rose to call attention to the state of the Admiralty since the Order in Council of the 14th of January 1869; and to move, That the organization of the Admiralty, as settled by the Order in Council of January 14th 1869, has tended to the disadvantage of the Naval Service, and requires reconsideration by Her Majesty's Government. He said, that the late First Lord of the Admiralty had adverted, in his evidence before the Commission on the loss of the Megæra; to a prophecy that his reforms would be subjected to the keenest and most malevolent criticism. If that remark was intended to apply to anything which might have passed in debate, he wished to say, speaking for himself, that in any observations he might have made on the subject he had been influenced alone by a sense of duty, and that it would have been far more agreeable to him if he could have discharged that duty without uttering a syllable which could have annoyed his right hon. Friend in any way. But, at the same time, he felt that he would not have been justified if he had allowed any sentiment of personal regard to interfere with the free expression of his convictions respecting a system of administration which he foresaw from the first would be incompatible with the good management of the naval service. When the present Government came into office, the reform of the administration of the Navy held a prominent place among the measures which were to entitle it to the confidence of the country. A miracle was to be wrought in Ireland which was to be made contented and loyal. At the Admiralty, the Augean stable was to be cleansed, and naval mismanagement to become a matter of history. A Message of Peace had been sent across the Channel—Home Rule was the answer from Ireland. Responsible authority had been established at the 131 Admiralty—no rule was the result, and a state of disorganization had ensued which the voice of public opinion had declared to be no longer tolerable. The Order in Council which had led to this result had effected four principal changes in the mode of conducting the business of the Admiralty. It put an end to the holding of Consultative Boards by confining the functions of the several Lords within the hard-and-fast lines of their own departments—it reduced the number of naval members of the Board—it made the Controller of the Navy a Lord of the Admiralty—and it made the Parliamentary Secretary the mere head of a department. He omitted to notice the supremacy with which it invested the First Lord of the Admiralty, because that was universally recognized before. The change thus effected in the constitution of the Admiralty was now admitted to have been a failure, and they would presently hear from the First Lord of the Admiralty how the system it established was to be reformed. The late First Lord had stated in evidence that he had been influenced in adopting it in a great measure by the Report of the Dockyard Commission in 1861; but that Commission, however competent to advise on the management of the dockyards, did not comprise a single Member who had any experience whatever of naval administration, of which dockyard management formed only a part; while, on the other hand, the great preponderance of the evidence taken by a Committee of the House of Commons on Admiralty administration in the same year was decidedly against the change recommended by the Commission. Five eminent naval administrators, of whom one actually held, and four had held the Office of First Lord of the Admiralty were examined by that Committee, and, of these, four, all of Liberal politics—for it was no party question—were against the change. The exception was his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich, who considered that the supremacy of the First Lord ought to be authoritatively recognized; but he did not think his opinion could be quoted against him, for he had yet to learn that he was in favour of the other changes introduced by the Order in Council of 1869. Sir James Graham, who was examined before the Committee, spoke strongly in favour of the system of governing the Navy. 132By means of a Board which brought the First Lord of the Admiralty and the other members of the Board in close contact with the details of the whole naval service.That right hon. Gentleman, when pressed on the subject, said—I saw a naval officer, a Prince of the Blood, made Lord High Admiral. It worked so ill that, in the course of about 18 months, it came to a deadlock, and the Duke of Wellington, no bad judge, and no bad administrator, was forced to abolish the Lord High Admiral, and revive the Board of Admiralty in its (then) present position.The late First Lord had made himself as much like a Lord High Admiral as possible; and, in both cases, personal government, without a Board, had failed. Sir Francis Baring thought "the Board well suited for its purpose, and did not see anything better in any of the plans proposed." The Duke of Somerset enumerated the advantages and the disadvantages of a Board, andThought the former greatly predominated, and that it was of great importance that the Minister at the head of the Navy should have the assistance of naval men in the form of a Board.Lord Halifax gave a similar opinion; and he very much doubted whether Lord Halifax would have approved the changes which had been made at the Admiralty if his opinion had been asked. If so, it must have greatly changed since 1861, when he stated that—Having had experience in several departments, he considered the constitution of the Board of Admiralty the best adapted for the administration of the Navy, and that without a Board the Admiralty would be unable to perform the duties intrusted to it.These were prophetic words, and the late First Lord would have done well if he had considered them before venturing on the dangerous path of revolution. His right hon. Friend had stated his reasons for differing from these high authorities in his evidence before the Megæra Commission. Among these, he referred to the analogy of the Treasury. He said—I had some experience of the action of another great Department, the Treasury, where it would be necessary to look back for a long period to find a meeting of the Board—which acts simply departmentally.But there was really no proper analogy between the two departments, the business of the two being of so different a character. Nothing could be more absurd than to imagine a Chancellor of the Exchequer, clad in the panoply of financial science, consulting the 133 Junior Lords, serving a political apprenticeship at the Treasury, as to whether he should put a tax upon matches, or add 2d. to the income tax. But it would be equally absurd to imagine a civilian First Lord of the Admiralty deciding on naval subjects without the advice of his naval colleagues. The business of the Admiralty was of an exceptional character, and it was necessary that it should be conducted in an exceptional manner. One reason for abolishing the Board of Admiralty, according to the late First Lord, was to enforce individual responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman said—The fact that business was avowedly conducted not only in the name of but by a Board did and must prevent responsibility being sheeted home.He believed there was no subject on which so much nonsense was talked—except, perhaps, on shipbuilding—as on that of responsibility. On this subject the evidence of Sir Sydney Dacres was refreshing. He said—He did not think responsibility, or the sense of responsibility, was in the slightest degree weakened by the practical working of the Board. The single Lord could only do what he thought right and best as a member of the Board, or as head of a separate department.The late Financial Secretary of the Admiralty and others spoke to the same effect before the Duke of Somerset's Committee. The evidence before the Megæra Commission supplied a curious illustration of the theory of responsibility. Everyone threw the responsibility for everything done, or left undone, on some one else, and the only person absolved by the Commission was the First Lord—the personification of the Board—who, by the Order in Council, was solely responsible to Parliament and the country. The fact was, they could no more enforce responsibility by Order in Council than make men virtuous by Act of Parliament. Another argument put forward in favour of the discontinuance of Boards was, that they occasioned "a waste of time which was appalling;" but it was proved before the Duke of Somerset's Committee that the work was done more rapidly under the old system, and Mr. Vernon Lushington stated that "the First Lord was seeing his colleagues all day"—which was the natural result of separate instead of collective consultations. Lord John Hay said— 134 "the First Lord saw his colleagues more frequently than would have been possible with any other man;" so that it required a heaven-born genius to get through an ordinary day's work under the present system at the Admiralty. The late First Lord went on in his evidence to say that, from the first day of the new arrangements, discussions at the Board were discontinued, and that he did not hesitate to say that the change was of marked advantage. All he could say was, this was a very striking instance of the proverbial blindness of those who would not see. He admitted that public opinion in 1869 was against the constitution of the Board; but there were special reasons why the Admiralty should always be exposed to criticism and unpopularity—and he did not think the late First Lord had mended its character. Take, for instance, the question of patronage. In the Army—at least under the old system—when an officer was gazetted to a regiment he worked his way up, perhaps to its command, by seniority or purchase. But in the Navy, there was a constant exercise of patronage as respected both promotions and appointments. Appointments had to be renewed every three or four years, and in the Executive branch the only promotions that did not go by selection were those to flag rank—while those in the other branches were by selection throughout. This could not fail to give dissatisfaction, and often just dissatisfaction, as nothing was more difficult, and, as he could say, more painful, than to have to decide between the rival claims of officers, and it must sometimes happen, even with the greatest care, that the best man was not the one selected. It frequently occurred that those who had been disappointed could wield the pen as well as the sword, and accused the Admiralty in the newspapers of jobbery, which was believed by half the world. Then, again, strong and most opposite views were entertained as to the construction of ships. Perhaps on no subject in the world was there greater difference of opinion than on the building of ships, and the Admiralty, do what it could, was sure to give dissatisfaction. He doubted whether even the bitterness of religious animosity was greater than that which prevailed on the building of ships of war. Naval and scientific authorities could not agree. Even the Members of 135 the Committee on Designs, appointed last year to advise the Admiralty, were all at sixes and sevens. He well remembered when he was in office he was the victim of constant attack, because he did not choose to build half-a-dozen Captains before one had been tried at sea. The critics invariably wrote in a tone of infallibility which might be envied at the Vatican, and the natural consequence of all this was the condemnation, in many quarters, of the shipbuilding policy of the Admiralty. There were various other special reasons which exposed the Board of Admiralty to unpopularity; yet it was under Boards of Admiralty that the Navy of England had risen to a pitch of power and of glory unparalleled in the history of the world. But the old system, whatever place it may have held in public estimation, contrasted so favourably with the new, that public opinion was now loud in demanding a return to Board government. It was not difficult to collect this from the public Press, which was at once its leader and exponent. He would quote, by way of example, two passages from papers of Liberal politics strongly condemnatory of the changes introduced by the late First Lord, and insisting that they should go back to government by a Board. He read in one—It was when the late First Lord reformed the Board that he did the mischief. What we have to do now is simply to undo most of his work.Another most influential Liberal organ said—Unless we wholly misconceive the temper, both of the Navy and the country, the Board of Admiralty must be maintained as an organ of Naval administration. It has always performed its work with more real efficiency than has attended the administration of the sister service.… Englishmen will not forget that in the Crimean War the double government of the Army thoroughly collapsed, while the Navy, as far as occasion served, maintained its ancient reputation; nor will the glories of the English Navy, all won under a Board of Admiralty, ever cease to be remembered while history exists.He feared that, if the present system were allowed to be continued, history would have to tell another tale, and, if there were any clouds on the horizon, he trusted the First Lord of the Admiralty would lose no time in putting his house in order. The late First Lord had quoted the opinion of the able Permanent Secretary, Mr. Romaine, that "the old system worked admirably;" but 136 said that it appeared to him to have "many grievous defects, which must have been patent to any man of business." Possibly Mr. Romaine could find some defects now if he were to revisit the Admiralty. The late First Lord said it was owing to these grievous defects that he felt himself called upon to take up the matter vigorously, but, at the same time, as prudently and as slowly as he could. Nobody could doubt the vigour of the right hon. Gentleman; his prudence was more open to question; but the only indication of slowness, which he seemed to consider an official virtue, was to be found in the tardiness of his re-constructions. Everything was pulled down at the Admiralty; but up to this time, judging from the Admiralty Vote of the Navy Estimates, nothing had been built up. The other day, meeting in the street a gentleman connected with the Office, he asked him—"How are you getting on?" and the reply was—"Just like a parcel of bricks all tumbled about." He did not quite understand the meaning of that; but, at all events, it did not look as if the edifice had been re-constructed. [Mr. GOSCHEN: Was he a Lord of the Admiralty?] No; he was not a Lord. He (Mr. Corry) would admit that there were defects under the old system at the Admiralty, and he had himself been a reformer, though at a humble distance from the late First Lord; but he did not think that there was any defect specified by him that could not have been as easily dealt with by an old-fashioned First Lord of the Admiralty as by one converted into a jumble between a Minister of Marine and a Lord High Admiral. In this House, if we wished to reform our institutions, we did not begin with a revolution; and, in his opinion, reforms equally as difficult as those contemplated by the late First Lord had been brought about by his predecessors under the old system of naval government. For instance, in the matter of naval accounts, a great improvement had been effected by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers), and by the President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Stansfeld); and while credit belonged to them, it was due also to his friends and himself, for the first dockyard accounts to be presented to Parliament were prepared while his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) was First Lord of the 137 Admiralty, and he himself, who then served as Secretary, had had frequent communications with Sir Richard Bromley, the—Accountant General—on the subject. Again, the reform of the service of the Ports, and in respect of the Reserve of ships in the dockyards, which had presented considerable difficulties, and had led to great economies, was carried out by himself in 1868, although the present Government took credit for it, because the pecuniary results, as well as those of his other reforms, appeared in their Estimates for the year following that in which the change was initiated. To advert briefly to the alleged defects specified by the late First Lord, which it had required a revolution to remedy, he would take first the scattered condition of the departments. As to their concentration in one building, he had himself expressed an opinion in favour of it before the Commission on Public Buildings of 1867, provided the convenience was not purchased at too great a price. It was obvious that the present imperfect arrangement could be only provisional; and notices had been given for the occupation of a vast extent of land by Admiralty buildings, which would involve a very large expenditure; but he very much doubted whether, had he proposed to obtain so much accommodation at a great cost, his right hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt), who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, would have found him £100,000 or £200,000 for the purpose. Another defect was the "extraordinary division" in the Controller's office, which gave the Chief Constructor the superintendence of the construction of ships, and the Engineer-in-Chief of the construction of engines. That did not appear to him to be a very extraordinary division, and one of the greatest mistakes which the late First Lord made was to concentrate the two offices. In that opinion he was supported by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey), who had recently published an able pamphlet on naval administration, in which he said that a skilled mechanical engineer was absolutely necessary at Whitehall. Indeed, nearly all that he had himself said during the last two years on naval subjects was confirmed by the pamphlet; and this confirmation was the more gratifying to him because the Conserva- 138 tives had been told they knew nothing of commercial principles; and his hon. Friend was not only a great, but an hereditary commercial authority, more especially in all that related to the management of great manufacturing establishments. Another defect alleged by the right hon. Gentleman was the retention of obsolete ships from the state of the store law; and he said that, from the end of 1868 to July, 1870, 69 ships were disposed of, adding that it was "a very large number indeed compared with those sold over a very long series of years." The right hon. Gentleman, however, was mistaken, for a Return, which he held in his hand, showed that between 1860 and 1868 there were sold and broken up no fewer than 365 ships, representing a total of 260,000 tons. This would be found to be at the rate of nearly one ship a-week, which, he thought, might have satisfied even his right hon. Friend. In the years 1867 and 1868, when the late Government were in office, they disposed of no fewer than 75 old ships, representing 65,000 tons. He would, however, implore the First Lord not to be too hasty in breaking up our old line-of-battle ships. The late Admiral Farragut—than whom there was no higher authority in modern naval warfare, more especially in operations where armoured ships had been employed in combination with unarmoured—had said to him at Portsmouth, pointing to the Duke of Wellington—"Don't break up this magnificent old ship, for my belief is that vessels of this class would be of the greatest use in supporting an armoured fleet in action." And independently of the value of these ships in this sense, they would be of great value for the service of the ports as hulks, coal depots, training ships, and other such purposes. The greater part of the vessels so employed at present were so old that it would soon be necessary to replace them by other ships, or else to build barracks and storehouses on shore, at a great expense, to replace them. It would, therefore, be a most foolish piece of economy to realize the value of these ships by sale. Another defect mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman was the unsatisfactory condition of the superintending Lords of the Admiralty and of the Parliamentary Secretary. For himself, he was not aware of its existence, 139 but the Commissioners on the loss of the Megæra did not appear to think the new arrangement to be a very satisfactory one; for the question was put to Mr. Lushington whether there must not be a considerable amount of confusion under the present system, in which there was no official recognition of the authority of the superintending Lords. The late First Lord admitted that the Secretary was not in a proper position, for he said in his evidence that if the late Financial Secretary had not been suffering from ill-health at the time of his appointment, he would have assigned to him the proper duties of Parliamentary Secretary; but that was hardly consistent with the Order in Council, which made him responsible for finance only. Another defect alluded to was the want of system in the reciprocal communications between the Admiralty and the dockyards, and a telegram, which never found its way to the Controller, respecting the Megæra, in 1867, was adduced as an instance of this. It certainly was irregular for a superintending Lord to take action in any matter without the knowledge of the principal officer at the head of the Department, and he (Mr. Corry) had never done so while he served as a Junior Lord; but when the late First Lord spoke of a vicious arrangement which he put a stop to in 1869, he begged to call his attention to the evidence of Mr. Morgan, the Chief Constructor's Secretary, who, referring to Captain Luard's telegram, in 1870, recommending that the Megæra should run another year instead of being placed in the 4th Division of the Reserve, where she would have been put into' dock and overhauled, said the telegram did not go into the Constructor's department, but was disposed of by the Lords of the Admiralty. The result of this little mistake was the loss of the Megæra. Another important question with reference to an inward registry was also raised before the Commissioners on the loss of the Megæra. Now, while admitting that the registry of inward letters would be desirable, he wished to point out that it was a mistake to suppose that it had escaped the attention of former Boards of Admiralty. There were, however, great difficulties in its way. The experiment had been tried when Mr. Phinn was Permanent Secretary, but had been abandoned on account of the delay 140 it occasioned, as the greater part of the letters received at the Admiralty were dealt with and answered on the day of their receipt. It was impossible to conceive a worse arrangement than that made by the Admiralty since he quitted office. He referred to the system of a departmental registry, which, in his judgment, was as bad a system as could be devised for an office where the several departments were so interwoven as at the Admiralty. If there were a central registry, it would be easy to know where the papers could be found; but this was not the case with a departmental registry. On this point Sir Sydney Dacres said—Under the new system more papers are lost in a day than there were in three months before. You never know where they have gone to, whether to the controller's Branch, the Store Branch, or the Victualling Branch; but with a central registration I can get anything I want.He trusted the First Lord of the Admiralty would not persevere with the system of a departmental registry. It had been stated by his right hon. Friend that in the year 1869 the clerical and professional staff of the Admiralty was finally and satisfactorily settled. He found, however, that in 1869 there were 432 clerks and writers; whereas in 1872–3, assuming the salaries of writers to average £100, the number was 507. No doubt there was a slight saving of money; but the number of persons employed was 75 more than was provided for in the Estimates of 1869. He also found that in the Estimates prepared by himself for 1868–9 provision was made for 445 clerks and writers, or 62 less than the number now employed at the Admiralty. It was clear, therefore, that there had not been a final and satisfactory settlement of the clerical staff in 1869. The Vote in 1868 was £121,000; whereas only £108,000 was asked for 1872–3, and, consequently, there was a saving of £13,000; but it ought not to be forgotten that there had been a very large increase in the Pension Vote, so that he did not know whether the Admiralty could be congratulated very much on its economy, which had inflicted great hardships on meritorious public servants. His right hon. Friend' had also asserted that the professional branch was finally and satisfactorily settled in 1869; but he found that there was an increase, this year, of £3,000 in 141 the Vote for the constructive and engineering department, which was stated in the Estimates to be "under revision." But the Board itself appeared to be in a still more questionable plight. In former years the Estimates specified the salaries assigned to the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Senior Naval Lord, the Third Lord, the Junior Naval Lord, the Civil Lord, the Chief of the Staff, and the Secretaries; but this year, strange to say, all these officers had disappeared. There was not the slightest mention in the Estimates of the First Lord of the Admiralty, or of any other member of the Board, and after the account they had had of the Phantom Board, he was under some anxiety to know what had become of them. One thing alone was clear—that, whatever might be their future state, their present position was neither final nor satisfactory. Then the right hon. Gentleman had stated that he had introduced into the dockyards reforms of a very valuable and thorough character. He was of opinion at the time he was at the Admiralty that the then existing staff was too large, and, as he had frequently stated, he had been prevented from revising it in the autumn of 1868 by the unavoidable absence of the Controller, on account of ill-health, until a few days before the resignation of the Government. But he entirely disapproved of the great reduction effected by the right hon. Gentleman; and here again he was fortified by the opinion expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey), who said that—In commercial life it