbledon a few days since and have witnessed the marvellous efficiency of the competitors, or the spirit which animated them, without feeling satisfied that with such Reserves our mili- 120 tary strength is equal to any possible emergency. Now, what I desire to see is our naval power supported by Reserves which would be to the Navy what our Wimbledon Volunteers are to the Army. There is no reason why we should not have such Reserves. We possess a loyal, hardy, brave, seafaring population, just as able and willing to defend our shores as our citizen soldiers are our soil—a race living on and by the sea, capable of acquiring the same high efficiency in the working of large guns and gunboats as our Volunteers have shown in the use of field guns and rifles; and yet with such natural materials at hand we have made but sorry progress in utilizing them. We have, it is true, good reason for relying on our fleets for offensive and defensive purposes; they are powerful, and manned by the sons of the men who fought at Trafalgar; but we must not overlook the fact that a naval disaster now, come from what course it may—storm, accident to hull, or machinery, or an enemy—will be a much more serious event than when in past times half-a-dozen ships could be ordered home to refit without materially weakening the strength of a fleet. The disabling of a single ship may now decide the fate of a naval engagement. If we desire to feel absolute security to prevent the recurrence of periodical panics, and the lavish expenditure which invariably follows panics, we must pay greater attention to our Reserves. We must have a comprehensive and voluntary system of coast defence; we must have gunboats in every port and estuary that will undertake to man them; the boats are easily provided, they cost a comparatively small sum each, and can be built in a few months; the men who would man them are just as easily obtainable, but it will take time to drill and train them. At all our principal ports we have a large sea-going population of pilots, watermen, riggers, and naval pensioners; 150,000 or more fishermen surround our shores, familiar with every bank and channel, the set of every tide, and who, knowing every inch of the coast, would attach themselves to their gunboats, handle the heavy guns after a time as readily as they do their oars, and who could in the face of any pressing danger be relied on to fight in defence of their shores, though they might have a repugnance to leaving their own homes. 121 If there are any who regard such a proposal as visionary or impracticable, they know but little of the resources of our ports, still less of the spirit which animates our seafaring population. It is only a few weeks since the First Lord vaguely intimated that if men could be found to work gunboats, the Government would not be indisposed to provide them. The mere suggestion was sufficient; a public meeting was held, and I understand sufficient men have volunteered to man four or five gunboats. A gentleman conversant with the spirit that animates the Scotch ports, writes me that in Dundee alone there would be no difficulty in creating a naval brigade for local purposes of 400 to 500 men; and the marine superintendent of a leading railway—himself a distinguished naval officer—writes me in reference to my proposal—The expense of this, the first step towards a complete system of coast defence would be trifling, excepting the first cost of the boats, and would, I think, suffice to protect each place against anything but an organized attack. Take, for instance, this district, with a gunboat stationed at Beaumaris, Amlwch, Holyhead, and Carnarvon, a glance at the chart will show you that under almost any circumstances, at least two of these could be concentrated in a very short time, and in narrow waters would prove a formidable foe to any sea-going vessel. Were the boats provided, I could easily organize such a force in my establishment as would suffice to protect this harbour from any ordinary attack by sea. No doubt, many companies trading from other ports could do the same, and the trifling outlay necessary to keep the vessels from rusting would be well repaid by the additional security to property in the event of war. At present, we have no means of resisting the attack of even a steam-launch.From other quarters I have received the same assurances, and I am persuaded that if we can but induce Her Majesty's Government to utilize by a comprehensive scheme the unrivalled resources which we possess round our shores, they would be consulting the best interests of the country. The steady diminution which is taking place in our Reserves generally cannot fail to attract the attention of the most casual observer. It is, in fact, the strong point of my case. The Manning Commission, which sat in 1861, was composed of some of our ablest statesmen; the present Secretary of State for War was the Chairman; there were also distinguished naval officers upon it, and Members of this House. In the Report of this Commission will 122 be found four important recommendations—That Coastguard service afloat and ashore should be 12,000; it is now 4,252. That the Royal Coast Volunteers should be kept up to 10,000; they are now reduced to 1,517. That the Royal Naval Reserve, composed of the best seamen in the Mercantile Marine, should be instituted, with a limit of 31,000. This force was over 16,000 in 1869, 15,000 in 1870, 13,500 when I last spoke on the subject, and is to-day 12,400. But perhaps the most important feature in the Report was that at all our principal ports training-ships should be established, in which the carefully-selected, robust youths of the country should be trained conjointly for the Navy and the Mercantile Marine services. We are to-day without a single ship for such a purpose, nor have we one receiving the slightest aid from the Admiralty. It is true the Admiralty has organized a very extensive, and I must say admirable, system for the recruiting of its own seamen, and the result is the seamen of the Navy have kept pace with the highly-skilled requirements of our ships, and in physique, discipline, training, and intelligence cannot be surpassed. The boys thus trained are only sufficient to keep up the normal strength of the Navy, which is now about 18,000 blue-jackets—just a sufficient number to man our ships in periods of profound peace. For sudden and prolonged emergencies we have, therefore, to rely on our Reserves, and it is for this reason it has always appeared to me that their quality and strength were just as deserving of attention as the number and strength of the Forces we relied on to resist the first shock of war, and yet the condition of the Mercantile Marine, or the mode by which it is recruited, has received but small consideration at the hands of any Government since that Commission reported. We had in our Mercantile Marine, in 1865,197,000 of all grades, and it was then shown by official Re-turns that 72,000 of this number were A.B.'s. It is much to be regretted that the Board of Trade discontinued the separation, for we have no Returns of later date; but as in 1870 the total number was 195,000, or 2,000 less than in 1865, though the tonnage in that time has increased, I am warranted in saying there were not more than 72,000 123 A.B.'s in 1870—I believe it to have been much less, for the scarcity of seamen was never greater than this year. The average annual drain is estimated by the best authorities at 16,000. Now, how is this drain met? About 5,000 boys enter annually as they best can; the residue is made up by the introduction of foreign seamen and landsmen. The latter, from their ages and habits, are incapable of becoming useful seamen; while the former, not being British subjects, are ineligible for Her Majesty's Navy, and are consequently valueless as Reserves, though they might, and no doubt would, be useful in the defence of their own flags. Various means have been taken to arrive at the precise number of foreigners in our service. The last official Return puts it down at 19,000, I think; but it is notorious that the great bulk of the foreign element is to be found in the A.B. class. It is not too much to assume that 20 per cent of our A.B.'s are foreigners. A close observation leads me to believe that the proportion is far greater, notwithstanding that some official Returns would show the contrary. There will always be great difficulty in getting at the exact truth, as we find from experience that England is claimed as the birthplace of foreigners in nearly every ship. To test the point fairly, I recently asked the marine authorities at Liverpool to take the last 50 sailing vessels and the last 50 steamers in foreign trade entering or leaving that port, to give me the number of A.B.'s, and how many of them were foreigners. Here is the result—In the 50 sailing vessels 375 A.B.'s were shipped, 224 of whom were British subjects, 151 being foreigners. In the 50 steamers there were 671 A.B.'s, 541 of whom were British subjects and 130 foreigners. Then if we take the crews discharged in the last 50 steamers, there were 653 A.B.'s paid off, 548 of whom were British subjects and 105 foreigners; while in the last 50 sailing ships there were 409 A.B.'s paid off, 277 of whom were British and 132 foreign; or, in all, 1, 590 British A.B.'s and 518 foreign, showing close to 30 per cent of foreign element in the blue-jackets of our Mercantile Marine. I have shown the result of the mode of recruiting the Royal Navy. I have over and over again asked that the same may be applied to the Mercantile Ma- 124 rine, so far without much success. I hope it will not be asked in vain to-day. It is not that we have not the lads; it is not that there is no demand. We have had recently in our midst a gathering of men distinguished for the interest they take in the welfare of mankind. From one we heard how the unemployed children of the City and State of New York were, after being educated, turned into useful citizens by being removed to the Western prairies, where they found unlimited employment, congenial to their tastes. It is true we have no Western prairies to which we may send our neglected youth; but we have ocean prairies just as unlimited and as valuable, and yet we see this remarkable state of things, that not one shilling of State money is given to the support or education of the children of the virtuous poor in training ships. They are absolutely ignored. The responsibility of the Government