§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £2,634,904, Wages, &c. to Seamen and Marines.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
, on rising to call attention to the increasing number of desertions of seamen of the Fleet, said, the House would recollect that the first night of the Navy Estimates was wholly occupied by discussions on the matériel of the Fleet and the policy of shipbuilding. He should venture to ask its attention for a short time to a matter of at least equal, if not greater, importance—namely, the personnel of the Navy, and he trusted the House would not grant the Vote without due conside- 1529 ration. No human being could foretell with certainty what would be the experience of a future Naval war as regarded the value of iron-clads or other ships of war; but of this they might be certain—that without an adequate body of well-disciplined and intelligent and contented seamen no ships would be of much value, and that with such a body they might be confident that they would fight to the best advantage on whatever platform the science of the day provided. It was now generally admitted that a standing force of between 18,000 and 19,000 pure blue jackets was sufficient for our Navy in time of peace, to be supplemented in time of war by our Reserves. The numbers voted had stood at this rate for seven or eight years, and he saw no disposition on the part of the present Government or either side of the House to increase the number. Indeed, no part of the serious increase in the Naval Vote was due to the personnel. Of the 18,000 men, not more than 12,000 were employed in sea-going war vessels in commission. The others were engaged either in non-fighting vessels, or were lying in our Reserve ships or depôt ships; and should they be called upon suddenly they had more men in our ports than were sufficient to man all the coastguard reserve ships, all the coast-defence vessels, all the ships in reserve, and, in fact, every vessel that we could send out to sea in a reasonable time. Beyond that they had 4,000 Coastguard men in reserve, and the Naval Pensioners, of whom 3,000 to 4,000 were still of an age to be of real use, and 18,000 Naval Reserve men. The fact was that in proportion to non-combatants, the number of pure blue jackets in our vessels was much less than it used to be. Twelve years ago the flag-ship of the Mediterranean, the Victoria, with a crew of 1,100, required 600 blue jackets. The Sultan of the present day, however, required only 230 out of a crew of 600, and the Devastation only 100 blue jackets. The six iron-clads of the Channel Meet only required 2,000 blue jackets, and the Mediterranean. Fleet only 1,700. But with this greatly reduced requirement, and looking also to the complications of modern ships, and the great size of the guns they would have to work, it was more than ever necessary that our seamen should be of the highest average physique, and should be well- 1530 trained and highly-educated. Two very serious symptoms had recently appeared, which would have to be taken into consideration by the authorities—one was that the number of desertions from this comparatively small Force had in the last four or five years greatly increased; and the other was that the entrance of boys into the training ships had fallen off so much that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had announced his intention to lower the standard of physique and of education, a step which he believed to be one in the wrong direction, for nothing could be more unwise than to reduce the standard. With respect to the increase of desertions, it appeared from a Return he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had obtained at the end of last Session, that the number had almost doubled in the last five years. Out of a force of about 18,000 pure blue jackets they were in 1870–1, 493; in 1871–2, 516; in 1872–3, 810; in 1873–4, 829; and in 1874–5, 895. About 200 of those who deserted last year were recovered; but, after making allowances for that, he found that the desertions of pure seamen were considerably in excess of the desertions from the Army, being, in fact, at 3 per cent as compared with 1 per cent in the Army. It appeared that from one-third to one-fourth of the boys who entered the Service deserted at some time or other during their career as seamen. He would remind the Committee that their seamen were now recruited entirely by means of boys, trained at a very great expense, and in most respects with a very satisfactory result, for as regarded physique, education, and general intelligence, the seamen were unquestionably superior to what they had been in previous times; but even apart from desertions, the waste was very great, and to supply so small a body as 18,000 men an entry of nearly 3,000 boys was required, or one to six of the men. The other serious feature he had alluded to was the increasing difficulty in recruiting, notwithstanding that an increase of pay was given to the boys two years ago by conceding to them a free kit, for which they were previously charged £5, making their pay £9 a-year. The number of recruits had fallen off, and he believed they were recently 700 boys short of the required number. The Return which he had alluded to also showed that the number of re-entries 1531 after 10 years' service was also falling off, for the number of men in their 11th year of service was 555, in their 12th year 699, and in their 13th year 831. All these facts pointed to this—that the Service was not so attractive as it used to be, and that they should re-consider the position of our seamen. He thought he should be able to show that much might be done to improve the position of the men and to make the Service more attractive without increasing the burden of the