would be deemed a suicidal policy to break up the tried and well-trained staff of an establishment whenever a lull occurred in trade.His hon. Friend had not used too strong an expression, as we should find to our cost whenever the dockyards might be required to meet the pressure of war. One of the worst reforms effected by the late First Lord was to combine the shipwright and the engineer departments and the store department in the hands of one officer, and he might mention that this change also had been condemned by the hon. Member for Hastings. In reference to the combination of master shipwright's and the storekeeper's departments, one of the Megæra Commissioners asked— 142Does not this destroy a very considerable check—that the man who draws the stores supplies the stores?and the Commissioner added—If I employ a carpenter, and let him go into my timber yard, I know he would not take care about wasting the timber; but all he would consider would be what is handy to himself.This was a ground of objection which he (Mr. Corry) had urged two years ago. Great evil had also resulted from overtaxing the energies of the officers to whom so many duties had been assigned. Last year, while commenting on the inadequacy of the supervision at Chatham, he stated that, on visiting the yard, he had found only one Assistant Master Shipwright in charge of the three departments—Mr. Thornton, the Master Shipwright, and one of the best officers in the service, being absent on sick leave. The following statement, which he read in The Times of the 15th of January, confirmed the general opinion then entertained, that he would be unable to return to his duty:—The leave of absence granted to Mr. Thornton, the Master Shipwright and Chief Engineer at Chatham, expires on the 20th. This leave was granted on account of ill-health, supposed to have resulted from the heavy and arduous duties which Mr. Thornton had to exercise under the new system of dockyards, and it is feared his illness will be of a permanent character, and that he will be placed on the superannuation list.Thus a valuable officer would be lost to the country in consequence of the introduction of the new system, for it was the universal opinion at Chatham that Mr. Thornton's illness was entirely caused by the heavy work he had to perform. Everything, as well in the dockyards as at the Admiralty, was at high pressure, and such a system must inevitably lead to disaster in time of war. He thought he had enumerated the principal of the so-called improvements specified by the late First Lord, for the accomplishment of which he had thought it necessary to abolish the old Board. This mistaken policy had deprived the First Lord of the great advantage of hearing naval matters freely discussed by his naval advisers, and had deprived the other Lords and the Secretaries of the means of acquiring the thorough knowledge of the general business of the office, which was essential to successful administration at the Admiralty, where the departments were so inter- 143 woven that it was necessary each should know what the other was about. His right hon. Friend maintained that this knowledge was communicated by means of a Minute Book, in which all important proceedings were recorded, and laid before the heads on the following day. But the information thus given must be of the most meagre character—something like the Votes and Proceedings of this House—and almost useless to the Secretary, who had to sign letters without knowing whether or not they expressed the meaning of the Minutes until the day after he had signed them. The ignorance—the necessary ignorance—of the general business of the office which the Permanent Secretary had displayed in his evidence was sufficient proof how completely the Minute Book had failed in the object for which it was designed. The evidence given before the Duke of Somerset's Committee last year showed that the great advantage of the old system was that it gave the fullest information to every one, and that the disadvantage of the new system was that it failed to do so. Sir Sydney Dacres, in his evidence before the Megæra Commission, said—The great loss now is that subjects are not known to the officers at the Admiralty, and I am fully of opinion the consultative principle is not so good as having a responsible and deliberative Board.There was one result which to him appeared to be fatal to the new system, and that was that in case of the absence of the First Lord no one was really in charge at the Admiralty. Sir Spencer Robinson said before the Committee last year—When the First Lord has been away no one has known to whom to apply. We did the best we could; but there is no one really in charge at the Admiralty.Let the House fancy an urgent telegram arriving in time of war, and no one at the Admiralty to give an order, if the First Lord should happen to be absent. His hon. Friend the Member for Hastings was at one time of opinion that the Board of Admiralty should be abolished. It was no wonder that, after the spectacle presented of the result of personal government, he had, as stated in his pamphlet, quite changed his opinion, and now believed that a Board was the proper organ for administering the affairs of the Admiralty. He (Mr. 144 Corry) thought it unnecessary to dwell on the numerous evils to which its abolition had led, and he would pass on to another change effected by the Order in Council of 1869—that of making the Controller a Lord of the Admiralty. That was stated by the late First Lord to be its cardinal principle, and it had worked as badly as possible. But he need not argue that it was a great mistake, for it was admitted by the late First Lord himself. Sir Sydney Dacres stated in his evidence before the Lords' Committee last year—When Sir Spencer Robinson left, I wrote to Mr. Childers and begged he would not put in a Lord and Controller in one person, and I have his answer, in which he says—'I shall certainly attend to the matter, and not do so.'[Mr. CHILDERS: I did not use the word "Controller."] He could only repeat what he read in the evidence. He quoted from the corrected evidence laid on the Table of the House of Lords. The late First Lord spoke of the great advantage of the amalgamation, as he facetiously called it, of the Controller's Department with the Secretariat; but on that subject the following evidence was given by Sir John Briggs:—There are now virtually two officers at Whitehall—the Admiralty proper and the Controller—not acting in harmony, but in opposition to each other.It further appeared from the evidence of Mr. Lushington before the Megæra Commission that the right of the Permanent Secretary to exercise any superintendence over one-half of the business of the Admiralty was disputed under this so-called amalgamation. When asked before the Commission about his office, Mr. Lushington said—The very phrase 'your office' is open to very grave doubts and difficulties as to the extent of the Secretary's jurisdiction. That is now a disputed question.This was a specimen of the unity of action and of bringing all the business into one hand, which they were told in 1869 was to result from making the Controller a member of the Board. The reduction of the naval element was another of the mischievous provisions of the Order in Council; and it was so ingeniously contrived that, although there were three naval Lords, the First Lord had only one responsible naval adviser. Sir Sydney Dacres, in his evidence, adverted to the deficiency of first-rate naval assistance, 145 which the Order in Council destroyed—and he said—It involves too much responsibility for any one naval man in the world to be the sole naval adviser of the First Lord, and that is not my opinion only, but that of the whole service.That opinion was confirmed last year by every witness before the Lords' Committee, except Lord John Hay, who entertained exceptional views on almost every subject. The late First Lord of the Admiralty created a new office, called Chief of the Staff, and maintained that the officer filling it was equivalent to a Lord; but that was denied by Captain Willes, the Chief of the Staff, who said he did not advise on any questions except in his own department. One of the consequences of the reduction of the naval element was to impose excessive labour on the First Naval Lord. Sir Sydney Dacres stated that he had not time to give attention to very important things belonging to the Fleet. Who could say what connection this might have had with the catastrophes we had all to deplore? The last of the great changes introduced in 1869 was to convert the Parliamentary Secretary into the mere head of a department—the department of finance. He agreed with the late First Lord that there was a want of financial control at the Admiralty. He became thoroughly convinced of that himself during the last year he held office; but he thought the control of finance ought not to be given to the Secretary of the Admiralty, but to the Civil Lord; and that the Secretary should be free to exercise an effective supervision over the whole office, and to obtain such thorough knowledge of its business in all its branches as would enable him, as in former times, to represent the First Lord, when necessary, in the House of Commons. He (Mr. Corry) had been convinced from the first that this unfortunate Order in Council would prove incompatible with the good government of the Navy; and he was sorry to say that this was the third time that he had called the attention of the House to the subject. In 1869 he predicted its failure. Last year he demonstrated its failure as far as evidence could demonstrate anything; and this year we had a confession of its failure by the Permanent Secretary—a gentleman of proved ability, who had risen at the Bar to the office of Deputy Judge Advocate, 146 who, they had been told, had been specially recommended for his present appointment by his distinguished predecessor—Mr. Romaine—but who declared, after nearly three years' experience of the new system that it worked so badly that he knew there must be a revolutionary change, sooner or later. The public were surprised at the revelations which Mr. Vernon Lushington had made; but he (Mr. Corry) thought his evidence had been most unfairly criticized, although, perhaps it might have been a little less graphic in its metaphors. It contained nothing which had not been shown up in the evidence before the Duke of Somerset's Committee, which had been amply informed as to the ignorance—the necessary ignorance of the Secretary, and the unreal mockery of the Board. People in this country never seemed to be sensible of a danger until their attention was called to it by a catastrophe; and it was only when the disaster of last year had occurred that they appreciated the facts which had been already proved before the Lords' Committee. The Secretary, of necessity, acted in ignorance, for his only source of information was the meagre Minute Book, which he did not see until the day after the decisions had been come to—and, as a general rule, the day after he had signed the letters which he had to assume gave effect to those decisions—and he could not exercise a proper control over the business of the office when his authority was generally ignored outside of his own special department, and when, from the abolition of the Board, he never heard a discussion or knew the reasons for any particular course being adopted. Sir John Briggs had stated last year that formerly the First Sea Lord and the Secretary saw all the important papers relating to the department, but that now they saw only half of them, and that, therefore, it was impossible they could know what was passing. Captain Willes also had stated that he did not think that, under the present system, the Secretary did or could know what was going on. That was the evidence of a gentleman who had experience of the new system from its commencement. It was the system, and not the Secretary, which was chargeable with his ignorance—and what did Mr. Lushington say, with respect to his own position? It was quite lamentable to 147 read his evidence upon the point. He said—I am called Secretary to the Board, but the Board does not exist, and the business of the Admiralty is all transacted here and there.Being asked—When you sign the letters what information have you got? Suppose anything contained in them was not, in your judgment, for the good of the service, what means have you of knowing so?He answered—Quite so. I admit any control I have over the letters is of the most imperfect description, and I have represented that to both the First Lords under whom I have served. I sign only because the machinery of the Admiralty is a Board—the phantom of the old Board; but the right person to sign is the superior officer who has given the order.Thus the superior officer had no knowledge whether his order was executed, and the Secretary had no knowledge of what that order was. Mr. Lushington, on being asked how he avoided signing anything injudicious, replied—My means of knowledge are necessarily so imperfect that I have to trust to others in the matter.That was as much as to say that the clerks in the Admiralty who wrote the letters were the persons who were really responsible, and he saw no reason why a writer at £100 a-year might not as well sign the letters as a Secretary with £2,000. The Secretary might as well sign a parcel of blank sheets beforehand, and leave it to the clerks to fill them up. When he (Mr. Corry) held the office of Secretary, he made it a rule to read all important letters before signing them, and, if they did not fully express the intention of the Minute—which he had himself heard discussed at the Board, and had generally written with his own hand—it was his practice to make a marginal correction, and have the letters re-written accordingly. But under the present system the Secretary could exercise no such control. The late First Lord, in his evidence before the Commission, stated what were the instructions he had given to Mr. Lushington, and they would have been admirable if they could have been carried out. They commence as follows:—In the first place, make yourself thorough master of the procedure and routine of the office in all its branches. When you have done that, make it your first business to keep an eye on that procedure and routine. See that all papers go to the proper people, and that the results—the de- 148 cisions of those at the head of the office—are duly executed.But how, in the name of common sense, was that unfortunate gentleman to keep an eye on the procedure and routine of the office in all its branches when his jurisdiction was repudiated in half of them? or how could he see that the decisions of those at the head of the office were properly executed when he had no means of knowing what those decisions were, except from the Minute Book the day after the greater part of the letters had been signed and despatched to their destination? No wonder, under these circumstances, that the old officials who had still been suffered to remain at the Admiralty were driven into frenzy when the office in which they had taken so much pride was thus gibbeted and held up to the ridicule of mankind. A few excellent heads of branches still survived the Tarquinian policy which had been in force at the Admiralty since 1869. Mr. Woolley, Mr. Hay, Mr. Bell, and others, had done their best to carry out the new system; but it would require a superhuman effort to make it work, and it would have contrasted strangely with the old system which it supplanted, if Mr. Romaine could have been examined side by side with Mr. Lushington. The right hon. Member for Pontefract had stated, in his evidence, that had his health been spared, and had he continued in office, he had hoped to have been able to reduce everything to order; but, fully recognizing the right hon. Member's ability, he maintained that no amount of ability could have averted the catastrophe of the Order in Council which he had no doubt would be announced by the First Lord of the Admiralty before the end of the debate. This charter of regeneration which had been in force in the Admiralty since 1869 was as delusive as it was vicious. It invested the First Lord with undivided responsibility to Parliament and the country; but when a catastrophe happened—the loss of the Captain—he disowned that responsibility. It reduced the naval element at the Board; but this was denied by its author, on the ground that the Chief of the Staff represented a fourth Naval Lord. It restricted the functions of each Lord within the hard-and-fast lines of his own department; but, on a difference arising respecting the building of a ship—the Raleigh—the 149 personnel Lord maintained that the fancies of the constructive Lord were not to be considered, and overruled him. It converted the Parliamentary Secretary into a Financial Secretary; but the Permanent Secretary declared this to be a misnomer. In short, this hopeful child, from which so much was expected, had turned out an enfant terrible, which had set everybody by the ears, and had turned everything topsy-turvy. He trusted the First Lord of the Admiralty would that night give birth to something less mischievous in its character. It was not his intention to maintain that the old system was perfect. The searching inquiry into the loss of the Megæra had revealed defects in the relations between the Admiralty and the dockyards, reciprocally, under the old system as well as under the new; but none which did not admit of easy remedy. He had no desire that the old system should be restored in its integrity, because it would be wise to retain such changes as experience had shown to be valuable. While believing that it had been unnecessary to affirm the supremacy of the First Lord by the Order in Council, it would be injudicious to cancel that part of the Order, as to do so might impair the authority of the First Lord. He did ask, however, for the revival of Consultative Boards—that the Controller should cease to be a member of the Board; that the Parliamentary Secretary should be restored to his proper functions; and that, for the sake of the right hon. Gentleman himself and of the service, the First Lord should no longer be left in the hands of a single naval adviser. A return to the practice of holding Boards held the first place in this list of requirements, and he believed it was the opinion of the country and of the service that naval men should again have a recognized voice in the management of the Navy. The question to which he had imperfectly called the attention of the House was of first-rate national importance, because, in the concluding words of the Duke of Somerset's draft Report, it concerned the maritime power of the realm. It was one of those questions on which we ought to forget, and often did forget, on which side of the House we sat, and he trusted that in speaking upon it he had not tainted it with the breath of faction, and that it would not be discussed in the 150 spirit of party by those who might follow him in the debate. The fortunes of the Navy were at stake, and with them the fortunes of England. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the organization of the Admiralty, as settled by the Order in Council of January 14th 1869, has tended to the disadvantage of the Naval Service, and requires reconsideration by Her Majesty's Government,"—(Mr. Corry,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SEELY (Lincoln)
said, he was dissatisfied with the Admiralty equally with the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Corry); but they both differed as to the causes of the evil, and also as to the remedy which ought to be applied. The right hon. Gentleman had entered at considerable length into the subject, had brought forward many opinions, and had advanced some arguments; but he had not, to any great extent, said what the Admiralty were to do. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman wanted to revert to the old system of management by a Board; so that in reality the suggestion was that they should go back to the system as it was in force before the changes introduced by the right hon. Member for Pontefract; but, before they were asked to return to the system which had been superseded, they ought to be furnished with some of its results, in order that they might contrast it fairly with the working of the present system. He liked to look at these questions from a business point of view; and from that point of view, what had the Admiralty to do? The Admiralty had to provide ships, officers, and men, all, of course, of the best quality; and in order to get the ships they had to make many purchases. He dared say the right hon. Gentleman had almost too exalted notions of naval supremacy to care much about economy, or about the mode in which the old Board managed that part of its business; but he apprehended that those who found the money for those purchases would feel somewhat interested in those considerations. He (Mr. Seely) accord- 151 ingly had had occasion more than once to complain of the manner in which more than one Board of Admiralty had heinously neglected its duties in that respect. In 1868 a Committee sat and took evidence in regard to purchases, sales, and other matters connected with the Admiralty. It made a Report, which was not very comprehensive, nor very exhaustive; but the Chairman produced another Report, in which it was stated that there was at least £170,000 paid over and above the market price for anchors, and upwards of £73,000 over and above the market price for chain cables. The then Secretary to the Admiralty (Lord Henry Lennox) produced a counter draft Report, in which that statement was not denied, but in which it was, however, said to have been conclusively proved that the Admiralty anchors and chain cables were of a quality to which no exception could be taken, and that the Committee was not prepared to recommend any change which would relieve the Admiralty of the responsibility of taking every due precaution for the safety of Her Majesty's ships. Nobody, however, wished to relieve the Admiralty from that responsibility. All that men like himself desired was that the Admiralty should procure the very best anchors and chain cables, but should not pay more for them than their value. Now, Mr. John Wilson Croker, who was for 23 years Secretary to the Admiralty, said that it could not be expected that a naval officer, or any other person not possessing a knowledge of the market value of stores, could be able to discharge the duty of purchasing properly. Admiral Berkeley, also, in his evidence in 1861, said that as a Junior Lord he had sat by the side of the Accountant General for three hours at a time, signing papers which he knew nothing about, and signing away sums over which he had no control—that all he had to do was to take care that there were certain "ticks" upon the paper. Was that the system which the House was asked to retain? Was a superintending and controlling Lord to manage the business of buying and selling? Was that a portion of the reform which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone wished to carry out? The Admiralty, in another case, had paid £13,000 odd for one gunboat, and £9,200 odd for another, although they were both made from identically 152 the same design. That was admitted in the noble Lord's Report, which stated that it was true the firm which had built one gunboat for £9,278 would have been willing to contract for several more at the same rate; but that it was unjust for a public department to accept offers which would involve those making them in heavy pecuniary loss, and would drive honest trade out of the market. Those who seriously put forward such a doctrine as that they must ask persons offering goods at a certain price whether they could really afford to sell them at that price and realize a profit were, in his opinion, utterly unfit to manage any department for the purchase of goods. Again, it had been proved that the Admiralty had sold ships for less money than the price paid for the copper upon them. But, further, the Admiralty had always been behindhand in adopting scientific improvements, such as the substitution of steam power for sails, iron instead of wood in shipbuilding, the screw for the paddle, and also the introduction of iron-clad vessels. The consequence of all that had been a very heavy expenditure which might have been saved, while the Navy had not been so efficient as it ought to have been from time to time. He might also refer to the reform of Greenwich Hospital, as far as concerned the distribution of pensions. That reform was opposed both by the hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry); but what had been the result of it? Before the reform was made there were 1,300 old seamen in Greenwich Hospital; but now there were from 6,000 to 7,000 people in receipt of pensions, and instead of grumbling, as the 1,300 old seamen perpetually did, they seemed to be well satisfied; and, certainly, the change seemed to have led to the prolongation of the lives of pensioners, and to a great improvement in their moral character. As regarded the management of the dockyards, he expressed the opinion that if they had been managed as they should be the Megæra would not have been lost, and many other casualties would have been prevented. And here he would refer to a memorandum sent to the Admiralty by the late Controller in 1867, in which he fully described the management of the dockyards at that time. At page 3, 153 after describing the duties of storekeeper, he said—Under such a system, how could they have unity of purpose, forethought, or method in the conduct of such an establishment?He added—Accurate accounts of the work done in the dockyards are not yet furnished to the Controller.Then, in a pamphlet published some time ago, and generally attributed to Sir Spencer Robinson, he found this passage—No language can be too strong to express the disorder that reigned over naval expenditure and accounts during a large portion of the time Sir James Graham's Admiralty system was in operation.And speaking of the superintendent, he said—
"He is called a superintendent, and he ought to be a manager of what he is responsible for; but he is only the vehicle through which orders pass to the several departments. Work which ought to be done for £10,000 costs £16,000. He is not called on to account for this excess; he has no responsibility on account of it."