has so far been shared only by the reformatory or the industrial school ships, excellent institutions in their way; but if we are to raise the morale of the Mercantile Marine to that of the Navy, we must recruit from the same classes. I showed last year that the cost of educating boys for the Royal Navy was about £60 a-head, as contrasted with £20, the average cost per head in charitable training ships. I urged that some scheme should be devised for a common education; that boys for both services might be educated in the same ship; that the Admiralty should select the most suitable, the Mercantile Marine adopting the remainder; the expense of the former to be borne by the Naval Estimates, the latter by the mercantile fund—a fund created by shipping. I tried to show the scheme of recruiting for the Navy, though admirably adapted to times of peace, was simple isolation in times of war. I asked that the lads might be brought up together, and thus by early intercourse and association in time bring about a more perfect union between both services; and I suggested that the youth there trained for the Mercantile Marine should become members of a cadet Reserve. The House will probably expect that I should explain why the Reserves have dwindled down from 16,000 to 12,000—if I had said squeezed out by impracticable legislation, I should best describe the process which is at work; 125 and unless we can arrest it, we may rely on it we shall soon hear the question asked in this House, if trying to maintain a force annually falling into decay is not a waste of public money. The raising of the standard of height to 5 feet 5 inches—a greater height by half, if not an inch, than is to be found in the average of Her Majesty's ships—has been attended with the most mischievous results, and has excluded some of our best men, including 10 years' service men, from the Navy. This, happily, has been recently altered; but other as objectionable regulations remain. Take the case of men wishing to rejoin after five years' service; they have, perhaps, just returned from a 12 months' voyage; they are asked questions as to drill, which, if they do not answer correctly, they are refused re-entry; whereas, if these men were allowed to put in their month's drill they would have instantly passed. Now, it is not easy to see why these men should be put in a worse position than if they were entering for the first time, when training would have preceded, not followed, questions as to minute points of drill. Then this sea service is left undefined, and is regulated by the whim or caprice of the selecting officer. Some construe it as meaning foreign sea service in large square-rigged vessels, others admit coasting seamen, and we have instances of men being received with five years' service in ferry-boats and fishing craft. This should be altered, discretion should be done away with, and in time no one should be admitted to the Naval Reserves except through the second class. Then, very eligible men are refused because they have not been to sea for two years immediately preceding their offering to join. Now, it is well known, the ambition of most seamen is to marry, and get employment on shore, generally in connection with shipping. They are in most cases the steady, thrifty sailors. We have in all our large ports this class of men living by rigging, shifting, handling ships of all sizes and in all weathers, and yet they are not eligible, though the very men, it seems to me, we should select for a Reserve, being thorough seamen and always on the spot. There is one more illustration I should like to give. Members of the Force are prohibited from going round the Capes to India or the West Coast of South America, unless 126 they have put in their 28 days' drill. It is clear the possibility of men being able to make these voyages every three or four months through the Suez Canal or the Straits of Magellan could not have been realized by the framers of these rules. The men regularly make three trips in the year, and they should be allowed to put in their drill any time in the year, just as men are allowed to do who go in sailing ships to ports north of the equator, occupying more time. A Second Class Reserve was created some two or three years since by my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers). It was limited in the first instance to 5,000. Seven men joined the force the first year, and 17 the next. Now, why is this? Simply, bad regulations again. The age is too limited—not less than 18 or more than 20; the height is too great—5 feet 5 inches. They must be able to hand, reef, and steer, know marks on leadline, and box the compass, and they must speak English. Now, there are thousands of our seafaring population who can reef a fore-and-aft sail who could not reef a topsail; there are still more who could steer with a tiller and yet not know port from starboard on a wheel, and there is even a larger class who could navigate any gunboat round our coasts, and tell to a foot the depth of water in every channel in the localities from whence they come, and yet not be able to box the compass, or read off at first sight the marks in a leadline. Then as to speaking English, it is not easy to see at first sight the force of a rule which excludes many Irish, Welsh, and, I might add, Scotchmen. Then as to enrolment, there are only seven places where they can be enrolled and drilled, while there are 130 places where the men of the First Reserve can be entered, and 44 where they can be drilled. A man residing at Aberdeen, wishing to join the Second Reserve, must go to Leith; a man in London to Harwich; and a man in Bristol to Weymouth. A man to be eligible must have been three years at sea, and one year as an ordinary. All this should be altered. Able, smart young men, who have followed a seafaring life fitting them for the handling of gunboats, likely to become good gunners, are the class we want for such a Reserve, and if we were only permitted to have a workable scheme there would 127 be no more difficulty in getting 17,000 of these than the 17 who enrolled last year. If to these two Reserves were added or embraced reserves for boys trained in our training-ships and the Naval Coast Brigade, which I have referred to, we should have springing out of the loyalty of the people, and supported at a very moderate cost, Reserves that would make this country impregnable. Had I not been afraid of trespassing on the valuable time of the House, I would have shown the opinion entertained by our highest naval authorities of the efficiency and quality of the men who compose our Naval Reserve and the necessity of maintaining it. I will only give one opinion—the opinion of the Prime Minister himself when at Sunderland some years since in addressing the Reserve. Mr. Gladstone, on the 9th October, 1862, said—I hope you will not think I use the words of idle compliment when I state that I have seen nothing in the whole course of my most deeply interesting visit to the North of England with greater interest and satisfaction than your body gathered on this occasion. I do not believe that, among all the measures that have been taken by the Government, or suggested for the purpose of national defence, a wiser suggestion has ever been made or better measures adopted than the incorporation of the Royal Naval Reserve. It is a measure in its spirit essentially pacific, and at the same time it is a measure, as we know perfectly well from the experience of last winter, which has proved to be quite effective.There is just one point which I would wish to think on before I close. It may be argued that our naval power is so much more concentrated now in strength as to require fewer men to man our fleets—an argument the validity of which I agree in; but I would remind the House that the reduction of men has taken place, for when the Commission sat we had over 30,000 blue-jackets afloat, and we have to-day but 18,000. We have discounted this phase of the question. Then, if it is said why not follow the same principle of reduction with our Reserves, the case is entirely different. We have, since the Manning Commission made their moderate recommendations, nearly doubled the value of the national interests at stake; our available personal resources have likewise increased, and our ability to bear the moderate necessary expenditure requisite for perfect defence is increased to a still more remarkable extent; and I entertain the opinion that just as we 128 concentrate our naval power, so we require larger Reserves for manning the hundreds of ships which in one shape or other will have to be commissioned to supplement the limited number of our ironclads, to follow fleets, and protect our immense commerce all over the globe. Thus far the Naval Reserves have been Nobody's Child, unless it be one who spent his life in pressing the necessity of them on successive Administrations—I mean the late Captain Brown. His successor, Mr. Mayo, the Registrar General of Seamen, has rendered, perhaps, equal service in his efforts to keep up the Force; but however great individual efforts may be, they cannot succeed in the face of such adverse influences as I have described. There should be more encouragement given. Deserving members of the Force might be appointed as boatmen in Her Majesty's Customs, the Coastguard might be open to them, and the privileges of Greenwich Hospital extended to them. The officers selected for charge of the Reserves should be men specially suited for winning the confidence of the officers and men of the Reserve. What have the officers done for our Volunteers on shore? Do we not owe much of the success of that remarkable movement to the interest taken by the officers, many of them of high rank and great social influence? The Naval Reserve lacks this element to popularize it. Amongst the members of the Royal Family is a naval officer distinguished in his profession, full of zeal for the service, and of deserved popularity. Let His Royal Highness be invited to identify himself with the Naval Reserves, and we shall soon see where the real strength of England lies. We should obtain Reserves for manning the fleet and for coast defences, which alike would prevent the recurrence of discreditable panics, as they would be equal to any emergency—Reserves not resting on conscription or impressment, but on the loyalty and patriotism of a free people. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving an Address to Her Majesty.