Estimates, which were already very high, and without following the plan which had been adopted in the Army of increasing the pay but throwing the whole burden upon the future. It was a mistake to suppose that the vacancies were recruited from the very lowest class of society. Up to the present time the boys taken as recruits had been of a very high standard. They were invariably the sons of respectable parents, often in positions much higher than would be supposed. They were entered between the ages of 15 and 16, and they were bound to service for about 13 years. They were kept one year on board the training ships; they then passed into the rating of first-class boys for sea service, and were rated as ordinary seamen at the age of about 18. The expense of training the boys was very considerable. A recent Return showed that, by the time the boys were rated as seamen, every man so rated at the age of 18 had cost the country from £150 to £200. The wages of the men when rated as ordinary seamen were about £22 16s., and as able seamen £28 18s. per annum. There were extras for good conduct, and the almost certain prospect of being rated as leading seamen and petty officers, with increased pay; but the pay alone was unquestionably lower than that of seamen in the Merchant Service. On the other hand, the service in the Navy was continuous, while that in the Merchant Service was broken; the food in the Navy was much better than that of the Merchant Service; and, above all, there was a certainty in the Navy of higher pensions than could be obtained at so young an age in any Service in the world. His impression was, that in any re-consideration of the pay of the Service it would be well, while respecting any existing interests, to put some limit in the future on the amount of pension. 1532 He was convinced that immediate pay was far more effective in retaining men in the Service in the earlier years than the prospect of high pensions. Another point to which he must allude was one which had been brought out in a pamphlet very strongly and forcibly by a most competent authority—namely, by Captain Wilson, one of the most promising of our officers, who was recently in charge of all the training ships. He showed that we were already training by the artificial process in our training ships more boys than could be drafted conveniently into sea-going ships. All the ships in commission only provided room for three-fifths of the boys annually turned out of the training ships, and 1,200 boys were always waiting in depôt ships doing nothing but evil. This evil did not only rest with the boys, but was equally conspicuous in the seamen. Of the 18,000 seamen, two-thirds only were employed on sea-going ships in commission, the remaining third being in depôt ships, harbour ships, and other non-seagoing vessels. Captain Wilson's words were—All our ships together do not take more than three-fifths of the boys who leave the training ships; the remainder are cooped up in harbour ships, learning little but evil. It is thus clear that we have not nearly the requisite tonnage at sea to salt our youths properly—a state of things most detrimental to them and to the Service at large. In short, we have to keep more men than the ships of the Navy can possibly make into sailors, and the sooner the fact is boldly faced the better, for no half-measures will remedy this most serious evil. Some 1,500 boys per annum can be conveniently and advantageously disposed of in the ships usually kept at sea, but any excess of that number only injures the sea training of them all.The remedy which Captain Wilson suggested was not the costly one of commissioning more ships, but of more systematically training boys in naval barracks on shore, and of endeavouring to dispense with the necessity for entering and training so many boys by entering a certain number of men at an older age, direct from the Merchant Service, and passing them, after a short service, into a Reserve—in other words, that the system of short service in a modified form should be adopted for the Navy. He did not understand Captain Wilson to desire that the training ships should be given up as the main and principal source of supplying the Navy with its recruits, but that they should limit some- 1533 what the number of boys to be entered and trained in this way, and that they should enter a certain number direct from the Merchant Service, and pass them, after a short service of four years, into a Reserve. He need hardly point out that for some years past there had been an almost entire disconnection between the Merchant Service and the Navy. In former times there was always a large body of seamen who fluctuated between the two Services, and he believed the Merchant Service gained from having always a certain number of men in it who had been trained and disciplined in the Navy. Since the continuous-service system and the training system, however, had been in force, the number of men entered direct had been gradually decreasing, and for some few years past had entirely ceased. He was not surprised that this should be so, for men could only be entered for the non-continuous service, the pay for which was about £5 a-year below the pay of continuous-service men, and was, therefore, very far below the pay of the Merchant Service. To some extent, also, the inducements of the Naval Reserve acted as a counter attraction in the Navy, and prevented men entering the Navy. By entering the Naval Reserve a man could obtain £12 per annum for a month's work, and this, in addition to his pay in the Merchant Service for the other 11 months, was a far better thing than anything which either the Navy or the Merchant Service offered alone. Numerous suggestions had been made from time to time on this point with a view to making the