And he wound up with this grave charge of Admiralty administration—Is it wonderful that, with such an organization, the working of the dockyards is not satisfactory? If there were not waste and mismanagement, it would be a miracle; and it speaks highly of the character of all who are employed that, under so faulty a system, the work is done as well as it is.Now, he asked, was this a state of things which they wished to return to? It was somewhat extraordinary that the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) and the hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) were in possession of that opinion of the Controller at the time the Committee sat in 1868, yet not a word was said in that Committee upon the subject. And not only that, but the Controller, loyal to his party, defended the system which a year before he had condemned in so unqualified a manner; and, while upon this point, he could not help protesting against public men sticking to their party in this manner and throwing overboard the public interest. With regard to the loss of the Megæra it was not likely that errors could be avoided under such a system; and he thought it might be fairly quoted, as showing that the management of the dockyards had been faulty in the extreme; indeed, it 154 was almost impossible that work could be well done, and perils avoided under such a system as had just been described. The superintendent had no knowledge of the matter he was called on to superintend, and although he had not studied the Report of the Commissioners sufficiently to discuss it minutely, he had seen enough of it to lead him to the conclusion that the judgment passed on the Controller was harsh, and he would almost say unfair. The Controller had distinct orders to superintend the dockyards and to examine all ships coming into port; and in compliance with those orders, it appeared that there was a memorandum issued from the Controller's office, holding the captain of the Reserve responsible for the condition of the inside of a ship, and directing him to apply to the superintendent for such assistance as he might require to keep the ship clean and the iron free from corrosion. There were also memorandums issued from the Controller's office to the superintendent of every dockyard, requiring them to examine into the condition of a ship coming into port, to see that her bottom was free from corrosion, and to remedy any defect in her. When such orders were given the Controller ought not to be held responsible for their being neglected, especially when the reforms which he had tried to introduce over and over again, as was shown by his pamphlet, had been neglected up to 1869. To hold a man responsible for what it was well known he could not do was merely to talk rubbish. The House had a right to expect from the First Lord of the Admiralty and his Board, if he had one, that they should have a proper system of accounts for purchases and sales, and the management of the dockyards, and a good system by which the officers of the Fleet should be guided; but it was impossible to hold the First Lord of the Admiralty responsible if an engineer should happen to overweight his safety-valve and blow up a ship. In the same way it was impossible to hold the Controller responsible in all details, especially as he was denied the security of appointing his own officers, and under all the circumstances of the case he thought that officer had been very ill-used. An order had been issued from the Admiralty to the effect that when a captain took command of a ship commissioned for a voyage the 155 Master Shipwright and the Chief Engineer were to send to the Controller a report of the state of the ship, which report was to be signed by the captain as concurring. This was a very strong order, and threw an immense amount of responsibility upon those officers, for it depended upon their report whether or not the ship was to be regarded as fit for sea. He did not mean to say that with respect to the Megæra the Controller was relieved from responsibility by the fact that that order had been fully complied with, or that he was altogether free from blame in the matter of the cement; but when they considered the various duties which devolved upon the Controller—the construction of ships, the sort of guns to be used, and the various duties that come before him—he thought he might fairly say that if he did occasionally make an error, there was a possibility of an excuse being made for him. With respect to Sir Spencer Robinson personally, there were in the service few men more devoted to their work or more able and conscientious in its discharge. He therefore certainly thought that the loss of the Megæra indicated a necessity for the introduction of reform in Admiralty administration. The right hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) had argued that one source of weakness was that there were too few naval officers concerned in the management of naval affairs. He believed that when his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) came to speak he would show that the naval officers on the present Board were as numerous as on the Board which it succeeded. There were seven then and there were seven now. As to the argument that the Controller should not, and that the First Naval Lord should, be made a Lord of the Admiralty, he confessed that he could see no ground for that at all, and though he did not wish to impute motives, it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman was anxious to exalt the naval and depress the civilian element of the Board. No doubt it required a clever man to fill the office of First Naval Lord; but there were numbers of naval officers who were fit to fill the office of First Naval Lord, while there were very few indeed who were fit for the office of Controller. The right hon. Gentleman had further urged that a Consultative Board, such 156 as that which had existed under the former rule at the Admiralty, was absolutely necessary to the success of the service. Now, he had two objections to the old Board—to such a Board as that which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to constitute. In the first place, it would be what he might call a political Board—it would come in with the Ministry and go out with the Ministry, and thus a change in the directing officials would constantly be taking place. In the second place, being, as he had said, a political Board, its members would be very often selected from political motives, instead of being made up simply of the best men for the service of the Navy. That being the case, the business of the Navy was not likely to be well managed. The superintending Lords were to advise the First Lord; but the average of their tenure of office being only two years, it did not appear to him (Mr. Seely) likely that they would have gained the amount of experience sufficient to qualify them for the position. They might be called upon for their advice at a period when they had only been a few months in office, and just when they had succeeded in acquiring some knowledge of the duties of their office they might be turned out. He thought it would be far better to make the departments permanent, and not to subject them to political exigencies, either in respect of the nomination of members or of their retention of office. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Corry) had quoted some authorities in support of his view. He (Mr. Seely) might quote various high authorities in support of his opinion; and he was always glad to go for them to the other side, as he found that when drawn from that source they had more weight with hon. Gentlemen opposite than if they were taken from the side on which he sat. On the question of the reorganization of the Admiralty being raised in 1832, and it being proposed to leave everything to be done directly by the Board of Admiralty, Mr. Goulburn made a speech, in which he demonstrated that under such circumstances the responsibility of the Board could never be maintained. Admiral Sir George Cockburn, speaking in the same debate, said that the adoption of the measure proposed would take away personal responsibility from nearly every officer in the Navy. In 157 addition to that, in 1860 a Select Committee on Military Organization, on which were Sir James Graham, General Peel, and Mr. Secretary Herbert, reported against the principle of governing the Army by means of Boards, stating several reasons on which they based their opinion that the adoption of such a form of government would be the taking of a retrograde step. For all these reasons he should oppose the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone. At the same time, he was by no means satisfied with the present state of Admiralty administration. The Lords of the Admiralty did not seek, as they ought to seek, for men of practical knowledge and experience as their servants. They paid their servants badly, did not trust them, and attempted to manage all the various departments from Whitehall, a task which was utterly impossible of satisfactory accomplishment, and which ended in great apathy among the subordinates, and, on many occasions, he feared, considerable neglect. If his right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers), instead of possessing the appetite for work which distinguished him, had been a little more idle, and had simply—if he possessed the power so to do—appointed the best men he could find as his subordinates, then all defects as they cropped up would have been remedied, and many matters which had justly been made the subject of censure would have been avoided. Reforms to be effectual must always be gradual, and he hoped that in future more forethought would distinguish Admiralty administration, so that the necessary reforms might be satisfactorily effected. In conclusion, he must say he looked with apprehension on the present state of things, and thought that the main fault of the late First Lord was, that he did not go far enough in his reforms, though the step he took was in the right direction.
§ MR. BATES
said, he rose to answer a Question which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) had put to the House. The hon. Gentleman asked if it was usual to ask a contractor for the building of a ship if he was capable of fulfilling his contract, a question which he, as a shipowner, begged to answer in the affirmative. In fact, it was the invariable practice to ask such a question; and if there was any doubt as to the answer, he would rather give 158 £4,000 or £5,000 more to a competent person than run the risk of failure.
§ MR. BATES
said, he certainly understood the hon. Member to ask ironically whether the Admiralty inquired as to the soundness of the position of persons tendering. Then, again, the hon. Member asked who was to be held responsible for proceedings such as had occurred in connection with the Megæra. He (Mr. Bates) would ask, in return, who would be responsible but himself, if his controller—did he possess one—neglected to carry out his orders and his ship went to sea in an unseaworthy state? He did not mean to say that the First Lord of the Admiralty could personally examine every ship; but he was bound to see that his orders were carried out and to be held responsible in case of dereliction of duty. What they wanted as members and subordinates of the Board of Admiralty was practical men who could go on board a ship and, standing on her deck, see that everything was right there; or who could go down into the dock when a ship was dry, and see that the plates of which she was built were not like paper.