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
rose to second the Motion. He considered that the Naval Reserve was a valuable addition to the resources of the country, and the result of inquiries which he had had the opportunity of making in London led him to support the suggestions made by the 129 hon. Gentleman. He was of opinion that the Reserve constituted a valuable link between the Navy and the Mercantile Marine, and if there was any want of efficiency in the Reserve he would attribute it in part to the obsolete nature of the greater part of the guns supplied to the drill ships. He also thought that something might be done by pecuniary inducements to stimulate the interest of seamen in their drill. At the present time a uniform retainer was paid to all seamen in the Reserves, irrespective of their efficiency, conduct, or attendance at drill. If it was possible to modify the present terms of the retainer with regard to those who were in future enrolled in the force—if the minimum was fixed at £5, rising by steps to £7, it would be a stimulus to attention to drill. The age of the men in the First Class Naval Reserve required consideration. The maximum limit for age in the First Class was fixed at 30 years, which seemed unnecessarily low, and he thought it might be advantageously advanced to 35. In 1869 there were only 477 seamen above the age of 40 in the Reserve, which numbered more than 16,000 men. That proved conclusively that the Naval Reserve would under any circumstances, and under all possible regulations, be constituted of the younger seamen of the Mercantile Marine. They might very safely relax many of the regulations which now applied to the drill and enrolment of seamen in the Reserve without losing any important guarantee for efficiency. But it was said that the substitution of steam for sailing ships had done something to diminish the nursery for seamen. Even in sailing ships the proportion of seamen to the tonnage was considerably diminished of late years. In 1854 the number of seamen employed to 100 tons of shipping was 4.17, and that proportion was reduced at the present time to 3.75; so that it was clear that if there was even the same tonnage of sailing ships, they did not furnish the same nursery for seamen which formerly existed. He fully believed that it was possible that the difficulty of recruiting for the Naval Reserve might continue, and he earnestly recommended to the Admiralty that additional means of recruiting for that force should be considered. It was universally admitted that the training in the Navy was most excellent. One ob- 130 jection was the great expense, and if, therefore, anything was to be done in the direction of training seamen for the Naval Reserve it was necessary to adopt some cheaper plan. It had occurred to him, in thinking over the subject of recruiting, that it would be possible to revive the old and very valuable practice of taking the apprentices of merchant ships. It was true that compulsory apprenticeships had been abolished with the repeal of the navigation laws; but it would be possible to give the owners of sailing ships a bonus for taking an apprentice, the bonus to be paid on suitable conditions—namely, that the ships should be proper sailing ships; that the proportion of apprentices should be limited—one to every 100 tons; that the bonus should be limited to £5; that the ships be approved of; that the apprentices should be selected by an officer appointed by the Admiralty and the Board of Trade, and indentured to the Registrar of Seamen for a period of four years; and that there should be a condition that these young seamen, having completed their apprenticeship, should serve for a year in the Navy, and afterwards pass into the Naval Reserve. It might be said that in proposing such a plan he was merely proposing in a circuitous form, that a present should be made to shipowners; but he did not think that view should be taken of his suggestion. Training on board a sea-going ship would be more valuable than training in a stationary ship, and it would be less costly to the State than the education of young seamen in stationary vessels, in which they could not be usefully employed in commerce. Turning from the recruitment of seamen to the question of the officers, he did not think that any doubt needed to be entertained as to the facility of obtaining officers. In ships like the Conway and Worcester a large number of young men were being educated—the sons of officers of both services, clergymen, and merchants—and all they had to do was to fit these young men as officers for the Reserve, and complete what had been well begun. He would suggest that there should be on board the Excellent or Cambridge a school for education in gunnery for the special advantage of the officers of the Naval Reserve. They had done the same thing for their forces on shore, and why should they not do it for their 131 Naval Reserves? It might perhaps be thought that officers of merchant ships would not be capable of maintaining discipline on board large vessels; but when the Great Eastern was employed in laying deep-sea cables she had on board a crew of a first-class frigate, but still there had been no difficulty in maintaining discipline there. He believed also that the establishment of a Naval College would be of great advantage in reference to matters of this hind. He thought that the suggestion that they should educate a staff of inspecting officers for the Reserve was most valuable, because, in his opinion, the Reserves had suffered much from this want. The supervision of our Reserve Forces had been really committed to a post captain in the Navy; but if there were inspection by an Admiral of high position it would undoubtedly ensure an improved organization, and a more ready deference to suggestions for improvements in connection with the Reserves. The regulations bearing upon that subject were framed 12 years ago, and they now required alteration to adapt them to the present circumstances. He hoped that the Motion would command the hearty support of the House.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the present means of manning the Navy, the keeping up of the requisite supply of men for the Naval Reserves, and to consider whether the services of the seamen of the Mercantile Marine, and the seafaring population generally, might not be made more readily available for the Naval Service of the Country in times of sudden emergency or war,"—(Mr. Graves,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. GOSCHEN
entirely agreed with the views that had been expressed as to the importance of Reserves to this country. He also agreed that the subject ought not to be neglected, or bandied about between different Departments; but he was also confident that the question of the Naval Reserve had not been neglected; but had constantly occupied the attention of the Admiralty 132 and of the Board of Trade. The regulations which had been framed might have been too stringent; but this had resulted not from any want of regard to the Naval Reserve, but from a desire to ensure the efficiency of the force. The greatest attention had been devoted to framing these regulations. The House would not fail to distinguish between the two parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), one of which related to the Royal Navy, and the other to the Mercantile Marine. He spoke of a falling-off in the Reserve, and in another important part of his speech he referred to a falling-off in the number of men in the Mercantile Marine. Now, these two questions, though having a bearing upon each other, were in many ways distinct. It might be held to be the duty of the Government to see that we had an efficient Navy, and that we should secure to ourselves the most valuable portion of the Mercantile Marine Force as a Reserve for the Navy. But it had been said that not only were we bound to see that we had sufficient sailors for our own Fleet, and to see also that we could secure out of the Mercantile Marine the best materials which it contained, but that, further, it was the duty of the Government and the State to assist the increase in the numbers of the men of the Mercantile Marine. The hon. Member said that year after year he had brought this falling-off in the number of sailors before the House, and that the matter was treated with unconcern. It had, in fact, not been so treated; but the House did not think it was the duty of the State to produce sailors for the Mercantile Marine. No doubt, it was most important that we should have a good supply of sailors, just as, in many other professions, a good supply of skilled men was essential to the interest of the country; but although the hon. Member met with some support in putting forward his views on that point—that it was the duty of the State to educate sailors for the Mercantile Marine, he felt confident that opinion would not commend itself to the country at large.