Naval Reserve a force of men who should have passed through the Service. Some had suggested that we should train double the number of boys and pass them into the Reserve after a short service. It would be easy to show, however, that that scheme was impossible. If we found difficulty in disposing of our boys in sea-going ships already, the difficulty would be vastly increased by adding to the number of boys. If, on the other hand, we could enter a certain number of men—say 600 to 700 at the age of 20, and pass them into the Reserve after four years' service, we should not only increase the number and quality of our Reserves, but should also reduce the difficulty of training boys and reduce the cost of such training. Looking, then, to the diffi- 1534 culties pointed out by Captain Wilson of training our boys on sea-going ships, looking also to the difficulty of obtaining entries of boys and to the inexpediency of reducing the standard, he would suggest that we should aim at reducing the number of boys required for training by about 1,000; and he would do so in two ways, first by endeavouring to reduce desertion by 400 to 500—secondly by endeavouring to enter a certain number of men, say 500 to 600 every year, direct from the Merchant Service. If we could thus reduce the number of boys to be trained, we should save £200,000 per annum, which would enable the Admiralty to meet any requirements for the purpose of improving the general pay and condition of the seamen of the Fleet. He had no wish to embarrass the Government on the point, and he had no desire to raise prematurely, still less in any Party spirit, a question of so much delicacy. But he felt persuaded that, having regard to what had been done in the Army, it would be wise to reconsider the pay of the seamen of the Fleet in a liberal sense. The whole question should be considered. If the pay were increased, it might also be well to limit somewhat the promotions to petty officers, which were already over numerous, and were really made to counteract the effects of low pay. It might also be a question whether some limit should not be put on the amount of pensions, which were at the present excessive. The pension list was increasing at a prodigious rate, and threatened to become a great burden to the Estimates. It now amounted to £400,000, and he calculated that it would rise by slow or fast degrees to the the maximum between £800,000, and £1,000,000. The great pressure of this item arose from the fact that pensions were granted at the early age of from 38 to 42. Another matter, second only in importance to that of pay, was the treatment of the men. He believed this to be worthy of the consideration of the Admiralty. The question was a delicate one, and he should be sorry to say anything which would hurt the feelings of the profession; but he knew that there were many officers who thought that the mode of dealing with the seamen had in some quarters not advanced in the proportion to the better education and better training of the men themselves, and that the old-fashioned rough and hectoring 1535 style of addressing the men and commanding them was not sufficiently discouraged. By giving attention to these two points—namely, the question of pay and of treatment—he believed the desertions might be greatly reduced. The next point was the entry of men direct from the Merchant Service. He believed it would be to the interest of both the Navy and the Merchant Service to revive to some extent the connection between them, and many persons thought it would, be well to make it a condition of incorporation with the Naval Reserve that a man should have served three or four years in the Navy. He would suggest that that should be done by entering a certain number of men direct from the Merchant Service every year, say 600 to 700. These men should be enlisted for four years at the age of 20, trained on shore to guns for one year in naval barracks, and then sent on board seagoing vessels in commission, after which they might be passed into the Reserve on the same terms as the Army Reserve men. It would be quite necessary in order to obtain these men to raise their wages to an equality with those of the continuous-service men. His suggestions, therefore, were these—1, To reconsider the whole question of pay and treatment of seamen, in the hope of reducing the desertions of the men by about 500; 2, to enter direct from the Merchant Service from 600 to 700 men annually, to train them for four years, and then pass them into the Reserve; 3, by the these means to reduce the entries of boys into training ships by about 1,200; 4, the effect of this would be not only to save the cost of training boys to that number till they were rated as seamen, but also to relieve them of the difficulty of training the first-class boys; and, 5, to restore the standard of physique and education on the entry of boys to the training ships. It was his strong belief that by adopting these measures we might be able to make a very liberal increase of pay to the seamen without entailing any increased burden upon the Estimates, without imposing a great burden upon the future, as had been done in the case of the Army, and that we might also increase the Reserve of seamen, while we were also benefiting the Merchant Service by returning to it every year 600 or 700 well-disciplined men. He had only to conclude by 1536 thanking the House for their attention, and by assuring the right hon. Gentleman that he had had but one object in bringing forward this subject—namely, that of promoting the interest of the Service which he believed he had at heart, and suggesting the means by which he might give contentment to the Service, and add to its efficiency without entailing any greatly increased burden upon the tax-payers.