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone in thinking that Parliament ought not to treat the discussion of naval affairs as a party question. He most earnestly deprecated the introduction of party feeling into their deliberations on naval affairs. Surely it was not a vain fancy to cherish the hope that both sides of the House might be disposed cordially to unite in a common effort to secure a good Navy for old England. In this country we were too apt to condemn our administrators hastily for trivial errors of judgment. It might, therefore, interest the House to hear an opinion as to the condition of the English Navy which had recently been expressed by Admiral Porter, and published with the last Report presented to Congress by the Secretary to the United States Navy. Admiral Porter said—By referring to the list of ironclads of foreign nations and comparing it with that of last year, 159 you will perceive a large increase in that class of vessels. The fleet of Great Britain, in particular, is the most formidable. Never, in the history of England, was she better prepared for war than at the present moment in ships, material, officers, and men. That I know to be the case from actual inspection of her vessels of war by our most intelligent officers. The introduction into our Navy of the Monitor system was the death knell of the great wooden fleets of Europe. England in particular suffered by that change; but, nothing discouraged, the Board of Admiralty went to work, and devised plan after plan, until the British fleet has now the best and finest equipped iron ships in existence, capable of contending with the combined navies of Europe. To suppose that this Board of Admiralty, so unjustly criticized, had not made mistakes would be out of the question; but their errors are comparatively few, and have in most instances been rectified.For his own part, he—and he thought both sides of the House—would accept with confidence this estimate of a distinguished American Admiral of the success which had attended the efforts of the Admiralty, not only under the present, but the late Government, in the construction of our fleet. He was sure that the British public, which had heard the Admiralty of late so freely abused, could have formed no conception of the admiration of the successes of our recent naval administration which was expressed by foreign critics. The whole subject of Admiralty organization was beyond the scope of a single speech. He wished, therefore, to confine what he had to say to the department of the Controller. In passing, however, he would remark that as a civilian the First Lord of the Admiralty must have naval advice, and it mattered little whether the advisers were called a Board, a Council, or a Committee, for the result would be practically the same. As to the introduction at the discussions of the Board of Admiralty of topics which were irrelevant or of inferior importance, his experience, which was not small, of the management of commercial business by means of Boards assured him that where the chairman exercised a proper control no difficulty need be experienced on that score. As public opinion, whether wisely or not, seemed to associate the recent misfortunes of the Navy with the altered constitution of the Board, and to demand a revival of the old system of management, which had never broken down in the hour of trial, he hoped it would be reconstituted with such modifications as might be desirable. Perhaps the most objectionable of the changes introduced 160 in the position of the Controller by the Order in Council was his elevation to the Board. A position of responsibility to the Board was hardly compatible with the co-ordinate authority of the Controller as a member of the Board. Among the witnesses examined before the Duke of Somerset's Committee there was almost complete unanimity of opinion against the elevation of the Controller to the Board. It was true that in the Paper prepared by Sir Spencer Robinson in 1867 the elevation of the Controller to the Board was recommended; but, with due deference to so great an authority, he ventured to think that recommendation a mistake, and that the best course would be to appoint an additional Lord to the Board, whose especial duty it should be to superintend the dockyards. It had been admitted by many most competent naval authorities, among them the Duke of Somerset, that it was impossible for any one individual, however great his ability, to discharge with efficiency the great amount of work which fell to the share of the Controller. Sir Spencer Robinson had expressed a different opinion; but the disclosures recently made before the Megæra Commission showed that the superintendence of the dockyards by the Controller was not so efficient as could be desired. Under the Orders in Council the custody of the store department was added to the heavy catalogue of duties devolving on the Controller, while at the same time he was raised to the position of a member of the Board. These changes threw a large amount of additional work on the Controller; but just at that very time the staff of the store department was reduced, the place of chief engineer was abolished, and the former second in command, with the insignificant title of engineer assistant, and the trifling addition of £50 to his former salary of £550, became the Controller's chief adviser with regard to that important office the steam department of the Navy. Now, the question was, how to devise means to relieve the Controller of a portion of his duties? In his opinion, it would be desirable to appoint a standing committee on naval inventions and designs. Such a committee was strongly recommended by Admiral Elliot in his evidence before the Committee of 1861, and would have this advantage—that the Admiralty would then be able to 161 consult many competent advisers in those difficult questions which were continually arising, without, at the same time, appearing to desire to shake off the responsibility which properly belonged to that department. There was another branch of his duties in which relief might be given to the Controller, and that was in his capacity as shipbuilder of the Navy and manager of the dockyards. It was quite certain that the advice of a naval officer was required to control in a general way the matériel of the Fleet; but it by no means followed that the Controller, who had had the training, not of a shipbuilder, but of a sea officer, should be required to become, as if by a wave of the enchanter's wand, a practical shipbuilder. It was said by Admiral Elliot in 1861 that the best qualification for the Controller was recent experience on active service at sea. But if the Controller was to become the practical manager of the yards, he should serve a long apprenticeship in that capacity, and during the period of his novitiate he must mainly be dependent on the advice of his subordinates. A frequent change in the person holding the post of Controller would, therefore, be undesirable; but, on the other hand, if he remained in office too long the great advantage of recent experience at sea would be lost. The only escape from this dilemma which he could discover, was to relieve the Controller from the direct and immediate management of the yards by appointing a practical shipwright, who would take charge of that department under the general supervision of the Controller. The Committee of 1860 had said that if the dockyards were frequently visited by a practical shipwright and engineer officer representing the Surveyor of the Navy, it would be attended by many beneficial results—orders would be interpreted aright and more strictly carried out, better judgments would be formed of persons fit for promotion, and the energies of the officers more advantageously drawn forth. He considered, also, that the work of the dockyards could not be properly conducted by correspondence alone. He begged the House to observe how the Committee laid stress on the necessity of securing a more strict compliance on the part of the dockyard people with the orders of the Admiralty, and on the advantage of possessing better means of forming a judgment 162 of the persons most fit for promotion. The great difference between the management of a private business and a public business consisted in the circumstance that, in the former, a single individual was able to watch closely the progress and capabilities of the workmen in his employ, and so to promote them with much greater confidence than could possibly be felt by the political head of an administrative establishment who had not the same opportunities of close and constant personal supervision, and who seldom continued in office long enough to gain a personal knowledge of his staff. If a permanent head of the shipbuilding department were appointed, he would be able to give to the Admiralty the same valuable advice for the promotion of civilians in the dockyards which the Admiralty now received from their naval advisers with regard to the promotion of officers in the military branch of the service. It became of more importance to obtain for the Admiralty the best means of obtaining advice as to promotions, because it would rarely be possible to induce men of high position in the commercial world to enter the Admiralty service, and for that reason, if for no other, competent men for the higher appointments in the dockyards must be trained in those establishments. It was probable that for the peculiar task of managing a dockyard, the service itself would at all times afford the most satisfactory training. A Surveyor of the Navy, a high civil officer acting under the Controller, might render great service to the Admiralty in other ways. Considering how frequently political accident led to changes at the Admiralty, there would be a great advantage in having a permanent officer responsible for the management of details, and whose presence at the Admiralty would be a guarantee for the continuity of the system of management in the dockyards. The recommendations of Admiral Smart's Committee were recognized as valuable by the then Board of Admiralty; and the Duke of Somerset proposed to appoint a second assistant constructor; so that by having two officers of that rank it would be possible that one or other of them should be always absent from Whitehall engaged in paying personal visits to the dockyards. Since that time, three assistant constructors had been appointed; but 163 whereas the salary was formerly £800, it was now reduced to £600 a-year. Judging, therefore, from the reduction in their salaries, these officers are no longer regarded by the Admiralty as invested with the control over the dockyards which Admiral Smart's Committee said it was so desirable they should possess. Neither did he think it altogether judicious to entrust the management and inspection of the dockyards to the Chief Constructor of the Navy. A Chief Constructor ought to be selected for his talents as a naval architect; but a naval architect might not be a good manager of large bodies of artizans, and might have little inclination to deal with those dry details upon the skilful manipulation of which economical management depended. In railway administration there was all the difference in the world between the department of the engineer who designed, and that of the contractor who executed. It seemed clear, therefore, that it would be an advantage to appoint an additional officer on the staff of the Controller, having the rank of a principal officer of the Navy, whose sole business would be to superintend the building of the ships from the designs prepared by the Controller, and to watch over the general management of the dockyards. In 1821 there were employed in this general management of the dockyards a Controller receiving a salary of £2,000, and three surveyors receiving £1,000 each. Great changes had occurred since that time. Salaries had largely increased; the value of money had diminished; and there was much greater competition than there used to be for the services of skilful professional men in the commercial shipbuilding yards of the country. He thought they would be doing wisely in following the example of their forefathers, who, at a time when the golden era of the British Navy was fresh in the recollections of the nation, thought it discreet policy to employ officers at liberal salaries to carry out the important duties he had described. He did not recommend large salaries in the hope of inducing persons holding high positions in the commercial world to enter the public service, but because it would be a serious calamity for this country if the men whom we had trained at great pains in our public establishments were continually tempted by the offer of more liberal employment else- 164 where to quit the public service. He was also anxious to relieve the Controller from some portion of his duties, not because he wished to dispense with so valuable an officer, but because he desired to see a distinguished sea officer employed in duties which more strictly belonged to his profession; and, generally, he thought, that the more completely we adopted in our dockyard management the system of decentralization, combined with strict and close supervision on the part of the central authority, the more completely we should insure the efficiency of the British Navy.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he was at a loss to discover who was really responsible for the management of the Admiralty. Judging from the Report of the Megæra Commission, one would imagine there was no chief at the head of that department. He hoped the First Lord would show that he at least was prepared to take upon himself the entire responsibility for the management of Admiralty affairs, and thus obviate the great amount of confusion and mismanagement which existed there, but which ought never to have taken place when the vast amount of money expended upon the service was taken into consideration. In his opinion the late First Lord took a step in the right direction when he endeavoured to take upon his own shoulders the entire responsibility, and that was the only system to secure efficiency. He thought there should be permanent officials—one to superintend the building of ships, another to superintend repairs, another with control over the dockyards; these men would have a correct knowledge of the works under their control, and would be responsible to the First Lord, who would himself be solely responsible to Parliament and the country. Under such a system we should not have had such mishaps as that of the Megæra, the Agincourt, and others, which had recently discredited the management of the Admiralty. Indeed, in the case of the Agincourt, he considered the late First Lord particularly responsible, for this reason—that the officers appointed to that vessel were chiefly of his own selection. The only way to secure that Admiralty affairs were properly conducted would be to have the First Lord responsible to Parliament, and assisted by permanent officials instead of political colleagues,
§ MR. SAMUDA
thought the case of the Megæra illustrated in a marked manner the necessity for some amendment of the system of Admiralty control. From 1866 to the present time the conduct of the Admiralty with regard to the Megæra had been marked by the same defects. In 1866 the Woolwich officials reported that it would cost £4,300 to put the Megæra in a perfectly sea-going trim. They, however, pointed out a cheaper way of doing the work less perfectly for £2,000, and said that £250 would suffice to float the vessel for two years. The Controller selected and submitted the proposal to spend £250 only to the First Naval Lord, Sir Alexander Milne, who approved it, and the Board sanctioned this expenditure. The vessel was lost in consequence. There was no blinking the fact that patching up a vessel under such circumstances for a small sum was actually equivalent to sending her to sea in an un-seaworthy condition, yet that was done by the Admiralty with a full knowledge of what was required to repair the vessel thoroughly. In commerce, as the present First Lord of the Admiralty well knew, the insurance would be forfeited if the repairs required by the underwriters to make the vessel seaworthy were not fully carried out, and not only would the insurance of the ship be lost, but of all the goods that it contained. Now, it was plain that in the case of the Megæra the fault had been that a small and totally insufficient sum had been spent in the first instance on the repairs, instead of a larger and really indispensable one. But the course pursued by the Board of 1866 had been followed by every Board since. In December, 1867, the Woolwich officials again overhauled the Megæra, and reported that she could be made to run another 12 months for about £250 in addition to £445, and Sir Alexander Milne again ordered the vessel to be re-commissioned. But the Woolwich people supplemented their report by a warning that this expenditure would not put the ship fully in repair, and would only patch her up for 12 months. Again, in 1870, we find a further trifling sum only being allowed to be spent on her. Thus, the repairs known to be necessary on the first inspection in 1866 were never done at all, not even when the vessel started on her last voyage four or five years 166 after that first patching up. Bearing the fact in mind that successive Boards of Admiralty had neglected to repair the vessel thoroughly, it was instructive to see how she was lost. In the first place, it was clear she was not lost by the leak, which was stopped, nor by stress of weather. The vessel was deliberately beached by Captain Thrupp on the advice of his officers, because all confidence in her strength to continue her voyage was gone, and this conclusion was founded on the evidence of the diver and the engineers, that the plates round about the leak were too much worn and decayed to make it safe to continue the voyage to Australia. If the Admiralty had done what the dockyard officials advised in the first instance; if the Admiralty had done what every shipowner did every day, the Megæra would not have been lost. The vessel, he must repeat, had been unquestionably sacrificed to false economy. The Report of the Commission, upon which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Corry) had commented very lightly, was somewhat imperfect, and just what one might have expected from a Commission appointed by the Admiralty to apportion the blame among all the officers below the Board itself. But he (Mr. Samuda) distinctly affirmed that the Admiralty must share with Sir Spencer Robinson the full responsibility for all that had occurred. For the same reason which induced the Commission to come to the conclusion that Sir Spencer Robinson was responsible because he was Controller of the Admiralty, each separate Board of Admiralty was equally responsible, because they approved and confirmed his directions to the dockyard officials, and ordered repairs known to be wanted to remain undone, and only allowed a few hundred pounds to be spent, just sufficient to keep the ship afloat for a few months, but not sufficient to insure her seaworthiness if it had to be tested by bad weather. These matters occurred when the Admiralty was presided over by the Duke of Somerset. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone and the right hon. Member for Pontefract, and each of their Boards, must accept the responsibility of neglecting to put the vessel in a state of seaworthiness when they commissioned her and sent her to sea. With reference to the present Motion, he must say that when the 167 changes proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract were under consideration, he (Mr. Samuda) took the opportunity of expressing his astonishment at what was about to take place. Some things passed through the House so easily, so quickly, and so mysteriously, that one hardly seemed to know they were in agitation before they were completed and in operation. It appeared to him then, and it did so now, a great misfortune that the change was then made which threw all the responsibility on the First Lord. All who had addressed the House, with the exception of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), had expressed themselves dissatisfied with the present state of things at the Admiralty; and, judging from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone, the present First Lord was so dissatisfied with it that he was prepared to propose a change; but in doing so he hoped the First Lord would bear in mind that it was absolutely impossible from either front bench to select a man who could possess within himself the power of initiating the general policy that was required for the Admiralty. It was impossible for any one man, even if he possessed the best administrative power and was the best statesman that ever lived, to be able to originate one idea that could be carried out successfully in the Navy, or that he could, from his own knowledge, rebut fallacies that might be placed before him. It was, therefore, of the utmost importance that the Admiralty should fortify itself by having the very best consultative means at its disposal. Besides, if the Admiralty had imperfectly used its power as a Board, it only proved that greater improvement must be looked for and would take place in the Admiralty in future, by bringing that class of persons together from whom they would get real discussions from which beneficial results would take place. He had an unfeigned admiration for Sir Spencer Robinson's ability; but he believed he had been put into an entirely false position when he was made a Lord of the Admiralty. If the Controller in the Navy was kept in the position of an officer, he would necessarily have to put before "My Lords" his submissions brought forward in the most careful way in writing, and be prepared to maintain them; but that 168 would not be so if he were put in the position of a member of the Board, or if the Board was dismembered. He agreed with the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) that many changes might most advantageously be introduced. A very great error was made when they got rid of Mr. Lloyd, the Chief Engineer. The whole security and safety of the Controller depended on that officer and the Chief Constructor. The Controller should be fortified with the very best engineering assistance, for they were in such a state of change as probably no previous age had seen. For upwards of 100 years the work of the Admiralty was comparatively trifling, but now no sooner was a ship built than her plan of construction had to be reconsidered, to meet the requirements of the rapid progress that was made, meanwhile, in artillery. Mr. Lloyd had been replaced by his assistant—able, no doubt, but very inferior in practice and general position. They had also got rid of Mr. Reed. He did not think Mr. Reed had on all occasions been absolutely correct, but he endeavoured to bring forward that general, comprehensive, and continuous improvement that the progress of science was continually necessitating, and for which the Admiralty was greatly indebted to him; and no one should succeed him who did not possess the very highest qualifications. It was impossible to think of filling his place by a committee, though the First Lord might strengthen himself with considerable advantage by acting on the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hastings, and have a permanent committee to advise him, not upon mere inventions, but upon actual designs; and such a committee, in conjunction with the Chief Constructor and Chief Engineer, would enable him to go on improving our ships. Then, again, these offices ought to be of a permanent character; it would be a misfortune that they should be changeable at short intervals. One fact ought never to be lost sight of, and that was that a dockyard was a gigantic factory, demanding energetic supervision from permanent chiefs who thoroughly understood the business they had to direct, and who certainly ought to hold their positions for a certain number of years. Attention to these points would, he hoped, maintain for our Navy the supremacy it had held in the past.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, that the deterioration in the material of iron ships occurred within the vessels, and generally in positions inaccessible to the seamen navigating them. The fault as to the Megæra seemed to him to rest with the officials who neglected to examine her properly, and he agreed with Mr. Rothery, in his addition to the Report of the Commissioners, that it was not just to blame Sir Spencer Robinson and the authorities at Whitehall for the negligence of their dockyard officials in that respect. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) that the position of Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty under the arrangement of 1869 was very unsatisfactory. He ought to occupy a position analogous to that of a managing clerk in a shipowning concern, and should be fully acquainted with every department, and with the wishes of his superiors, in order that their instructions might be quite understood and thoroughly carried into effect. But in contrast to that, it was quite clear from his evidence that Mr. Vernon Lushington was not aware of what his duties really were, and was totally unacquainted with what was done in the different departments. It was also a mistake to reduce the functions of Parliamentary Secretary to that of superintendent of contracts, and attending to the naval financial arrangements. His position should be that of a junior partner, who was taken into the confidence of his superior, and being acquainted with all the details of the business, could carry it on in the absence of the senior partner. If the late First Lord erred at all, he thought he had done so from an excessive zeal in the public service; he had taken upon himself too much responsibility and too much labour. It was unwise in any large establishment to concentrate too much management in one individual, for in the event of his absence, from illness or other cause, the thread of business was likely to be lost. The present First Lord would no doubt, in his new scheme, partly retrace the steps of his predecessor, and while he would accept a larger amount of responsibility than any other First Lord, it was desirable that he should not ignore the importance of placing trust in, and holding immediate communication with the various officers around him, both civil and naval.