§ MR. GRAVES
wished to explain that what he had said was that so long as the Navy rested upon the Mercantile Marine for its Reserves, so long the community had an interest in keeping up the Mercantile Marine.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
No doubt, they had an interest in it; but the question was whether the shipowners, because we might require a certain proportion of their sailors, were to call upon the Government to increase the number of men in the Mercantile Marine. If he wished to argue, in a narrow spirit, he should say that it would be more economical to the State to double the inducements as regarded the Reserve than to set about educating sailors for the Mercantile Marine. The hon. Member asked why the system which answered so well in the Royal Navy training ships should not be also applied to the Mercantile Marine, and that under State superintendence; which meant that as they trained for the Royal Navy 3,500 boys per annum, they should be called upon to undertake to train on board training ships the almost unlimited number of sailors which the hon. Member wished to see enrolled in the Mercantile Marine. But had shipowners no means of increasing the number of sailors for the Mercantile Marine? If they improved their ships and increased the wages paid, supply and demand would soon cause the deficiency to be met, as it would do in any other walk of life. Surely, it was not the duty of the Government to say because they required a certain proportion of sailors, they should increase the number of the Mercantile Marine. What he ventured to say from an Admiralty point of view was this—they were willing to make an arrangement with the Mercantile Marine, by which they would get a certain reciprocal advantage; but what he should object to was to train for the Mercantile Marine sailors, without any security that those sailors would be enrolled in the Reserve. He did not at all say that they would not be prepared to concur in an arrangement that would have this effect—that they should pay by results; that when a certain number of those who had been trained in the training ships should afterwards enrol themselves in the Reserve, and present themselves annually as members of that force, the State should pay a certain sum for the training of boys in training ships. This, he should say, would be a fair arrangement; but the Government would be afraid of contributing to the training ships without knowing whether the boys would enter the Reserve at all. The hon. Member for Liverpool said that he be- 134 lieved they would enter the Reserve; but the Government would wish to see that they could ensure such an advantage. Whether they should obtain such an advantage or not would depend mainly upon the shipowners—that was, whether they would permit the boys to go for their 28 days' drill a-year; or whether they would be so short-sighted as to say that this would be inconvenient, and that they would prefer to take those who had not entered into any such engagements. It really would rest more with the shipowners than the Government; and it was only by the cordial co-operation of the shipowners that the Government could hope to develop a large Reserve. If the shipowners would take boys who were in the Reserve, then it might be possible for the Government not to take training ships under their supervision, but, at all events, to pay for results. The hon. Member alluded to training ships without contemplating any such engagement on the part of boys to enter the Reserve. If there was no such engagement—if the public service was not to be any security that the boys would enter either the Reserve or the Navy, then the question could not be discussed as one between the Admiralty and the shipowners, but it must be regarded as one between the shipowners and the Board of Trade. If the shipowners wished to have training ships to increase the number of boys to enter the service, it was for them and the Board of Trade to devise a plan; and there were few subjects which had occupied the attention of the President of the Board of Trade more seriously; indeed, he was prepared with a plan, but the success of it would depend greatly upon the shipowners themselves. The indirect advantage to the State would not be sufficient to induce the State to undertake the education of sailors. There must be a direct advantage to the State in the ability to get hold of the boys so educated; and if the shipowners wished in any way to tax themselves to secure training ships for the education of sailors for the Mercantile Marine, they would obtain every co-operation from the Board of Trade. Existing training ships had been established not for the purpose of increasing the numbers of the Mercantile Marine, but with charitable and philanthropic motives, for the benefit of the boys rather than of the service, Some 135 of the training ships took criminals, others took destitute boys who had been saved from the streets, and the remainder were supplied from different classes. The gentlemen who had established these training ships had no doubt done great service to the State; but he did not know that the boys, considering that they were discharged at an early age and were of inferior physique, would be very suitable for the Navy or the Mercantile Marine; and this formed one of the great difficulties in the way of utilizing the existing training ships. The boys were taken young, and the object was that they should pass out of the training ships at an early age—that was, at an age at which boys were taken into the Government training ships. If the Government should take these boys they would have to train them over again. If there were training ships in which the boys were kept until a later age, so that they might more nearly approach the age at which they passed out of Government training ships, and if they turned out an article fit for use in the public service, he should be prepared to contribute to these training ships in proportion to the results achieved. The Government would only be too ready to avail itself of such co-operation, but there must be some direct advantage; there must be a means of securing that the boys who had been trained did actually enter the Reserves of the Navy; and for such results the Government would be prepared to pay. At present, they could get these boys without paying any contribution; but they were desirous to encourage the training ships, if they knew that the boys were sufficiently advanced to be of real use; and he wished to impress this most seriously upon shipowners, that the plan might succeed if they would spare the boys the necessary time for drilling, so as to make them valuable for the Navy, and not adopt the shortsighted policy of preferring boys who were not under that liability. This was what he had to say upon that part of the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool which related to training ships. The hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) suggested that the State should pay a bonus of £5 to shipowners for conveying and training boys in their ships; but he (Mr. Goschen) did not quite catch whether the plan was to apply only to a certain limited num- 136 ber of boys, whether they should join the Reserve, or whether it was to be generally a plan for training for the Merchant Navy. [Mr. T. BRASSEY said that, in the first instance, he intended it as an experiment.] But what would prove the success of the experiment? He thought that it was a questionable proposal. With respect to the existing Reserves, and the proposals for increasing them, there was much that fell from the hon. Member for Liverpool with which he (Mr. Goschen) concurred, and the more so as many of the suggestions which he had placed very clearly and succinctly before the House were suggestions that had been made by the Board of Trade to the Admiralty, and were now under consideration. The suggestion that a Royal Prince should be brought into connection with the Reserves was one that the Board of Trade had made some weeks ago, and it was now under discussion between the two Departments; but it would be premature further to enter upon the matter before the whole scheme had been developed and placed before the House. The hon. Member had spoken with regard to no Commission having been appointed; but he (Mr. Goschen) ventured to think that if a Commission had been appointed they would not have been so far advanced as they were at that moment. He stated this, partly because steps had been already taken, and because the question was not in reference to the collection of information, but rather to determine the principles of the policy upon which they should act, and such a question was more for the House of Commons and for the Government than a Royal Commission. Suppose that they came to a conclusion either to subsidize training ships, or to pay £5 for each boy carried under certain circumstances