§ MR. CHILDERS
Sir, it is somewhat disheartening, after the attention so long devoted by the public to this question, to have to address so thin a House, and it is no consolation that those who have for some time preceded me have been addressing still more empty benches. I regret this the more, inasmuch as two years, within some weeks, have passed since I last spoke here; and, during that time, from a misfortune beyond my control, I have not only been absent, but have, till recently, been entirely unacquainted with the discussions which have been raised as to matters in which I was concerned. I feel, therefore, no little discouragement in dealing with this important question; but I am sure I shall receive the fullest indulgence from both sides of the House in the observations which it is my duty to make. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry) has spoken with great moderation, and has said much with which I concur. He is not only "the Father of the House," but in regard to naval and Admiralty affairs speaks with an authority which I should be the last to dispute, and with a degree of personal knowledge second to none. I do not complain, but am rather glad that he repeated so much that he had stated in discussions last year; but, while thanking him for enabling me to hear and reply to some parts of those speeches, which, whatever they may have seemed to others, were not crambe repetita to me, he will forgive me for reminding him that the House is under some disadvantage with respect to a considerable portion of his speech. He alluded in much detail to the evidence taken before the Megæra Commission; but, though he and I, by the courtesy of my right hon. Friend the First Lord, have had an opportunity of seeing that evidence, it is not in the hands of the House generally; and it is uphill work to discuss Papers and make references to evidence to which other hon. Members have not access. Another disadvantage is, that we are thus needlessly anticipating the debate which is to come off after Easter, on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Chichester, running over much of the same ground. I appreciate the force of my right hon. Friend's reasons for raising this discussion; but it would have been more convenient had he accepted the offer of my right hon. Friend 171 the First Lord, when we should have had all the advantages of a night like the present, while the House would have been able to understand what must now be utterly unintelligible. My right hon. Friend probably, however, deemed that his speech would lose all its interest if it came later; and, therefore, I will now do my best to discuss the question involved in the Motion. But before I do so, I wish to get rid of some of what I may call the fringe of the question, to which my right hon. Friend attached considerable importance, but which I think I may very briefly dispose of. In dwelling on the administration of the Admiralty, with which I was connected for some years, he repeated the charge brought against me last year by more than one hon. Member as to a state of confusion and a want of harmony resulting from the altered administration, and he referred especially as one of the vices of the change, to the want of acquaintance with what was going on from time to time on the part of individual members of the Board at Whitehall; and more especially to the standstill to which, from this ignorance of the current business, the machine had been, or would be brought, by the absence for more than a short time of the First Lord. Well, with regard to the last point, my right hon. Friendis certainly under a mistake; because in the year 1869 I was absent for a very considerable time—indeed, I think I was even out of the country for no less than six weeks—and I can answer for it that the machine worked perfectly well. Therefore, as far as the ordinary absence of the First Lord is concerned, I do not think there is any foundation for the statement which has been made. But, then, it is said there is a want of harmony caused by the present arrangements of the Admiralty—that different members of the Department do not know what is going on, and that hence arise conflicting decisions and action. Now, I do not pretend that in every case in the many thousand transactions of the Admiralty no such inconvenience has occurred; but it is not the result of my changes. Indeed, on the contrary, I think I can show that those inconveniencies existed formerly to a much greater degree than they do at present. I will only give a single illustration, although I can, if I choose, 172 bring forward a good many. In giving this illustration, I cannot help mentioning well-known names; but I desire it to be clearly understood that I shall avoid raising any personal question whatever, especially as to the individuals with whom it was my misfortune to have certain differences during my tenure of office; and I desire to thank my right hon. Friend for having avoided all references of that kind. But while I shall on the present occasion avoid alluding to those differences, yet if any hon. Member has any charges to make against me on the subject of those differences, and thinks fit to bring them before the House, I am prepared to meet him and to justify my conduct. The particular illustration of utter want of harmony to which I was about to allude is that of the resignation sent by Mr. Reed, not to me, but to my right hon. Friend; and as there is some novelty about it, perhaps the House will allow me to describe the affair at some length. In 1863 Mr. Reed was appointed Chief Constructor of the Navy by the Duke of Somerset. Well, towards the close of the year 1866 he applied for an increase of salary, undoubtedly well-earned, and also for a grant of money. In passing, I may say I entirely sympathize with those hon. Gentlemen who advocate good salaries for the number of officers we really require, rather than inadequate salaries for numbers whom we do not require. Well, after a preliminary discussion, in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) and others took part, Mr. Heed was informed on the 7th of February, 1867, that his statements and the reports upon them would receive the careful consideration of their Lordships. This careful consideration was so careful that it seems the matter was altogether forgotten for more than a year, for my right hon. Friend on the 9th of April, 1868, wrote this Minute—"Why are these papers which ought to have been settled 14 months ago brought up now?" I do not know why they were not; and yet this was the system under which everybody knew what was going on. Towards the end of the same month, Mr. Reed wrote to request the Secretary to the Admiralty to inform their Lordships that more than a year had elapsed since they intimated that they would give their attention to the case, and he ex- 173 pressed a hope that it might be further considered. Well, three more months passed by, and, as nothing was done, Mr. Reed, in despair, resigned his office, and became a candidate for the borough of Pembroke. Two or three days afterwards he withdrew his resignation, and the Press was much surprised, and, indeed, puzzled, by the occurrence. For instance, on the 5th of August The Times, discussing Mr. Reed's resignation, and the reason of his returning to his office and giving up his candidature for Pembroke, made a very ingenious suggestion—namely, that it had something to do with turret-ships; that he had differed with the Admiralty, but that the Board preferred a quiet life to their own opinions. The real cause, however, was this—when Mr. Reed resigned towards the end of July the Board was very frightened, and passed a Minute at once to the effect that a letter should be written to the Treasury requesting that a considerable sum of money should be given to him. Upon this, Mr. Reed, to use his own words, said—I foresaw and said that the Treasury might object, and that for this and other reasons I would prefer to leave and go forward with my candidature. The Controller then told me that the First Lord of the Admiralty had seen the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that no objection would be made. Upon that assurance I acted, and but for that I should most certainly not have remained at the Admiralty and relinquished my Parliamentary prospects.There is also on record a Minute by the Controller, saying that he told Mr. Reed nothing but what he was authorized by the Board to tell, and that Mr. Reed was fully justified in believing that the matter was settled and the arrangement finally made. Accordingly, on the 5th of August, 1868, a letter was written to the Treasury to say that the Board of Admiralty thought Mr. Reed had established his claim, and to request that the sum of £5,000 should be paid to him. I do not know what part my right hon. Friend had in all this, but Mr. Reed, at any rate, was satisfied with the assurances given to him. Well, the thing went on; all August passed, all September passed, all October passed; but at the end of October, however, just before the General Election, he received a letter from the Treasury saying that their Lordships had considered the question, and must decline to allow the money. The House will imagine, therefore, in what frame of 174 mind Mr. Reed naturally was when I succeeded my right hon. Friend. About three months after the money had been clearly promised to Mr. Reed, that gentleman was told that the payment could not be allowed, and it is not to be wondered at that he considered himself "jockeyed." It is true that a Minute was left for me by my predecessor, to the effect that Mr. Reed ought to have the money; and as I was of the same opinion, I ultimately succeeded in obtaining it for him. But I think this is a very fair illustration of the manner in which, even under, forsooth, the perfect system of administration by Boards, utter confusion and misunderstanding arises, to my mind frequently in consequence of that system. Now I will pass to the main question. My right hon. Friend has done me the justice to say that from the first I was explicit as to the course of policy we proposed to adopt, and I must admit he has not charged me with having in the least degree departed from the principles which I laid down a few days after taking office. I can say with perfect sincerity that when I took office at the end of the year 1868, and determined to do my best to apply those principles which I have never hesitated to advocate in this House, I knew I was undertaking a most difficult task, in which the chances were that I should not entirely succeed. I think my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre), in a speech delivered in the country a short time ago, referred to the blasts, or gusts, which at the time were blowing through the Department at Whitehall. Judging from my own experience at Whitehall, that was a very moderate description of the state of affairs there. My impression is, that for the last 10 or 12 years a perpetual cyclone has been blowing at Whitehall, and, unlike other cyclones, you are not even sure of a calm when you get into the middle of it. I say nothing as to the causes of these severe gales, but it has been said over and over again that there are two or three, if not five or six, parties in the building. That there were differences of opinion was patent to everyone, nor was it to be denied that we lived there in a sort of glass case, open to any amount of observation from without, and this fact was brought home to our minds, not in a very agreeable manner, pretty well from morning to night. I 175 was perfectly aware of that state of things; but nevertheless I was determined to follow out in the Department the principles which had been advocated by naval reformers both in this House and out of it. The better organization of the Department has been the subject of discussion frequently during the present generation, and two or three hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me referred to these discussions. I will, myself, refer to one or two a little more in detail than has yet obtained. In doing so, however, I must say that I am sorry to detain the House by entering upon a history of the subject; but its importance must be my excuse. I will take as my starting point the reform effected in Admiralty administration in 1832 by Sir James Graham, the wisdom of which, as far as it went, I entirely concur in, as will, I also think, my right hon. Friend; the state of things which existed before that date being such as would be intolerable at the present day. Before that time there were three Admiralty Boards in existence—the Admiralty Board proper, a Navy Board, and a Victualling Board—the resulting confusion and want of responsibility between these almost rival Boards being so great, that Parliament was at length obliged to step in and put an end to the system under which they existed. Sir James Graham, although he effected a great deal, failed to do all that was wanted, because in abolishing the Navy and the Victualling Boards he threw all their work upon the Admiralty Board, without perceiving that in all probability the latter would be over weighted, and that his plan would lead to exactly the evils which it was my duty to explain to the House on a former occasion as being in existence down to a recent period. He was duly warned of this by several of the then Members of this House, who, being thoroughly conversant with naval affairs, were fully entitled to speak upon the subject. Sir George Clerk, an undoubted authority on such matters, in criticizing the proposals in Sir James Graham's Bill, pointed out that the Board of Admiralty would inevitably be overburdened by the additions they would make to its labours, while responsibility, by being diffused over the whole Board, would not attach sufficiently to any one of its members. Sir Byam Martin, again, said that the 176 one marked vice of the proposed change was, that the Controller of the Navy was not placed upon the Board of Admiralty, and Sir George Cockburn and Mr. Goulbourn used words which might almost be repeated in reference to the present debate. The former said that the plan would not secure the public service against mismanagement or against the waste of public money, because no Lord of the Admiralty per se could be made responsible under it. That is precisely what has been said of the whole system up to the present day. Mr. Goulbourn used language similar in its purport. Did not these warnings point exactly to the shortcomings of the old Admiralty system, which is now admitted by universal consent to have failed? My right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) has said that I did not exactly represent with accuracy Sir James Graham's own opinions before the Megæra Commission. What I stated in my evidence was, that Sir James Graham had used words to the effect that the Board would only work satisfactorily when it acted as little like a Board as possible. In this I was strictly accurate, and I have always been struck by Sir James Graham's appreciation of the real difficulty of his own plan, and the extent to which it had been practically altered. However, for some years after 1832 the controversy slept to a certain extent—or, at all events, it was not keen enough to come prominently forward until about 12 years ago; but from then down to the present time, both in and outside of the House, there has been a constant expression of opinion on the part of all naval reformers, that the system recently abolished was a bad one, and that a reform in a particular direction ought to be made. It will be within the recollection of all hon. Members of this House who take an interest in naval affairs, that in 1861 a small book was published, entitled, Admiralty Administration; its Faults and Defaults; which, I believe, was written by Admiral Denman, and which expressed, I have reason to know, the feeling of a very large body of naval officers, who met more than once in consultation with hon. Members of this House, and whose views obtained a certain form and substance. The hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) will recollect all about the work, because his 177 name has been connected very intimately with it—in fact, he has endorsed a late edition of it with his authority. That book professed to express the feeling of the Navy as to the best way in which it could be administered, and it is singular how remarkably the recommendations contained in it tally with the reforms that have since been made. It advocated the appointment of a Minister possessing complete responsibility for the administration of the affairs of the Admiralty, and it pointed out that to surround a Minister with a Board, none of the members of which were to incur individual responsibility, and to set them to manage a mass of heterogeneous matter comprehending very many details, was the worst form of administration which could be adopted; and it further stated that collective responsibility was a cloak to cover blunders, and was destructive to efficiency. It proposed as a remedy for the then existing state of things the division of the Admiralty into three great departments; the first of which was to be under the control of a Captain General, comprising the management of the Fleet, discipline, manning, Reserves, Marine, and medical arrangements generally; the second, under a Surveyor General, comprising contractors' and engineers' works, and the general management of the dockyards; while the third was to be under civil control, in the shape of a Controller, with an Accountant General under him, comprehending all matters of business connected with the purchase of naval stores. These three officers we now possess, but under different names. It was further suggested that there should be a sort of Naval Council, but not an executive one, which was to form a sort of standing Commission of Naval Inquiry. That is the nature of the proposal contained in the book to which I have alluded, and I shall show by-and-by, with regard to the exact business of the Board, how far we were right in the arrangement we made about that tripartite system—a system which, in my opinion, is thoroughly calculated to solve the question of the administration of the Admiralty. Upon this subject there were many interesting debates in Parliament, and I have gone carefully through them, and done my best to gather from them what was the general opinion at the time with regard to naval reform. In 1860, no less than 178 six Gentlemen spoke advocating such reform, but it is a remarkable fact that they all agreed in recommending one particular reform, which appears to have got into disgrace to-night—namely, that the Controller should be a member of the Board. Among the Gentlemen who gave that recommendation was, first of all, the right hon. Member for Droitwich, who said it would be a most excellent plan to have the Controller at the Board. Next came my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, who thought the Controller the most important man at the Admiralty, and one who undoubtedly ought to be a member of the Board. Then Sir Charles Napier, Mr. Lindsay, my hon. Friend the Member for Water-ford (Mr. Osborne), once the Secretary to the Admiralty; and others, all, one after the other, pointed out, as the express remedy for existing evils, the importance of having the Controller as a member of the Board. In the following year there was another naval debate, in which the right hon. Member for Droitwich again took an active part, expressing a still stronger opinion of the unsatisfactory position of the First Lord under the then existing system, and declaring it to be desirable that the constitution of the Board should be re-considered, because it was inconsistent with the theory of Ministerial responsibility on which the House always acted. In 1863 also there was another debate on the subject, in which Sir Henry Willoughby—always a great authority—said the first thing to be done was to make the Controller a member of the Board, and that instead of filtering his authority through another Lord, he should be made responsible. A very remarkable speech, and one that attracted considerable attention, was delivered in that debate by a naval officer of great promise, who had then recently entered the House, and who stated the cardinal defect of the Board of Admiralty, as then constituted, to be the want of responsibility which pervaded not only the Board but every one of the branches of administration which it conducted; that it was practically impossible to fix the responsibility on any one officer; that the officers who really did the practical work of the Admiralty were not responsible to the House or the public; that, to take as an instance the manning of the Navy, the natural course would be for somebody 179 to be directly responsible to the First Lord; that the First Sea Lord had the manning of the Navy in his department, but the whole Board took the responsibility; and that the First Lord ought to have the power of putting his finger on the officer who was responsible, and of making his responsibility a reality. The distinguished officer who made those remarks was the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay). Those were his views then, and I am afraid he did not do much to carry them out during the two years and a-half that he was a member of the Board of Admiralty. The right hon. Member for Droitwich also repeated what he had said before as to the constitution of the Board, and spoke of the absence of that concentrated responsibility which he held to be essential to the fulfilment of the duties of a department. I am not charging my right hon. Friend with any inconsistency in this, as he has never concealed his objections to administration by a Board, though he had not, I presume, time to abolish it when he was in office. Again, my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth said that under the existing constitution of the Admiralty it was perfectly impossible to carry on naval affairs with any degree of satisfaction. I think I have quoted enough to show what was undoubtedly at that time the almost unanimous opinion of naval reformers both out of this House and in this House in regard to the Board of Admiralty. Well, during those 10 years, from 1859 to 1869, is there anybody here who, not looking just at the purposes of the present occasion, but really exercising some little effort of memory, will doubt that the administration of the Admiralty was thoroughly objected to, criticized, and I would say condemned by public opinion in every direction? My right hon. Friend has said that the Board of Admiralty was unpopular on account of its exercise of patronage. Well, I may be wrong, but I had the honour to administer the affairs of the Admiralty for two years, and I never heard any word or any suspicion as to any difficulty in exercising patronage. I do not for a moment claim to have exercised that patronage better than other people, although I did my best; but I never knew of any doubt, to speak of, being expressed that the patronage was exercised for the good of 180 the service, and with fairness to the officers. I do not remember any considerable criticism outside of the office even among those officers of the service who, as my right hon. Friend said, are able to grumble, and who do occasionally exercise the privilege of grumbling. I certainly did my utmost to reduce their power of grumbling, because, by the arrangements we made, we so prospectively reduced the list of officers on shore that they would be at sea during the better part of their time, and would have no leisure for grumbling. The greatest provocative of grumbling is the leaving officers idle on shore during the most active years of life. I doubt, then, whether the cause of the criticisms passed upon the Admiralty was connected either with the exercise of patronage, or with the subject of shipbuilding. Certainly there has been a good deal of sparring on the question of shipbuilding; but the keenness of that controversy exists more among naval architects, and among scientific men and shipbuilders, than among the naval profession generally, and I cannot think that anyone with an average good memory would represent that under the old system at the Admiralty everything was couleur de rose, and free from all grumbling except as to patronage and shipbuilding. This forgetfulness of former discussions about the Board is very like what happened about the turret system. Until the unfortunate loss of the Captain, some 18 months ago, there was no other opinion proclaimed from one end of the kingdom to the other, but that the Admiralty had shown themselves very wanting in their duty in not sufficiently recognizing the merits of that system. Nay, up to within a very few days of that sad disaster, I myself, my colleagues, and those who preceded me, were the subject of attack in every quarter; we were held up as old women, because we had not appreciated the glorious results of the experience gained as to the turret system; but a fortnight later we were as violently assailed for exactly the opposite reason, because we had hastily taken up a wrong principle. That is an illustration of the rapidity with which, in these matters, people forget what passed a short time before. So, after having all used one language as to the administration of the Admiralty, a few months elapse, something is done 181 to carry out the principles which everybody has advocated, and then all at once the public turns round, and we find people both in and out of this House forgetting all their former declarations of opinion. My right hon. Friend on this point gave us the old stereotyped argument in favour of everything that is and that was. He told us that under the Board of Admiralty the greatness of England had reached its present height. Well, I thought we had got rid of that style of argument some time ago. That was the old defence for rotten boroughs, and for all the abuses swept away during the last 40 years. It was always urged that England had flourished so exceedingly under those abuses—in spite of them I should rather say—that it would be a pity to touch them. I was sorry to find my right hon. Friend condescending to a kind of reasoning hardly worthy of the atmosphere of the present House of Commons. However, the views of naval reformers having been those which I have described, what did we do at the commencement of 1869, when the present Government succeeded to office? On this point, perhaps, I ought to repeat here what I stated to the Megæra Commission, because so much unaccountable misapprehension, as it appears to me, has arisen in the public mind on the subject of the Minute with reference to the change made at the Admiralty. It seems to be generally assumed that this change was effected solely by myself; that my colleagues were in no way parties to it; and that they reserved, as it were, a sort of right of objecting to it afterwards if necessary. The facts are perfectly plain, and they appear in the documents themselves. The present Government came into office about the 6th or the 8th of December. Before the Board of Admiralty was formally constituted about a fortnight passed away. During that fortnight I was in constant communication with those who were to be my colleagues, and we carefully considered the principles and the details of the new mode of conducting business. On the very first day that we assumed office my Minute was formally laid before the Board, received their approval, and, then, having been converted into an Order in Council, became, as has been said, the charter of the new arrangements at the Admiralty. It is important to observe this, for during the whole 182 of the year 1869 we worked exclusively under the arrangements as to