by shipowners, then there would be a chance of the scheme being carried out by the House; but if a Royal Commission should deal with the question and report, experience showed that their plans would require to be worked out over again in the House of Commons, and in the responsible Departments. It was upon these grounds, therefore, that he said that this matter was now really more advanced than it would have been if there had been a Royal Commission. The hon. Member for Liverpool had commented severely upon 137 various regulations of the service. There should be, he said, three different forces in connection with the Navy in the same way as there was in connection with the Army. These were the members of the Royal Navy proper, the Reserve Forces, and the hon. Member had suggested a plan for having Volunteers. The Royal Naval Reserve corresponded with the Militia of the Army rather than with the Volunteers, and they had no Volunteers at present in connection with the Navy. The hon. Member said it would be a great thing if the Navy could get the advantage of the Volunteer movement the same as the Army had. He spoke somewhat reproachfully of the Admiralty, that they did not organize a force like that which was lately at Wimbledon. But what was the history of the Volunteer Force in connection with the Army? The movement originated voluntarily and not by Government initiating it; no Volunteer Force could be commenced by Government; the movement must come from outside, and all that the Government could do was to show willingness to meet the proposals when made. He had stated over and over again, that there was every inclination on the part of the Government to assist a Naval Volunteer movement at the various mercantile ports. The Admiralty had at present under consideration the rules which would be applicable if the scheme were carried out; but the mere promulgation of those rules would not suffice to call into existence a Volunteer Force, which could only be created by the efforts of Gentlemen like the hon. Member for Liverpool and the great shipowners in the various ports. Men like that must take up the Volunteer movement if it were in any way to succeed. Every facility in the shape of gunboats and means for training would be given to the Volunteers by the Admiralty, as soon as they had the necessary guarantees that the corps likely to be formed were of sufficient importance to justify them in taking such a step. The hon. Member (Mr. Graves) had stated that when this movement was first spoken of in Liverpool, the number of men who volunteered was sufficient to man three or four gunboats. He believed the number was between 70 and 80; but although he was very glad to hear of this, he must remark that, thus far, the leading shipowners in Liverpool had not 138 taken part in the movement. However, he could assure the hon. Member that if there were any indications of the spirit spreading which he said now existed, he would find every disposition on the part of the Government to organize the force. One of the great difficulties connected with a Volunteer Force in the Navy was owing to the fact that the training required a greater degree of consecutive attention at one time than it did on land. Again, the Naval Volunteers would have to go longer distances in order to join their gunboats than their brethren ashore had to travel. It was, however, for the great seaport towns to determine whether the scheme could be carried out. The hon. Member for Liverpool had not sufficiently dwelt on the fact that we required Reserves of two kinds—namely, sea-going Reserves and Reserves to defend our coasts. Most of the hon. Member's remarks were upon the Reserves for our home defence; whereas, hitherto the main desire of successive Boards of Admiralty had been to make the Reserves efficient for manning our ships of war for any kind of service, and most of the regulations relating to that branch of the service had been framed with a view to exclude the temptation of including nominally on paper a number of men who might be useful in smooth water, but who would prove inefficient if called upon to serve in sea-going men-of-war. The bounty of a £6 retainer and £4 per year for a month's drill were very high terms, and wore likely to draw such men into the service; but it would be a source of great dissatisfaction to the House and a great disappointment to the country, if there should be a larger number on paper than were actually capable of manning ships in time of war. They must therefore make up their minds what Reserves they intended to use for their sea-going ships, and what Reserves should be employed at home. The present Royal Naval Reserve numbered between 12,000 and 13,000 men, and the Admiralty were most anxious to relax the regulations in every way possible, if they could secure under them the flower of our seamen for manning our ships in time of war. There were many fishermen and other persons engaged in various trades on our coasts who were anxious to be enrolled, and who would be serviceable in smooth water; but they ought not to be enrolled promiscuously with the First 139 Royal Naval Reserve. The hon. Member for Liverpool had remarked that the term "sea service" was too vague; but the definition was what the words implied—namely, that they should he men fit to go to sea, and that riggers, and many other classes, who were not fit to go to sea, should not be enrolled in the First Royal Naval Reserve. [Sir JAMES ELPHINSTONE said, that riggers always had been termed seamen.] Many of them had been a long time on shore, and some of them were too old to go aloft. Many elderly people who were competent to be riggers would not be able to go aloft. The Admiralty had looked through the regulations for the First Royal Naval Reserve with the greatest anxiety, with a view to relaxing every unnecessary severity. They had reduced the height from 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 3 inches, and offered greater facilities for enrolment. For instance, it had been arranged that the men should not be compelled to go to be surveyed to a ship where there was a medical officer, but that they might be engaged more locally, so as to remove the difficulty of their having to travel considerable distances. The number of places where the men of the First Royal Naval Reserve could be enrolled was 130, and there were 46 places where they could drill. He did not know that he could hold out to the hon. Member much hope of relaxing the regulations, beyond what he had stated as regards the First Royal Naval Reserve; but he was able to state that the Admiralty, having reconsidered the whole subject of the Second Reserve, proposed to make new regulations, which he hoped would succeed in the direction which the hon. Member and himself equally desired. The limit of age, instead of being from 18 to 20 years, as at present, would in future be from 18 to 23, or perhaps 25 years. There were now nine district training ships for the Second Class Reserve, and the men had to be drilled for 28 consecutive days in each year, and to live on board ship for that period. It was believed this requirement—that the men should live on board the ship, had practically caused the scheme to break down. Besides, the places to which the men could go were too few. It was, therefore, now proposed to put the Second Class Reserve on a different footing, and to make it similar to the First Reserve, but with less strin- 140 gent regulations as to sea service. It would be composed of younger men and would be, as it were, a less picked force than the First Reserve. In this way, he hoped to be able to secure the advantage of largely increased numbers in the Second, while preserving the high character of the First Reserve. Instead of having to go to the nine district ships, the men of the Second Reserve would be enrolled at the 130 stations, and drilled at the 46 stations of the First Royal Naval Reserve. Again, the men would be permitted to take their 28 days' drill at any period of the year which might best suit their convenience, and 28 consecutive days of drill on board ship would only be required in order to qualify them to pass into the First Reserve. The House would see that under these arrangements we might be able to reach a class of men who were excluded by the present regulations. If a Volunteer Force could be created, he should much prefer it for coast defence. The old system of Coast Volunteers was believed to have broken down, because the men were obliged to serve for 28 consecutive days on board a ship. It would be much easier, he believed, to create and organize the force if the gunboats went in search of the Volunteers, than if the Volunteers were compelled to go to the different stations in search of the gunboats. And by judicious arrangements an amply sufficient number of men might, he believed, be secured. He could assure the hon. Member for Liverpool that he and his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade had not been so busy that they had not been able to give their best attention to this subject, and to go thoroughly into it. In the course of the autumn they would continue their investigation, and, by communication with shipowners and by getting information at all the ports, they hoped to be able to ascertain practically which of the two schemes he had sketched out—the Volunteer scheme, and the scheme for a local paid defence—would be most likely to attract good men in sufficient numbers. His right hon. Friend had, in addition, a scheme of his own with regard to the Mercantile Marine, at which he was working separately. Under these circumstances, the hon. Member for Liverpool, he trusted, would not think it necessary to press his Motion to a division. The House fully re- 141 cognized the importance of the subject, and the great attention which the hon. Member had paid to it. Indeed, he believed such speeches as those delivered by the hon. Member for Liverpool, the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey), and others, would have quite as much effect in promoting the success of this new system of Reserve as the appointment of a Royal Commission.