individual responsibility, and the departmental system, as it is popularly called; and none of my colleagues, either directly or indirectly, testified in the slightest degree any doubt either as to the operation of that system, or as to their having been parties to it when first introduced. Under that system, indeed, the principal officers of the Admiralty had a considerable increase of their salaries, corresponding to the increase in their duties. Unfortunately, however, at the beginning of the following year, the system of naval retirement decided upon under the new order of things was not approved by a colleague, who thereupon discovered that the old Board system would be more convenient, inasmuch as he might possibly then have had an opportunity of discussing it at the Board, although it did not come within his department. This was the origin of the doubt thrown upon the working of the system, and in support of it the gentleman in question gave evidence before the Duke of Somerset's Committee to the effect that he was so little burdened with work that he could well give an hour and a-half a day to the discussion of naval matters. The next thing was, that a difficulty arose on the other side of the Department in consequence of my having decided, with the very best intentions, and perfect success, upon taking the victualling yards and hospitals from under the control of post-captains and placing them under civilian and medical control respectively. In this I had the first difference with my most important naval adviser—almost the only one I ever had—and upon this the doubt as to the expediency of resorting to departmental, instead of Board, management became fixed in his mind; as he was doubtful whether I could have carried out the reform if I had had to face four naval officers at a Board, instead of two heads of the Naval Department. Besides, I must admit that the system of departmental, as opposed to Board control, is not popular with the upper branches of the service. It is, I believe, popular with the middle of the service, and that the junior captains and the ranks below are in favour of it. Sir Sydney Dacres gave an excellent reason for the preference for the old system among the upper branches of the service. He said they liked four Sir 183 Sydney Dacres instead of one. [Mr. CORRY: Hear, hear!] Of course, they would. It was quite natural they should prefer to have four such appointments open to the profession. Moreover, though it was all very well to have responsibility when things went smoothly, it was not quite so pleasant when unpopularity had to be faced. And it was very convenient for those who administered to be able to shelter themselves behind the Board, so as to be able to say to a critical friend—"Yes, my dear fellow, I agree with all you say, but you see it was the Board, and not I, who decided on this course." But that was the very reason why I objected to administration by a Board, for although it was satisfactory to the single member of the Board thus to shield himself, the principle was bad. It was an unsound system which allowed those who administered a great public Department to shirk responsibility. With personal and direct responsibility, things were done with greater promptness and more efficiency than with divided and general responsibility. In one respect, however, I think the plan has been tried under some disadvantages—namely, that though no gentlemen could have done their duty more thoroughly than my colleagues, Lord John Hay and Captain Willes, yet the system might have been launched more successfully if one, at least, of them had been of higher rank; but my First Sea Lord was a full admiral, and Lord John Hay and Captain Willes were post captains. Again, some have charged me with having reduced or eliminated the naval element in the Board. I have taken some trouble to look back to see what ground there was for that charge, and I find that whereas 12 years ago there were only six or seven sailors at Whitehall, in my time there were eight, including four admirals and four senior captains. It is true that the number of naval Lords was less; but several additional naval appointments have been made within the last 12 or 20 years, such as the Director of Naval Ordnance, and the Director of Transports. Then, again, we have been told that the present system does not afford opportunity for sufficient discussion among the officers at the Admiralty. I have never deprecated the existence of a consultative 184 Board. On the contrary, I regard it as very valuable, and if the evidence given before the Duke of Somerset's Committee proves anything, it proves that I consulted its members too much. Accordingly, when I was at the Admiralty, what I did was to consult frequently with all those persons who were concerned in the question I had under consideration, whether they were members of the Board or heads of Departments; and I greatly prefer this to passing everything under the review of a Board, both on the score of responsibility and of the saving of time. I had the misfortune in 1864 to sit for two and even three hours a-day as a junior member of the Board, discussing questions which concerned, on the average, two or three members only. The time of the rest was fairly wasted. My whole experience, therefore, has convinced me that, although it is well to have a Board whose opinion on great questions—such, as for instance, novel plans of construction—may be sought, yet to occupy a Board, partly comprised of sailors and partly of civilians, with all the details which engage the attention of the Department, is sheer waste of time. It was predicted in 1832 that this system of Board administration would fail; all naval reformers since showed that it was failing, and by 1869 it was clear that it had failed. Having now stated what I think is good in the new system, I will now criticize it, and say where it can be reformed. I know there are official and constitutional reasons that make it convenient that, when a change of Government takes place, the new Minister should have the power of re-appointing the Board. But, as a matter of administration, I should like to see either the First Sea Lord, or two of the three Sea Lords, and certainly the Controller, permanent officers, with a permanent head of the financial department, though not one that would in any way interfere with the supremacy of the Parliamentary Secretary. As to the Controller, it would, in my opinion, be a serious mistake—and I trust my right hon. Friend the present First Lord does not entertain the project—it would be a grave error to interpose between the First Lord and the Controller of the Navy a naval officer, by whatever title he may be called. That is my opinion, and I will venture to say that nine-tenths of the Mem- 185 bers of this House who interest themselves in the question have always been of that opinion. The supreme management of the shipbuilding department should be in the hands of the officer who is immediately responsible to the Minister, and should not be filtered through a second officer. There is another suggestion that has been made with respect to the constitution of the Admiralty. I do not think that I can see any disadvantage in the substitution of another Lord of the Admiralty for the gentleman who holds the post of chief of the Staff. I think it might be for the interest of the service, as tending to the avoidance of some difficulties of procedure, if the experiment were tried; and if the right hon. Gentleman finds that such an arrangement works well he will have my support in carrying it out, when the Estimates come before us. Now, I come to another part of the constitution of the Admiralty at the time I had the honour to belong to it. I refer to the arrangements of the Secretariat. Let me say that this portion of the reform we intended to carry out was necessarily the last to be undertaken, and when I had the misfortune to be incapacitated for the performance of the duties of my office, the Secretariat was left in a more unsatisfactory state than any other department. You cannot bring together in a single day these eight or nine outlying departments from Somerset House and other parts of London. And when the departments were got together under one roof, you could not get the Secretariat in perfect working order all at once. The consequence was, that at the time when I had to leave my office the contemplated reforms were very far from being completed. But my right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry) makes a mistake in giving his version of what I have said with respect to Mr. Romaine, and the former arrangements of the Admiralty. What I said was, that between the month of December, 1868, and Midsummer, 1869, Mr. Romaine, was the Secretary to the Admiralty, and carried out the arrangements intrusted to him with remarkable vigour and success. That is to say, Mr. Romaine did very perfectly the work he had to do, and there was no misunderstanding, as has been described in Mr. Lushington's sensational evidence. My right hon. Friend has given some statistics with 186 respect to the economy of the change instituted under my direction. He says that the Admiralty of the present time are employing more clerks than—[Mr. CORRY: More clerks and writers.]—more clerk and writers—I beg your pardon—than were employed at the end of 1868. That is a question which the Secretary to the Admiralty will probably answer presently. It is one which I cannot deal with off-hand; but, so far as I have seen the figures, they do not in the least tally with the calculations. On the contrary, there is a considerable reduction in the number of the officers employed. Now, Sir, as to the questions of registry and record. The state of things is this—the old system at the Admiralty proper was a very perfect one in some respects, and contributed to the rapid transaction of business; but it had the great vice that there was no inward registry whatever until I took office in 1869. The consequence was that if a letter came in and was lost within a certain number of days you never could be certain whom to charge with it. Six months after I took office, therefore, I appointed a committee, consisting of the then Controller of the Navy, the hon. Member for the Border Burghs, and the present Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty, to revise thoroughly the system of the Secretariat; and they recomended an entirely altered system—one of which I will undertake to say my right hon. Friend would, in some respects, have totally disapproved. I was, however, very unwilling to override the decision of a committee of officers in whom I had such entire confidence, and I adopted a compromise, by which the new system was to be tried in certain of the offices, and a modification of the old system was to be tried in others. I wrote a Minute, which is still in existence, and in which I directed that the question should be brought up again after the experiment had been tried for 12 months. That was at the end of 1869, and in 1870 I should have been in a position, had I been able to retain my office, to decide between the two, and to have introduced a uniform and approved system of registry in the whole service. Let me here get rid of an impression that seems to exist in some quarters that the Megæra inquiry has resulted in a condemnation of some change I made in this respect. That inquiry has clearly brought out two most 187 unmistakeable errors in connection with the former system of registering papers. At the time when the ship was undergoing repair at Woolwich, long before my time, there was in New Street a separate steam department, which dealt with engine questions; and, as the ironwork involved in the repair of the Megæra was done in the engine factory at Woolwich, from the lack of iron shipwrights at that port, the records came to the steam department. The consequence was that this particular Paper in connection with the Megæra, when she was repaired at Woolwich, instead of going as it ought to have gone to the Controller's department, went to the steam department, and was buried there. The second error was a telegram upon which a great deal depended, as to the duration of employment of the Megæra, and which telegram was sent from Woolwich to the Secretary's department at Whitehall, and thence to the First Sea Lord, who dealt with it, and it did not go to the Controller. Such a misfortune could not have happened had the reforms I contemplated been carried out, for one of the first steps in the scheme was to centre the control of the Dockyards in a single office. Since the reforms we effected, any confusion between the jurisdiction of the First Sea Lord and the Controller is impossible, although it might easily have occurred under the old system, and, therefore, the blots hit in this respect in the Megæra Commission refer to a former state of things, and not to the reformed system. I may mention, in reference to this subject, to show the necessity for exercising that degree of strict supervision over the records and papers of the office which the changes recommended to me do not enforce, that, having to appear before the Megæra Commission, I was very anxious to see a certain document, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) was good enough to allow me to have access to the Papers in his Department; but the particular document which I desired to see could not be found; and it is only within the last few days that it has been discovered that it was taken away, with others, by a gentleman who had ceased 18 months ago to be a member of the Department, and who, after having kept it for some time, had handed it over to another gentleman, also not, during the last 12 months, a member of the Department, who, after 188 keeping it for six months, had returned it to the Admiralty Office. That is an instance of the care that ought to be taken in the mechanical arrangements as to the record of papers. On this subject my right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry) stated that Mr. Lushington, in his evidence before the Commission, said that a revolution ought to be made in certain parts of the Admiralty, but he forgot to inform us that Mr. Lushington had used that word in reference to the abolition of the Board, and not in the sense which my right hon. Friend would have wished us to have understood it. With regard to Mr. Lushington himself, I must at once say that I appointed him; that I am solely responsible for that appointment; and that if for any reason whatever anybody casts any blame upon me in respect of it I must bear it. If the appointment was an unsuccessful one, I know that it will reflect upon my reputation as a man of business, but that I cannot help. I appointed him, after a careful inquiry, upon the recommendation of his predecessor; he is a man of the highest character, of eminence in his profession, and of great intelligence. I must remind the House that there are but few persons who are suited for the office, and that within the last 15 years a gentleman of the highest eminence was appointed to fill it, and that such appointment did not turn out a success. If Mr. Lushington has not appreciated the great importance of his position, and the necessity there was that he should carry out to the full the instructions which I gave him, and which I detailed before the Megæra Commission, I can only express my sincere regret that he should have done so. I ought to offer my greatest apology in this matter to himself, because I took him away from an office which was nearly a sinecure, and which was almost of the same value as the one he now holds, and from a profitable private practice, in order to give him a hard-worked and badly-paid office. I regret exceedingly the remarks affecting him which I have read in the public Press, and I repeat that upon myself all the blame of his appointment must fall. Turning to the subject of the dockyards and their superintendence by the Controller, I may say that I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) with great interest, and that with many of his re- 189 commendations I cordially agree. In the first place, I fully admit, and I think that my right hon. Friend will agree with me upon the fact that the Controller's office is under-manned. The arrangements respecting the Controller's office were very carefully considered by me, in conjunction with the late Controller and the late Chief Constructor, and I was ready to appoint an assistant if they had required it; and I still think that such an appointment should be made. With regard to the engineer's department, I do not think that we made a mistake in bringing it under the control of the Constructor of the Navy. I also agree with the hon. Member as to the insufficiency of the salary paid to the engineer under the Constructor; and I should like to see it raised. The fact is that, in my opinion, we give all our professional officers too small salaries. There are, doubtless, many Government departments where there is a redundancy of officials, whose numbers might be reduced with advantage; but, at the same time, the majority of our great engineer officers are underpaid, and I trust that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen) will be able to persuade the House that it is for the advantage of the public service that some of these salaries should be raised. As regards the dockyards, I am entirely at issue with my right hon. Friend opposite. We did what we could in the right direction in spite of the most determined opposition both in and out of this House, although the officers at Whitehall supported us in effecting the changes. I believe that the expression I have used is a sound one—namely, that in all dockyards there should be, either under or not under a naval officer, a civilian manager, who should be an engineer, and who should manage the engineering and the civilian business of the dockyard. In using the word "engineer," I mean such a professional manager as would be found at the head of first-class engineering works. As I have said before, we did our best in that direction—we combined in one person the master shipwright, the master engineer, and the storekeeper, putting an assistant for each department under him. I have no doubt that you will be able to obtain competent professional persons to place at the head of these establishments if you will give them adequate salaries; and I hope my right hon. Friend at the 190 head of the Admiralty will, whatever names he may think fit to use, persist in carrying out the plan. I do not think that I need detain the House longer upon these points of detail, further than to remark that we have done our best to place at the heads of the other establishments, such as the hospitals, persons who are responsible for their management. I will say one word as to the general result. We have all heard pretty well of the criticisms which have been addressed to the details of our office arrangements. But is that all the work that the Admiralty has done in the last three years; is that all the work—for it is not my business to speak of what has been done in the last year—that has been done in the two years when I was responsible for that great Department? My right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich, in his evidence before the Committee in 1861, spoke very pointedly indeed of the difficulty which he found when he was at the head of the Board of Admiralty in carrying out great improvements, and of the embarrassment in which he found himself, through the necessity of conciliating the opinions of the four naval officers who advised him. I quite agree with him, and I will say this—that I believe we could not have carried out any reasonable proportion of the very large reforms which we effected during those two years had we been hampered by that system, the evils of which he pointed out so very much better than I am able to do. Is it nothing that, by the admission of all persons, except, I believe, individual critics here and there, we added very much to the efficiency of the Fleet during those two years, in respect of reforms which had been long discussed, but had not been adopted? For instance, can anyone doubt that by keeping our Fleet at sea—and that was the cardinal point of our policy—we have greatly added to the efficiency of our Fleet; or that the Flying Squadron, in spite of criticism, is an immense improvement and addition to the efficiency of our Navy; or that the bringing out of our Coastguard every year has given us an additional squadron, and very great efficiency? Why, in respect of drill and other matters connected with those changes, enormous reforms have been effected which have made the efficiency of the English Fleet the admiration of foreign countries. 191 And let me remind the House of one point on which, our changes have been such as neither my right hon. Friend nor any of his Colleagues would have ventured to carry out. We compelled every seaman to take his turn at sea, instead of loitering for years, perhaps for three-fourths of his service, in harbour. With respect to the Coastguard, that most difficult subject, we have been most successful. We have improved the inspection of the Coastguard; we weeded out the inefficients; we required them all to take their turn in service, and we have raised their qualification. Is it likely that all these reforms, or anything like these reforms, could have been carried out under the previous system? I have unfortunately been subjected to a great deal of criticism for the plan of naval retirement. It has, to my cost, irritated half-a-dozen individual officers who are affected by it, and in trifling points here and there it may be doubtless improved. But I regard, and shall regard to the last day of my life, that general plan of naval promotion and retirement as a great and successful reform of the system from beginning to end. It dealt uniformly and equally with all classes of officers in Her Majesty's service; it got rid of infinite abuses which existed in former days; and when it is brought into final operation, and the wise amendments, in detail, of my right hon. Friend have borne fruit, you will have a service contented, well employed, in which all this grumbling of which we have heard so much will practically be at an end—a service in which every one, from flag officer down to lieutenant, will be at sea as long as he wishes That reform, too, I humbly think, would have been found quite impracticable with the presence of four co-equal naval officers at the Admiralty Board. Again, I hope my right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty will be able to carry out, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committees which I appointed two years ago, improvements with regard to training of officers, to the strengthening of Reserves, to the victualling and accounts of the Fleet. All these we initiated, and I do not grudge him the pleasure of giving effect to them. But we did not confine ourselves to material reforms affecting our sailors. I know something of the difficulties experienced at the Board of Ad- 192 miralty in such matters as improvements in the religious interests of the men; and I look back with intense satisfaction to what we did, putting an end, I hope, to the complaints which from year to year were made both here and elsewhere. As to the dockyards, whatever evil there may be in their organization, we have reduced their number and concentrated them, and got a better system to work. We have also greatly improved the pay of a considerable number of men in the dockyards. And if I may touch on the present occasion such a question as economy—which I am sorry to say is not quite so popular as it used to be in former years—I think it is something to have established, even in the opinion of my right hon. Friend, a better system of financial control, and to have satisfied even the Lords Committee that we had introduced reforms in the superintendence and the purchase of naval stores. And, perhaps, the House will not think it nothing that, whereas the net average expenditure for the Navy in the two years before we took office was just upon £11,000,000, it has been since, on the average, just upon £9,000,000. I do not think it is nothing that in the three years in which the present Government have been in office a saving of more than £5,000,000 has thus been effected. I apologize to the House for having detained them so long. My statement would have been much shorter if I had spoken only on my own account; for, whatever may have been once the case, I have no longer any official ambition to serve or to promote. But I believe, and I have always believed, that the reforms which I did my utmost to carry out in the beginning of 1869, and till the time when I was disabled from active work, were in accordance with the wish of this House; were in harmony with the views of naval reformers outside, and will be appreciated by the country. I have not entirely succeeded—no man can expect to succeed who undertakes so great a task; but the success is as great as I ever anticipated, and I confidently believe that in the end it will be recognized.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract has claimed with great justice the indulgence of the House while he took some little time to explain and excuse the alterations which he made in the constitution of the Board of Admi- 193 ralty in 1869. The right hon. Gentleman also alluded in feeling terms, to his absence from our debates during the last Session. Now, though it was my duty on several occasions during his absence to allude to him, both the House and the country well know that I never lost an opportunity of stating my sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman, and of expressing my hope of seeing him restored to Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman, and several other hon. Members, this evening have, however, taken a course which, I think, is very unfortunate for the subject we have in hand; for hon. Members have risen one after another, to say that as the evidence upon which the Report of the Megæra Commission is founded is not in the hands of the House, it will not be wise to discuss that question, and yet, one after another, they have all fallen into the trap laid for them by that Report. The subject, in fact, has been discussed more or less fully in every speech which has been made this evening. I, as an humble Member of this House and perfectly independent, also like the right hon. Gentleman, having no personal or political ambition to serve, do feel that it is a very great hardship that instead of copies of evidence upon such an important subject as that being circulated among all hon. Members of the House only a few copies should be printed and circulated among a few favoured Members. ["Hear, hear!"] [Mr. GOSCHEN dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty shakes his head. I understood from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract and from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone that, by the courtesy of the First Lord, a copy of the evidence was given to each of them. I believe the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) will corroborate that statement.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the evidence had not been printed for the private use of a few favoured Members. The fact was, that the two copies which were issued in the first instance for the use of himself and that of his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty were lent to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Corry). Afterwards, 25 copies had been delivered by the printers. One of those copies he forwarded that afternoon to the noble Lord himself, and he 194 had sent the remaining copies to those hon. Gentlemen who took an interest in naval affairs.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
Thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his courteous explanation, I beg his pardon if I said that copies were printed for certain favoured Members. What I meant was, that it is extremely inconvenient that in a case of this great importance copies should be sent, by the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman, to five or six favoured individuals in the House, who thereby obtain a great advantage over the other hon. Members in the discussion of this question. ["Hear!"] The reason I say this is, that the Commission appointed to inquire into the loss of the Megæra by no means confined themselves to that question, but took voluminous evidence, and reported in paragraphs their opinion upon the very subject which forms the staple of the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone. And upon that point I should like to make a remark with regard to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract. I admit that he is entitled to indulgence; but I must remind him that he has had a very extensive meed of indulgence given to him by the Royal Commission, for he was allowed to read a very bulky and elaborate defence—so far as defence could be made—of those changes which were made in 1869, and which, according to public rumours, are about to undergo great alteration. This question of Admiralty Board administration formed the subject of inquiry by a Select Committee in "another place" last Session. On that occasion, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Baxter), who had been Secretary to the Admiralty under the new system, was examined as to the working of that system. But neither of the Gentlemen who had the honour of being Secretaries to the Admiralty under the old system—neither my noble Relative, Lord Clarence Paget, nor myself—were called before that Committee, or got an opportunity of explaining the working of the Secretariat under the old system. I wish to remind the House that during a considerable period I was Secretary to the Admiralty, and at that time the Admiralty had no bed of roses; because the Government was then in a decided minority, and the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) had not as yet had the kindness 195 to transfer his private secretary to the services of the Admiralty at Whitehall. The result was, that we were subject to an incessant fire of interminable figures; but I am happy to find from the speech of the hon. Member that those figures have now nearly come to an end, because to-night we had from him only two of the staple complaints—the one with regard to the anchors, and the other to the gunboats. Both points have been argued so often that I will not now dwell upon them; on both we have had the approval of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract; and with regard to the building of gunboats, that of the experienced Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda). [Mr. CHILDERS: I said nothing about anchors.] I mentioned the hon. Member for Lincoln. I do not mean that the right hon. Member for Pontefract approved the sale of the anchors, but I do say that he approved the anchors which we bought, and which were the subject of severe criticism on the part of the hon. Member for Lincoln. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract began his defence this evening by an accusation against the late Board of Admiralty. He said—All you on the other side, and the country generally, charged the Admiralty under the new regulations with this—that there was a want of information among the members of the Board at Whitehall of what was going on. But to prove to you that this want of information was not confined to the present system, I will give one particular case which happened under the late Admiralty, and you will see how little they knew what was doing upon a question of some importance.Well, I have not had the same opportunity of going to the Admiralty and obtaining information as the right hon. Gentleman, and therefore I must speak from memory. But with respect to Mr. Reed, and the sum of money which he claimed, and which I always believed to be his due for economizing labour in the building of iron-clads, there was no want of information whatever, and no illustration could be less apt than the one proposed. In the first place, Mr. Reed's application had nothing to do with the daily working of the Department; and secondly, every member of the Board was cognizant that Mr. Peed had made the application. But hon. Gentlemen all know that there are good and bad times for making applications, and when a Government comes into office 196 and finds matters in an unfavourable state, and has to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a large sum, that right hon. Gentleman is not supposed to be in a good humour to listen to other demands, which, however just, do not absolutely lead to the increase of the naval power of the country. The real fact, however, was as I have said, every member of the Board knew of Mr. Reed's application, and wished it to be granted, but it hung up for weeks or months.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I read the Minute of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry), who said this application ought to have been brought up 14 months ago.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
When Mr. Reed made his application my right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry) was not First Lord of the Admiralty. The right hon. Member for Droitwich was then First Lord. But if that is the only instance of want of information which the right hon. Gentleman has been able to adduce, he has made out a very poor case indeed. For the one case which the right hon. Gentleman brings forward I can adduce many on the other side. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich left office, and we were left without a First Lord, there were no fewer than four members of the Board, every one of whom, from intimate knowledge of the naval administration, would at two days' notice, have been able to bring forward the Estimates. It happened to fall to my lot to do so, because I happened to be second in position; but if either of my colleagues had a seat in this House, they would, from frequent discussions at the Board, have been just as well able as I was to announce to the House of Commons the administrative policy of the Admiralty of that day. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers), whether the present Secretary to the Treasury, who' at that time was Secretary to the Admiralty, was in a position, had he been called upon at two days' notice, to make a statement of the policy of the Admiralty, under which he served? The right hon. Gentleman, wishing to show that there was no want of information or concert under the new system at the Admiralty, made a most unfortunate allusion to the scheme of naval retirement, and he was still more unfortunate in the latter part of his speech, when he alluded to it as an instance of the tri- 197 umphant success of his policy. But we have already been obliged to amend that scheme, because it was found to work so ill, and so diametrically opposite to what was expected from it. And when the right hon. Gentleman talks of the perfect knowledge that exists under the system he established, I have nothing to do but to refer him to the evidence given by the Secretary to the Treasury in "another place" last year, where he quietly admitted that under the present system, it was quite possible that a decision might be arrived at by the First Lord, and might be published in the name of the Board, and yet that some members of the Board might remain in ignorance of it. Indeed, if anyone wished for testimony of the excessive want of information and absence of all harmony in the working of the present system, it was to be found in the evidence of the Secretary to the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman has gone at considerable length into the question of the position of the Controller at the Board of Admiralty. I did not quite understand from the right hon. Gentleman whether that was one of his pet lambs which he was willing to sacrifice to the degenerate spirit of the present day, or whether he hopes to continue the Controller as a member of the Board. I have not by any means made up my own mind whether the Controller should still remain a member of the Board or not; but I can tell the right hon. Gentleman who is decidedly of opinion that it is a mistake, and that is the present Secretary to the Treasury, who, as I before observed, was Secretary to the Admiralty for two years, and who says that it would be for the advantage of the naval service that the Controller should be removed back again and become a servant of the Board. Then, again, as to Sir Sydney Dacres; he has, in 'his evidence before the Commission, opposed every act which has distinguished the administration of the right hon. Gentleman. He objected to the Controller being at the Board, to the alteration in the superintendence of the victualling establishments, to the abolition of the Board; and he objected very greatly to what he considered the want of the naval element of the Board. The right hon. Gentleman, for whom we must all feel great sympathy on this his first public appearance in the House, speaks with the conviction that it is his own 198 Friends who are in many cases going to overthrow the idol which he has set up, and therefore he must be treated with considerable tenderness. But when the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the naval element flourished more under his system than it did under the preceding Board, and when he had what I must call the hardihood to say, that under him there were eight naval members at the Board, he must excuse me for saying that that is not so, for there were only two, and they were subordinates. [Mr. CHILDERS: I never said they were at the Board, but at Whitehall.] But what meaning does that bear? When the right hon. Gentleman says there were eight naval men at Whitehall, the general impression is, that he had eight naval advisers. There are, however, one or two points on which I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. In the first place, I am not one of those who ever thought that our old Board of Admiralty was a perfect machine. But what old institution is perfect? Every old institution in this progressive age requires alteration. By alteration and emendation, however, is not meant radical reform and upsetting. You may perfectly reform an institution without destroying it. You may give new wheels to an old carriage; but, in taking off the old wheels, you need not upset it in the mud. With regard to the old system, I do not say it is perfect. During the time I was in office, I did as much as I possibly could to improve what I considered to be certain grave defects in the relations which were subsisting between the Controller's Office and the dockyards. When the Chief Constructor visited the dockyards, he was not allowed to visit anything or look at anything, except what he had notified to the superintendent of the dockyard it was his intention to visit. All these absurdities have passed away, and we did everything we could to improve the relations between the Controller's department and the dockyards. But then we were asked—"What good has the old Board done?" And the right hon. Gentleman rather pooh-poohed my right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry) for saying that under the old Board, our Navy had grown to its present splendid proportions. But nobody can contravene that proposition; and we must remember, further, that, if the abolition of the Board had really proved so very beneficial, we should not 199 now be on the eve of introducing wide changes. Let me cite a testimony to show how possible it is for an institution not to be perfect, and yet to be so amended as to bring about great results. I have here a pamphlet written by a gallant officer, who is himself opposed to the Board system—Sir Spencer Robinson. Beginning with 1859, he goes on describing the iron-clads built, and the vast additions made to our Navy; and he winds up by saying that, notwithstanding the formidable start which our rivals had obtained in 1859, at the close of 1869—that is, in 10 years—the iron-clads of the two countries, omitting floating batteries, were as follows. And then he gives the tonnage and qualities of the respective vessels, as an instance of what had been effected during these 10 years. Whether it is advisable to establish in Whitehall an Engineer-in-Chief apart from the Controller's department, is a question of departmental detail into which I will not enter; but, there is one thing which I hope will be carefully noted. Under the system of 1869, a submission is made—say, by the Controller of the Navy—which has to go before the First Lord. Perhaps it relates to a professional question, and the First Lord deals with it. But the Controller is actually not aware whether his proposal has been approved or rejected, though, if it had been returned to him, he might have submitted further statements and facts which might have led to the adoption of his views. I hope the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Admiralty will take care to correct that anomaly. As I understood the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers), he said he had no objection to a consultative Board. Now, Mr. Vernon Lushington says, in his evidence, there are no meetings for the discussion of questions; that there is a consultative, but not an administrative, Board. For my part, I do not understand how a Board can be a Board for consultation, if there are no discussions among the members of it. But such a Board seems to have been present to the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not hesitate to say that most of the evils—the scandalous evils, I may call them—which have occurred during the last two years are all traceable to one thing—want of union and want of careful discussion among the members of the Board. I 200 think that retirement scheme would never have been carried as it was; and a valuable public servant would not have been, as he thought, cruelly outraged, if there had been among the members of the Board the concert and discussion which those members have a right to expect at one another's hands. If discussions had been frequent and full, as they were in old days, when that difference was found in the depth of the water in which the Captain was floated in the dock at Birkenhead, probably a great disaster might have been averted. There is another question which cannot be classed among the little vexatious questions which the right hon. Gentleman so much dislikes. When the Controller of the Navy, he being responsible for the safety of the designs of the ships which he proposes, offered to hoist his flag alternately on board the two turret-ships in their first cruise, I believe that if that offer had been discussed, it would have been accepted, and probably we might thus have had another reason for hoping that a great national disaster would have been averted. Where there is no discussion there can be no responsibility. We have it from the Secretary to the Treasury that the First Lord is not more responsible under the present system than he was under the old system, and of that fact I was fully aware. You may blame the old Board, but you may go back for centuries through the history of the Board, and you will never find the glaring, flagrant instances of evasion of personal responsibility shown in some of the transactions which have occurred during the last year and a-half. I will not now allude to the first and great case; but it will be hereafter, in Committee, my duty to dwell at some length, and, I hope, with some force, upon the wanton abnegation of all responsibility which was involved in the appointment of the Committee of 16 philosophers and gentlemen, not one of whom had ever built or superintended the building of an iron-clad, and to whose decision was referred the safety of the designs of every iron-clad in our service, and of the ships now in course of erection. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone has made out a good case; and, though I cannot agree with him in all the details which are required to perfect a new system, I do think that such things as have 201 happened under the new system would have been perfectly impossible under the old Board.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Sir, I cordially agree with the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) that it is to be regretted that this discussion has occurred upon this occasion. He will do me the justice, however, to remember that I did my best to prevent a discussion, which I felt would be imperfect; and I am sorry that the noble Lord did not use his great influence with the right hon. Gentleman to induce him to defer the discussion till a later occasion. With regard to the Megæra evidence, I think the noble Lord will see, on reflection, that he was a little unfair, because I pressed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) not to bring on this discussion till the evidence was in the hands of hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman, however, said that, even though the evidence might not be printed, he should have occasion to allude to it; and as the report in the newspapers was necessarily a mere summary, I sent him a copy of the evidence to prevent misquotation. In the middle of the day, I received a limited number of copies, and ordered one to be sent to every Gentleman who ever addresses the House on naval matters. So accurately did I judge in making this selection, that I sent a copy to all but one of the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken to-night. I am sure, therefore, the noble Lord will acquit me of having done wrong on this point. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the debate did not illustrate what he would call the breakdown of the present system by any facts of importance, but cited little beyond the evidence of Sir Sydney Dacres and Mr. Lushington. The noble Lord, however, had not imitated the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, and he has, in order to show the defectiveness of the system, alluded to the disaster to the Captain and several other questions, winding up his speech by saying that there had been a wanton evasion of responsibility on several occasions. I hope the noble Lord will distinctly state what those evasions of responsibility have been. I challenge him to find a single case in which it can be shown that such a thing has occurred. Moreover, the noble Lord described the members of the Committee of Designs as 16 philosophers, a most improper description to give to 202 gentlemen some of whom were officers of high naval rank, and others eminent in the scientific world. He said they had been appointed in order that the Admiralty might evade the responsibility of deciding upon designs.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
I did not say that. I said they were called upon to give their verdict upon the iron-clads of the country; and upon those ships now in course of erection.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The noble Lord used the word "decide," for it immediately struck me as incorrect; but if he believes he did not use it, I am content. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) never intended that the responsibility should be transferred to the Committee. He simply did what had been constantly recommended by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite—namely, that occasionally gentlemen should be called in from the outside to advise the Admiralty on difficult scientific matters. It would be shirking responsibility to have a permanent Committee whose advice the Admiralty were legally or morally bound to follow; but it is no evasion of responsibility to take occasional advice from competent gentlemen, the Committee in this case comprising six or seven naval members. I quite agree with the noble Lord that there must be no evasion of the First Lord's responsibility, for that responsibility is a sine quâ non; and, practically, First Lords are held responsible for most of the shortcomings that occur. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) said the First Lord was responsible even for the disaster to the Agincourt, he having selected the officers on that ship. That is a sound doctrine; but the hon. Member implied that such appointments used to be made by the Board, and that under the old system the First Lord would not be responsible. Now, these appointments are always made on the First Lord's responsibility, or on that of a definite naval adviser, so that the responsibility is easily fixed. The hon. Member thought that if the system had been better, other men would have been selected and no mistakes made. Now, though deplorable mistakes sometimes occur in the management of ships, on the whole the naval service will bear favourable comparison with the merchant service in the navigating and handling of ships. And now I turn to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman 203 the Member for Tyrone. A report—and, indeed, a legitimate report—has gone abroad that certain changes are contemplated by the Government, and the noble Lord alluded to those changes as if we were going to "immolate" my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract, or rather, as the noble Lord said, the "idol" which my right hon. Friend had set up. Now, I should have wished to interpose earlier in the debate, in order to announce the views of the Government on that subject; but I thought my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) should first have an opportunity of putting fully before the House the views which he had no opportunity of stating last year. I rejoice to think that he is among us again in such vigour and strength, and that in his clear and concise statement he has been able to defend himself most successfully from most of the charges brought against him. But for his unfortunate illness and absence, and the changes consequent thereon, I think we should never have heard of half of the difficulties that have occurred. During the year I have been at the Admiralty I have observed the great services rendered by my right hon. Friend to the Government and the country during his tenure of office. He made great changes, most of them in the right direction; and it does not detract from his sagacity or statesmanship that an experience of three years may have necessitated some modification in them. The question is, whether the principles on which he acted were sound; and my firm belief is that he was right in the main principles on which he founded his Order of Council, and that those principles have been and would be still further generally endorsed by the verdict of the country. One of his cardinal points was that work should be done separately, not jointly; so that each man's work might be traced, instead of work being done by several together, without the power of distinguishing what was done by each. Another was, that the Admiralty should be divided into distinct departments—the personnel of the Fleet forming one, the matériel another, and finance a third; and that under those heads the business should be so grouped and distributed, that everyone would know his particular work. Now, in making a great change, much depends upon the selection of one's own 204 instruments—willing instruments—to carry them out. My right hon. Friend had not in every case that advantage, and that, I may remind the hon. Member for Lincoln. (Mr. Seely) is one respect in which a public Department cannot be conducted like a private business; and it is, moreover, one great reason why everyone should sympathize with my right hon. Friend in his labours. You have to deal with the public service as you find it, for in this country it would be most undesirable to change the permanent staff with a change of Ministry. A Minister, therefore, must work with the permanent staff, and they have naturally views of their own. They would not be men, indeed, if they had not. When, therefore, changes are introduced contrary to their opinions, it is natural that great difficulties should ensue, and that compromises should sometimes become almost indispensable. Because a system does not at once work smoothly, it does not follow that the principles of it are incorrect, for there may be difficulties in bringing it into working order; and at the Admiralty, as elsewhere, a compromise is sometimes necessary, and the views of other men than those in power have to be consulted. The right hon. Gentleman opposite agrees with us that the responsibility of the First Lord must be unimpaired, and I think the majority of the House would hold it unwise to go back to a Board to execute the work of the whole Department. Some hon. Members opposite deem it possible and desirable to revert to the Board in its old form. Now, why is there a Board at all, and what is the use of it? There are great advantages in it for some purposes, but not for the execution of business. You require a Board, if at all, because the First Lord is a civilian and requires constant professional advice. He would be a most foolish First Lord indeed—I doubt whether there has ever been one—who did not avail himself to the full of all the professional advice at his command. As to the way in which a Board may best be utilized, there are differences of opinion. I deny that at present there is not ample consultation. I have heard to-night of some one who has told the right hon. Gentleman that there was still great want of unity in the department, and that they were still all tumbling about like bricks; but that is 205 by no means the case, and I should like to know who said so, that I might give him a chance of personally verifying his observation. However, what is clear is this—the important thing is that you should have advice in some form or another, and you will get your professional advice whether you have a Board or not. I frankly say that I consult my naval advisers now every day and on all occasions. I consult them as I would consult partners in business, and they consult each other, and we have no difficulty in making ourselves acquainted with all that goes on. I quite admit that it is necessary to have consultations, and that it is requisite to consult the persons concerned in the same room together, and not one after the other; but whether that be done at stated intervals or not, I confess, seems less important. However, I think that, looking to the feelings of naval men on the subject, looking also to the fact that constant consultation ought to be ensured, and thinking that a desire exists that consultation should be guaranteed—I think it expedient to have regular meetings of the Board for consultation on all the important questions that may arise connected with professional and technical matters. Still, I think it would be wrong to go back to the old system—that all routine business relating to civil and financial questions should be transacted at the Board. What you want is a Board for consultation and advice on difficult questions on which naval and professional men know more than civilians can do. I think that arrangement may be a satisfactory solution of this question at once to my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln; but I can assure them that there will be no Board to screen the acts of particular individuals. The acts of the various officers of the Admiralty will be, as they are now, their own acts, and not the acts of the Board.