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, the establishment of a Royal Naval Reserve had been a work of great difficulty. They had started with 400 or 500 men. In four years they reached 5,000, and afterwards they increased to 16,000; but since then it had dwindled down to 12,000. He was inclined to think that by modifying the regulations in the manner described by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty the number might be again increased to 16,000 men. He attached importance to the establishment of school ships in the different ports. And though the right hon. Gentleman thought it was not the business of the Government to educate men for the merchant service, he believed that a claim of that kind did rest upon the Crown, so long as the right was reserved, even in theory, of calling in an emergency for the compulsory service of merchant seamen. He had to thank the right hon. Gentleman for granting, at his instance, a most serviceable and efficient ship to the town of Aberdeen; but, unfortunately, the community, though they had asked for the ship, found the expenditure so great that they shrank from incurring the charge. For the sum of £40,000 or £50,000 a-year, however, school ships could be placed in all the principal ports, which would educate not the scum of the streets, but the sons of respectable seafaring men and others—lads who, as they grew up, would hereafter be of great value to the nation, whether at home or in the colonies. If our Sailor Prince, now a thorough and complete seaman, and one of the most rising officers in the service, could be induced to take the Naval Reserve under his own care and patronage, he would vastly increase the efficiency and popularity of the force, and would bring to its aid younger and more energetic spirits to strengthen and replace those who had so long struggled in its behalf.
§ MR. CHILDERS
concurred in the greater part of the speech which had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, but thought he had somewhat undervalued the proceedings in recent years with regard to the Naval Reserve. Three or four years ago, when he came into office, the state of the Reserve was the subject of much public discussion, but it was incumbent on the Department to see how the requirements of the service stood before rashly deciding on any changes. They found a steady falling-off in the number of blue-jackets required by the service, consequent on the entire transformation of everything connected with the Navy; so much so that even in an extreme case, they would only have to call upon half or a third of the number of men of this class that had been required to carry us through our wars in former years. In deciding, therefore, the normal and the ultimate strength of this part of our forces, it became the duty of the Department, as it seemed to him, to deal with what they had, and to put everything into the most perfect condition; and then to consider what Reserves were necessary for extreme cases, and to build up a suitable force. The very earliest inquiries convinced him that the country had not reached in point of the efficiency of its nominal force of sailors anything like the proper standard. He ascertained that the Navy included a vast number of inefficient and worn-out men, whom it was necessary to replace with efficient seamen. In the existing Coastguard Reserve, in the Coast Volunteers, and the Naval Reserve they found men not of that kind of efficiency which the country had a right to expect. It was accordingly resolved to test these men in the best way that could be done. In the first place, every Coast guardsman was tested as to his fitness for sea service, and actually sent to sea every other year—the result being that nearly one-fourth of the force had to be discharged, and fit men substituted. Then, all our men in reserve at each of the ports were "roused up," in some cases very much to their disgust, but with results which had proved highly satisfactory. As regarded the Naval Reserve, it was tested in a way indicating both its strength and its weakness, a certain number of men being called upon to come out for active service. These in- 143 quiries enabled them to see distinctly what could be done both in respect to the available naval forces of the country, and to the Reserve force. They then cast about in order to see in what respect the two branches of the service might be improved, and what additional Reserves ought to be provided. The existing Reserve of men who had completed their service had not been referred to in the course of the debate, and upon that question he desired to make a few remarks. It had long struck him as one of the greatest anomalies in our Naval policy, that while we admitted men of 35 into a comparatively untrained Naval Reserve, men who had served 20 years in the Navy were at 38 years of age, and when in the prime of life and the perfection of training, allowed by existing regulations to retire upon pensions, the State having no further claim upon them. It seemed to him, and those who acted with him, that the first Reserve it was necessary to form was a Reserve of trained men, a work which could be best accomplished by so altering the regulations, that after a fixed date pensioned seamen should not be allowed to be lost to the nation at the age of 38, but should be compelled to enter the Reserve. He believed that when, some years hence, the Naval Pension Reserve regulations took effect the result would speedily be to add 12,000 to 15,000 efficient blue-jackets in Reserve to the number of 18,000 which composed the Navy at the present time. In addition to that they would have the Coastguard, which, notwithstanding the complaint that it had not been brought up to the strength recommended by the Commission of 1859–60, was a thoroughly efficient Reserve, and formed an infinitely more effective force than it had ever before presented in the course of its existence. The result of these changes would be that should the unhappy event of war arise after these compulsory rules had taken effect, England would be able to command the services of a force of blue-jackets nearly double in number that which she could command at the present moment. Even though there was a combination against England of nearly all the naval Powers in the world, he could conceive no possible state of circumstances in which she would require more than 50,000 blue-jackets, and the plan he had described would give her, 144 exclusively of the Naval Reserve in the merchant service, no less than 36,000 thoroughly trained and efficient men. In the summer of 1870, after he had improved the regulations as to the Naval Reserve, and had, in spite of great difficulty—for it was not a popular proposal—started the Second Class Pensioner Reserve, he took up the whole question of the larger Reserve which had been shadowed forth by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen), and appointed a Committee to obtain such information as could be gathered at the Admiralty, in order that the question might be discussed during the winter, and that at the commencement of the Session of 1871 he might be enabled, with the assistance of the Board of Trade, to make some proposition to the House on the subject. His illness at the end of 1870 prevented his taking up the question officially, and he could only now do his best to support the views of those hon. Members who agreed with him that it was desirable to lay the foundation of such a Reserve as would ensure the services in an extreme case of the number of blue-jackets he had just named. He had not alluded to the Royal Naval Reserve in calculating the number of blue-jackets who would be available in a great national crisis, for while he thought the Reserve was a very useful force at the time when it was started, and that, considering the then state of artillery and ships of war, no more efficient force could have been obtained by the same expenditure of time or money, the case was very different now. The foundation of the Royal Naval Reserve was a wise and statesmanlike act; but he was also strongly of opinion that it was more important to have a Reserve Force composed of men trained from their earliest experience of the sea, than to take men of a certain age and attempt to train them afterwards. It was quite clear to his mind that the improvements which were now going on in the science of warfare made every early year's training infinitely more important than it was in former days. While, therefore, during the period of transition it was our duty to keep up the efficiency of the Naval Reserve as far as we could, we ought not to trust to it for the number of blue-jackets we thought we Ought to have in the event of a great war; but we must establish, with the assistance of the Mer- 145 cantile Marine, a system of training coming before rather than after employment in merchant ships, but kept up by annual practice for a certain period. He rejoiced, therefore, that his right hon. Friend had come to the conclusion to establish such a system of early training, and he believed it would confer considerable benefit on the naval service. At the same time, he (Mr. Childers) was prepared to go much further than any limited voluntary submission to naval training on the part of those who adopted a seafaring life; and he felt confident that in the end the defence of our coasts would be some day ensured by a still bolder measure. He was one of those old-fashioned persons who, without seeing any great advantage in large standing forces, believed in the great principle that it was the duty of every man to take his share in the defence of his country; and he should not be afraid to see that principle carried further than it was at present with regard both to our Army and our Navy. What had been done during the last two years by his right hon. Friend the head of the War Office indicated very plainly the direction in which this country was going with regard to the establishment of that principle. For his own part he should like to see it applied to the Navy still more than to the Army; and he was confident that under generous regulations it could be speedily so applied, without encountering the opposition which at present he feared the unpopularity of military service was sure to meet with. Because the proposal of his right hon. Friend was in this, the right direction, he would give it his most cordial support.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
regretted that the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) had not been able to introduce so interesting a subject at an earlier period of the Session, and more so because, when the First Lord of the Admiralty suggested that the question was one more fitted for discussion in that House than for the consideration of a Royal Commission, the right hon. Gentleman must have remembered that, at so late a period of the Session, there were many hon. Members who would not be likely to attend and take part in the discussion. He would gladly have supported his hon. Friend in the proposal for a Royal Commission; for, as Parliament was now about to rise, an opportunity 146 would be afforded to a Commission to consider the whole subject in the Recess, and to lay the information before the House when it re-assembled. He was also fully confident that the two right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the front bench opposite (Mr. Goschen and Mr. Chichester Fortescue) would give their best attention to the subject, as they had promised. Yet it was to be borne in mind that other Departments of the State than the Admiralty and the Board of Trade must be considered, and the House well knew how difficult it was for the Departments concerned to arrange matters involving a certain amount of expense. With regard to education, he presumed that the Vice President of the Council had as much to do with the present question as the two other right hon. Gentleman to whom he had referred; for he believed it would be to the advantage of the country if all the lads who were being educated within a given distance of the sea shore could be taught that the sea was the place for earning a livelihood. Recently he had made inquiries in that part of the country in which he resided, and found that in a long 100 miles of seaboard there were not 10 men either in the Reserve or Coastguard—not because they were unskilful as a seafaring population, but because the advantages that were obtainable from service in the Naval Reserve, from long voyages in the Merchant Navy, and from a proper readiness to serve in the Navy whenever the nation required, were totally unknown to them. Were the training ships recommended by the Royal Commission established in certain ports, and if the scheme of the present First Lord of sending gunboats to the places where men were to be trained could be carried out, he felt confident that the naval service would become much more popular than it was now. The right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) alluded to certain changes he had introduced. He believed, however, the figures were these—in the year 1868 there were 22,000 efficient able seamen as against 18,000 now; and Coastguards, 4,200 as against 4,800, something like 300 inefficient men having been discharged. [Mr. CHILDERS: 900 inefficient men.] But the numbers were considerably reduced; and the Naval Reserve was now, he believed, 10,800 efficient men as against 147 the supposed number of 12,000. The whole of these numbers, with the 14,700 Marines, did not by any means represent the force that would be necessary in the event of war. France alone had 93,000 men in her Navy, while we had only 60,000; and although it might be true that our ironclads and other ships we had for cruising purposes were not sufficiently numerous to occupy more than that force, yet if a maritime war were to break out, we should have to build more ships—which he trusted we should do—or we must employ many of our merchant ships to sweep away the enemies of our commerce. He did not think there would be much difficulty not in re-establishing the apprentice system as it existed under the navigation laws, but in arranging with the great shipowners of this country, as suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey), that lads should be taken by the training ships, and that a certain subsidy should be paid to the shipowners for the employment of the lads, until the latter became of a stature and of an ability to make them entirely remunerative to those who employed them. If that were done—if the best of these lads were placed in the merchant service, under such conditions as would oblige them to perform duty in the Naval Reserve—we should then have a good force to fall back upon in time of need. Another point, deserving of the attention of the right hon. Gentlemen the heads of the Admiralty and the Board of Trade, was the necessity of a reserve of skilled stokers. He could not help thinking that the discharge of 500 skilled stokers by the right hon. Member for Pontefract, while he was in office, was an unfortunate circumstance. [Mr. CHILDERS: They were unskilled stokers.] He knew that when he had the honour of being at the Admiralty, his right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) took some pains to obtain a body of skilled stokers. There were 500 of them when he left the Admiralty, and what became of them he was unable to learn, although he had good reason to believe they were discharged, as he had stated. Seamen should not only be entered, but trained stokers should also be enrolled in the Naval Reserve in our Merchant Navy, ready for use in the event of war. So with skilled artizans—such as carpenters, 148 engineers, and others—that when the occasion arose the whole of them might be ready to go on board ship and do their duty.
§ MR. BATES
objected in the strongest terms to the reflection cast upon the shipowners of the country, when it was said that shipowners ought to provide better ships and give better wages to their seamen. Such a remark came with ill grace from the First Lord of the Admiralty. Shipowners did not send Megæras to sea, and he believed the ordinary sea-going ships of the merchant service would float long after the newfangled iron-clads of the right hon. Gentleman had foundered. He recommended the right hon. Gentleman to look at home—to look at his dockyards and inquire into the position of the artizans and riggers. The men in the merchantmen building yards earned more in six days than the Government men earned in nine.