asked who, in the absence of the First Lord, would be responsible for carrying on the work at the Admiralty?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I hope, Sir, I may be allowed to finish my statement in the order in which I think it will be most convenient to present it to the House. After that I will answer any questions. The next point for consideration appears 206 to be this—what changes are desirable in the constitution of the Board itself, either in the members composing it or in its numbers? With regard to the most important question discussed tonight—namely, the question of the Controller, I am now prepared to state to the House what we propose. On the question of the Controller, I entirely agree with one of the principles—the cardinal principle, in fact, laid down by my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract, that there ought to be no intervening influence between the Controller and the First Lord of the Admiralty. My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings spoke of a superintending Lord over the Controller; but by the arrangement which he suggested there would have been a Deputy Controller, and there would have been two superintending authorities to one actually working authority. I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract that the Controller should be an officer so high in position at the Admiralty that he should be held responsible for the work he does, and that his responsibility should not be diminished by passing through a superintending Lord. The one point I consider absolutely essential in the Controller of the Navy is that he should be an officer appointed for a fixed term of years. One of the great difficulties of administrating by a fluctuating Board is that you do not get sufficient permanence in the highest officers. That is one of the chief and the best arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln. He says, if you are constantly changing the Boards, how will you ever get the necessary knowledge of the business? But if that was true of the Board, it is equally, if not more, true of the Controller; and I think that the Order in Council may be amended satisfactorily in this respect. Indeed, I believe, it is contrary to the intention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract, that the Controller is at this moment not a permanent officer, but a Lord of the Admiralty, who goes out of office with the Board. That is the main principle on which I propose to amend the Order in Council; we wish to make the Controller a permanent officer—that he should not continue to be a member of the Board, not because he is a servant or under the Board, but because we wish 207 him to be a permanent officer, and to acquire that knowledge and experience indispensable to an officer like the Controller of the Navy. We have considered whether the Controller, as a permanent officer, should be ex officio a member of the Board, and we have come to the conclusion that if that were so there would be a great anomaly, as we should have one permanent Lord of the Admiralty, and others who would go out with the Government; and therefore we have decided that the Controller should not be a member of the Board, but that he should have the right to attend when any of his designs are submitted to the Admiralty, or whenever any of his business might come before the Board. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: Will he have a voice at the Board?] The right hon. Baronet has always told the House that there are no voices at the Admiralty, and that the First Lord himself decided all points. If they have voices and decide by majority, the responsibility of the First Lord will be diminished. Does the right hon. Baronet mean a vote? [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: I wish to know whether the Controller will take part in the proceedings of the Board?] The Controller will not have a vote, but he will have a right to explain his plans, and in that manner he will doubtless have a voice and use it effectually. He is to be responsible, as he now is, to the First Lord, under the system of my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract; but he is to be a permanent officer; his designs are to be submitted to the Board, and he is to attend the Board to explain them; and so long as I am at the Admiralty I should venture to accept no design without submitting it in consultation to my naval advisers. At the same time the responsibility of final decision will rest with the First Lord the same as if he had no Board—the First Lord using his best judgment, having heard the views of his naval advisers. That is the position we propose to assign to the Controller. We have heard to-night of the very great difficulties attending the work of the Controller, and on this head I may say I agree very much with the able remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings. With respect to the labours and position of the Controller, the fact is really this—he is not only nominally responsible, 208 but has to perform work almost beyond the powers of any one man, The great abilities and industry of Sir Spencer Robinson and Mr. Reed produced this result—they tended to draw into the hands of the Controller nearly the whole of the intelligent work of that department. They liked to do as much as they possibly could of the work of the department; and thus an amount of labour not only of thought, but of detail, was thrown on the Controller, with which even a man of superior capacity found it difficult to grapple. It will, therefore, be a satisfaction to us to relieve the Controller of a great portion of routine work, which ought not to be performed by a man whose brains would be more profitably occupied in attending to larger questions in the interests of the public service. We therefore propose to appoint a Deputy Controller, who shall also have the title of Director of Dockyards, and whose special business it shall be to attend to the official 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. In that way we hope to relieve the Controller of a large portion of his laborious duties, and, at the same time, to insure the more effectual working of the dockyards. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, with most of whose remarks I agree, is in favour of high salaries, but not of redundant officers; and in the Controller's department I do not think there are any redundant officers. It appears to me that the staff of the Controller is scarcely adequate to the performances of the immense labours thrown upon him. [Lord HENRY LENNOX: It never was.] It is candid of the noble Lord to make that admission, and to share the blame with us. I wish not only for a stronger staff, but that the heads of the staff shall have more time for following up higher matters, so that a man on whose abilities we rely for designing our iron-clads shall not be troubled with minor details of business such as the pensions of engineers. The Chief Constructor ought to be more in the position of a naval architect, whose business it should to confine himself mainly to a study of designs, and the really scientific portion of the Controller's department. I concur in what has 209 been said as to the technical shipbuilding and engineering element not being sufficiently well placed at the Admiralty; the status of these professional officers seems to me to be scarcely high enough, and in this respect we hope to make an important reform. At present, some of those who have got the best brains and who are working hardest at the Admiralty are receiving the same salary as men who are practically carrying out their Minutes. If there is one point which deserves careful attention, it is that not only the salaries, but also the status of the professional officers shall be such as their talents and the importance of their work deserves. [Mr. CORRY: Is the Controller to be a naval officer or a civilian?] As at present advised, if the appointment rested with me, I should say he ought to be a naval officer, and the Deputy Controller, or Director of Dockyards, ought to be a civilian. I agree with the hon. Member for Hastings, that the Controller should be a man who had seen sea service, and I should not be disposed to recommend a civilian. I will not say that a civilian fit for the post might not be found; but unless there were a civilian of extraordinary ability and acknowledged capacity, I believe it would be best to appoint a naval officer. As to the personnel of the Admirality, we propose to abolish the office of Chief of the Staff, who is not named in the Order of Council of the right hon. Member for Pontefract, but is an appointment made outside of it. On the personnel as well as on the matériel side of the Admiralty the object should be to secure continuity of action and a strong permanent staff. Each side is weak in its permanent staff, and I should wish to strengthen that element. The Chief of the Staff is an officer who now assists the First Naval Lord in the business of manning the Fleet, and he is not a permanent officer. We propose to abolish the Chief of the Staff, and to take a double action. First, we propose to add a Naval Lord to the Board in the room of the Controller, so that the number of the Board will remain the same. Next, we propose to appoint a permanent officer, a Naval Secretary, who will be, under the Naval Lords, at the head of the personnel side of the Admiralty. We propose to add another Naval Lord, because I agree with what has been said to-night that the Lords of the Ad- 210 miralty are, and for some time have been, working at high pressure. I can say most conscientiously that no men work harder than Sir Sydney Dacres and Admiral Tarleton; it is difficult for them to get through their work; and I believe an additional naval officer will only give them the relief to which they are entitled. The new Lord will take that portion of the work which is now performed by the Chief of the Staff, and, at the same time, he will undertake a portion of the work now done by Sir Sydney Dacres and Admiral Tarleton. Each of the three naval officers at the Board will have his separate work to do. In the absence of the First Lord, the First Sea Lord will have the chief authority at the Admiralty concerning the Fleet, and he will be the head of the whole Admiralty, in connection with the Parliamentary Secretary, on all other questions. On the personnel, as well as on the matériel, side we find that the Lords have too many duties of detail to perform, and to do work which cannot properly be performed by members of a fluctuating body; and a certain portion of the work ought certainly to be prepared for them by professional officers. For that purpose I consider a Naval Secretary will be of great use. Much has been said about secretarial arrangements, and one point which requires consideration is the signing of the outgoing letters and the registering of the incoming letters, and nothing has more struck my attention in the evidence taken before the Megæra Commission than its present unsatisfactory condition. This is a matter of extreme difficulty in so vast a Department. With regard to this and other important arrangements I have purposely abstained from making changes until I could confer with my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract; and a further justification of delay is furnished by the fact that official inquiries were pending, and the time when a Department is on its trial is not the best time for making changes of constitution or administration. At present the system of signing letters is unsatisfactory, and there always has been less signing power at the Admiralty than in other Departments with far less correspondence. There are but two Secretaries—the Parliamentary Secretary and the Permanent Secretary—whose signatures are recognized; there are no Assistant 211 Secretaries, and officers have a particular dislike to receiving anything not signed by one of the Secretaries. It is important that every letter should be signed by some one who has an intelligent understanding of its contents, and if any are signed formally, care should be taken to have them revised by the head of a branch before they go for signature. I propose, therefore, that every letter shall be signed by a high officer who is acquainted with its contents. Therefore, we propose that the Naval Secretary whom we shall appoint shall sign all the letters relating to the personnel side of the department, that the Controller or Deputy Controller shall sign all the letters from the matériel side, and that the Permanent Secretary shall sign the remaining letters which relate to finance and the general civil business of the Admiralty. After this arrangement has come into operation, I hope there will be no longer any doubt as to who is responsible for the letters which leave the Admiralty. I also trust that under this arrangement all the branches of the Admiralty connected with the personnel side will be under the direction of a naval officer who is thoroughly acquainted with the subject-matter with which he has to deal. I think I have now stated the main changes we propose to make, and the main points in which we intend to maintain the arrangements of my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract. We propose to maintain the responsibility, the system of working by departments, and the system by which no one intervenes between the Controller and the First Lord; but we propose to make the following changes:—We propose to have periodical meetings of the Board for consultation and for the discussion of all those important technical subjects on which the advice of professional men is absolutely necessary or desirable. We further propose to make the Controller an officer outside of the Board, but with the power to attend the Board whenever these subjects are discussed, and to give him an appointment for a fixed term of years; and also to appoint a Deputy Controller and Director of Dockyards. On the personnel side, we propose to add a Naval Lord to the Board, to abolish the Chief of Staff, and to appoint a Naval Secretary, who will be a permanent officer, and so would be able to keep up the continuity of know- 212 ledge which is so important in the department. In this way we hope to increase the efficiency of the Board and to meet most of the objections which have been urged against it. There is one more important change, which I had almost overlooked as regards the Parliamentary Secretary. We propose that his business should not be any longer confined to the purchase department and finance alone; but that, while he is to be mainly responsible for the finance of the Department, he shall at the same time make himself acquainted with the whole business of the Department, so that he may represent it in this House with a full knowledge of all the business which is going on. There is another minor charge which I ought to mention. This is, that we possibly may arrange that the letters should be brought every morning to the Lords and Secretaries while they are together, so that the delay occasioned by the circulation of the letters during the day may be avoided. We shall have a meeting at a fixed hour in order to expedite the business of the day. These, then, are the main changes we propose to make. I have stated them in their general outline, and I hope the House and my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract will see that they are by no means an immolation of the principles on which he founded his changes, which, so far from having tended to the detriment of the public, as asserted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, have been, I believe, in the right direction, although it may be necessary to modify them.
§ In reply to a Question from Mr. CORRY,
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the Permanent Secretary would be the Chief Secretary and the organ of the Department in all its dealings when the Board had to be represented by an individual.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir James Elphinstone.)
§ MR. GOSCHEN
hoped that the House would either proceed with the discussion, or to allow it to close that night. If they adopted the latter course, there would be ample opportunity of considering the question. It was most important that he should be allowed to make the General Statement on the Navy Estimates on Thursday.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
, on the contrary, hoped his hon. Friend would persevere with his Motion, because it was unreasonable that, in the debate which had lasted some seven hours, hardly anybody but official or ex-official Members should have taken part in it, while several other Members wished to address the House on this important subject. If the debate closed now, they would be debarred from taking that course.
§ MR. LIDDELL
thought that after the explanations which had been given it would not be desirable to adjourn the debate, as hon. Members would have further opportunities of discussing the whole question when Vote 3 was considered.
said, the inconvenience of again postponing his right hon. Friend's explanation of the Navy Estimates would be very great, and expressed a hope that the debate might now be brought to a close; but promised that Vote 3 should be brought on at the commencement of an evening, so that hon. Gentlemen would have the best opportunity of discussing the subject with which the House had been occupied tonight.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 90: Majority 67.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he had intended to move the adjournment of the House; but if it was understood that the whole of the topics discussed that evening might be again discussed when Vote 3 was taken, he should not put the House to the trouble of dividing.
pointed out that if the discussion could not be renewed on Vote 3, the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty would afford an opportunity to any hon. Gentleman who wished to enter into the whole question.
Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.