§ COLONEL WILSON-PATTEN
thought that at so advanced a period of the Session, his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) would be satisfied with having provoked so interesting a discussion, and drawn from the Government two important admissions, without going to a division on his Motion. The first admission of the Government was that they were prepared to lay down regulations which would eventually give encouragement to the Mercantile Marine, and no doubt tend to the general benefit of the naval service. The other admission was that the Government were prepared to give encouragement to a Volunteer Force in the Navy, as they now did to a similar force in the Army. For his own part, he thought there were grounds for believing that, with proper encouragement, many men who had not yet paid attention to the question would be induced to enrol themselves in a Naval Volunteer Force. There were the life-boat men, for instance, who paid little attention to the question of an organized system for saving shipwrecked people until the volunteer element was introduced, and now they rendered the most efficient service. He desired to join in the expression of a hope that Prince Alfred would be induced to encourage the establishment of this force.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he wished to mate some remarks in reference to the interests of the Mercantile Marine in this matter, which were intimately connected with those of the Royal Navy. The subject of giving aid to training ships for the Mercantile Marine in connection with the Royal Navy had very much engaged his attention at the Board of Trade, in concert with the First Lord of the Admiralty, although he hardly had need to repeat that which was known to be the view of the Government—that the Mercantile Marine could not expect assistance from the public Exchequer for training seamen for its own service. The Board of Trade, however, was the administrator of an important fund contributed by the shipowners of the country, called the Mercantile Marine Fund; and if the shipowners should be willing that out of that fund contributed by themselves, some assistance should be given to the training of boys and young men for the mercantile service in connection with the Royal Navy, he, on the part of the Board of Trade, would be ready to aid them in carrying out that object. He believed that with no great expenditure a great deal might be done in stimulating private efforts, and that by means of contributions, under conditions, to the training ships a good article might be provided for the use of the Mercantile Marine as well as for the Royal Navy. The great objection in the case of the training ships was that the boys were taken in too young to receive proper training, as their physique was not up to the mark; but some of those ships were half empty, and he was not prepared to say that it would not be possible to make use of them for the purpose of training a number of boys for the Mercantile Marine in connection with the Royal Navy. There would be a wide difference beween the boys he contemplated and the boys now in the ships. Their age, for instance, would be different; and, supposing proper conditions were laid down, he should be glad to know whether the shipping interest would be prepared to consent to a certain contribution from the Mercantile Marine Fund. The general idea of the plan, which he hoped might be considered in the course of the Recess, was that first of all, the boys entering the ships for the merchant service should be apprenticed for five years; that they 150 should not be below the age of 15 or 16 years; and that they should pass two years on board the training ship. Then their indentures should be handed over to a respectable master of a ship, in which they should serve the other three years of their apprenticeship, and a sum should be paid by the Board of Trade out of the Mercantile Marine Fund on account of their training. The boys should be invited to enter the Royal Naval Reserve, and for the remainder of their apprenticeships they should earn for their training ship an additional contribution on the part of the Admiralty. He believed that some scheme of that sort would produce in time a considerable class of valuable recruits for the Mercantile Marine and the Royal Navy, and would also give a large additional support to the training ships which turned out such an article. If, in the course of the Recess, such a scheme should be considered worthy of adoption by those interested, it would afford him great pleasure to aid in working it out.
said, that in every inquiry which had been made into this subject during the last 30 years one fact that remained uncontradicted was, that the number of good seamen had not increased; and the question was, whether the quality of the seamen was equal to what it used to be. That was a consideration of much consequence, and it appeared to him that the hand of the Government, in touching the matter with new schemes, had only had the effect of deteriorating and damaging it. Another point was, that they could not shut their eyes to the position of the able seaman who knew his business. Such a man was equal to any skilled mechanic; but what was his relative position in respect to wages? What was the inducement now for anyone to go to school to learn seamanship? Had a seaman as good a chance of getting on as the man of any other trade? The seaman was not good for much in going aloft after 50, and then what was to become of him? Besides, it should not be forgotten that the seaman worked seven days a-week, whereas the labourer on land worked only six. Again, the great increase in the size of ships made the chance of a seaman rising to the quarter-deck less than it used to be. In fact, that chance now was nil. All that was very much against a boy going to 151 sea. He believed that the real difficulty the country would have to look in the face was not simply the mode in which they could best utilize them, but how to get the men themselves. Another fact was the relative number of wrecks, taking the number of voyages which vessels made, seemed to be increasing, although within the last three or four years the Board of Trade had not given them the statistics in so complete a form as would enable them to make an accurate comparison on that point. If, therefore, any inquiry was to be instituted, he hoped it would extend to the question whether there had been any falling-off in the number, or any deterioration in the efficiency of seamen, as well as into the mode of utilizing them, because it was of no use thinking of cooking their hare if they could not catch it. In the event of war they must fall back on the Mercantile Marine for men, and the better the men of the Mercantile Marine were the better would it be for the Navy. If proper inducements were only offered to men to go to sea, they would then have plenty of good seamen, as they formerly had.
§ MR. CANDLISH
wished to ask the President of the Board of Trade two questions relative to the scheme he had just launched for having training ships, the boys passing through which might be available alike for the Mercantile Marine and the Royal Navy. First, did the right hon. Gentleman contemplate that the grant was to be entirely made from the Mercantile Marine Fund, or partly from that fund and partly from the Votes of Parliament? Secondly, in the event of the grant made from the one fund or the other, or from both, being insufficient to maintain those training ships, how did the right hon. Gentleman contemplate that the deficiency should be made up?
§ MR. NORWOOD
protested against the gloomy picture drawn by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley) of the number and efficiency of British mercantile seamen. He ventured to say that the numbers of British seamen were not declining. They were in some degree increasing; but the mere test of numbers was not sufficient, because modern appliances for the working of sails and of ships generally had reduced the number of hands necessary to navigate ships. He did not think the chances 152 of promotion or the pay of seamen were so poor as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to think. £4 5s. per month, or upwards, was paid to an able-bodied seaman on board a steamer, or an average of something like a guinea a-week, while at the same time he was housed and extremely well fed. That was not so very inadequate a remuneration. There never was a time when their forecastles were so spacious, or the food equal to what was given in them now; and scurvy was almost disappearing. Again, distinguished mathematicians had recently shown that the percentage of collisions and casualties at sea was less than it used to be, in proportion to the number of vessels afloat and the voyages made. As far as steam shipping went, there was no difficulty in getting excellent men, and the reason was, that they were paid handsomely. In time of war our Navy would have a great resource in our Mercantile Marine, which would be able to supply it with stokers, engineers, and even blue-jackets to a large extent.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
, in answer to the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) said, the plan he had sketched was thrown out for the consideration of the shipowners of this country, and he did not dream of forcing it upon them. He did not contemplate that the contributions now made to the industrial training ships by the Home Office would cease; but many of the boys there might not fulfil the conditions required to earn the grant. Such of them, however, as came up to the requisite conditions would earn such a grant out of the Mercantile Marine Fund as he had mentioned. In addition to that, such boys as came up to the conditions required by the Admiralty—that was to say, were willing to enrol themselves in the Reserve and to submit to a certain amount of drill—would earn for their training ships out of the Votes of Parliament on that account a further contribution. He could not, however, guarantee that any grant would completely maintain those ships.
§ MR. GRAVES
, in reply, said, the First Lord of the Admiralty had said that he (Mr. Graves) had laid down the proposition that the State should educate the men of the Mercantile Marine. What he believed he had really said, was that youths ought to be educated in a common train- 153 ing ship, from which they should be drafted into the Navy and the Mercantile Marine, the Admiralty paying its proportion for the boys it so received, and the Mercantile Marine in like manner bearing its proportion. The right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) appeared to think that in what had fallen from him with reference to the Reserves he had cast a personal reflection on him for his conduct while at the Admiralty. Nothing had been further from his intention. He felt that they owed too much to that right hon. Gentleman for his valuable services in regard to the Reserves to have said anything which looked like a reflection upon him in that matter. With respect to the course he should take on that occasion, it was clear to him that the Admiralty and the Board of Trade were now maturing their plans. They had not travelled as fast as he could have wished; but still he believed they were now on the right road, and therefore he felt that it would be wrong in him to embarrass their scheme by dividing the House. Next Session, if the plan which they brought forward was found to be inadequate, he should have it in his power to renew his Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.