§ MR. HANBURY-TRACY
said, that the Committee were much indebted to the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) for having brought forward the present position of the personnel of the Navy. The question of how best to check the large number of desertions which had taken place during the last year, opened up the whole subject of pay and the condition of our seamen together with the much-vexed point of how far a closer alliance could be created with the Merchant Navy, so as to facilitate a constant interchange of men between the two Services. It was very satisfactory to find from the statement just made that it was quite possible by judicious changes considerably to increase the pay of the seamen, if found advisable, without in any way augmenting the annual charge. Taking first, the question of obtaining a certain number of Merchant seamen annually, he thought there could be no doubt that, as the rates of wages were now fixed, it was an absolute bar against them. He found that whereas a Merchant able seaman received on an average from 2s. to 2s. 4d. per day, he could not as a non-continuous service man in the Royal Navy receive more than 1s. 4d. per day. The first thing would necessarily be to equalize the continuous and non-continuous pay, which would bring the pay up to 1s. 7d. per day. If, when this had been effected, the pay was also raised 2d. or 3d., the disproportion between the Merchant and Naval Services would not be so great. It must be remembered that, in comparing the two rates of pay together, the man-of-wars man received comforts and rewards which were unknown in the other Service, and which, together with the certainty of a good pension, made the pay of an A. B. in the Navy a very fair figure. He, at the same time, agreed in thinking that, so far as pay was concerned, "Present pay" was the point generally considered, and not 1537 the attendant inducements. He found that in the year 1815 the pay was 1s. 2d. per day, and considering the common rise in wages since that date he did not think it surprising that so long as we held out only 1s. 4d. as the pay for a man entering from the Merchant Service, none could be obtained. Whilst he thought that that restriction should be removed, he felt at the same time bound to say that he had grave doubts if there were any Merchant seamen available. The real fact was that, until we adopted the plan suggested by the Manning Commission, and started large training ships in our principal seaports to rear up boys for the Merchant Navy, the Government supporting one-half on certain conditions, of one year's service in the Navy with further claims in the Reserve, he feared the pure Merchant A. B. willing to join the Navy could not be found. However much, it might be advisable, from a national point of view, to facilitate a flow of seamen from the Merchant Navy, he deprecated most strongly anything which would tend in the slightest degree to upset the present system of rearing up our seamen from boys. Under the existing plan they obtained the most magnificent set of seamen it was possible to get hold of, and he believed that they possessed a far better-trained and well-conducted body of men than could be reared under any other scheme. It was perfectly true that it was not an expanding system, and this was the reason why it was necessary to look to the Merchant Navy for our Reserves. The problem how to check desertion was no doubt a difficult one, but he doubted whether it was a mere matter of pay alone. Increase of pay would, of course, diminish it, but he believed desertion arose from two other causes besides. First, love of variety; second, discontent. A life of variety and excitement was inherent in every sailor, and his training made him look forward continuously to an active and enterprizing life. It was not, therefore, surprising that in the Colonies and on the Pacific Station their men were constantly tempted to desert. He was much inclined to think that, under certain circumstances, arrangements might be made for a proportion of men to leave the Service for a time when they specially desired. It was a difficult matter, but he thought a Committee 1538 of some experienced captains and admirals would soon find a practical solution of it. He remembered Admiral Erskine, a few years ago, when a Member of the House, stating that he had tried the experiment on the Australian Station with considerable success, and that he had not lost any of the men. He had been much struck by a similar opinion expressed by Captain Wilson in his able lecture at the United Service Institute early this year. He said—I would introduce a more elastic system, combined with time pay, by which a man might with reasonable facility obtain his discharge from the Commander in Chief, and, under circumstances, from his captain. At first a considerable number would apply for their discharges, but, after a time, many would return and settle down to their work. If a man really wishes to go, he can always manage to do so, the punishment of deserting prevents his 'returning,' not 'leaving.'The second cause he put down to discontent. He did not in any way mean to imply that the Service was unpopular; but he thought that in all great Services special cause for discontent occasionally arose which ought at once to be checked. He believed that a considerable amount of discontent arose from the great length of time the men were now in harbour. The hon. Member for Reading had shown that whilst 10,000 seamen were afloat, we generally had about 8,000 in harbour and in harbour ships. Of that number about 1,200 were young ordinary seamen, and it was to them he desired specially to direct attention. The great fault of our system was the lack of training which our young seamen received. If a young man commenced his life when he was rated an ordinary seaman by spending a considerable time in harbour, he frequently got into mischief. One thing led to another. He went from bad to worse, and at last got into serious trouble. So that when he was drafted into a sea-going ship he was discontented, he had lost his passport for advancing rapidly, and he took an early opportunity of running away. He attributed a great amount of the desertions to this cause, and he looked upon it as a most serious evil. It was impossible to pass by this subject without deferring to the subject of naval barracks. They had now no place where they could give the men systematic training and instruction, and the result was, that harbour time 1539 was employed "playing horses" in the dockyards, dragging carts and spars about the yard, and time was wasted in going too and fro from the hulks. The establishment of naval barracks at each port with training ships attached would be the greatest incentive to discipline that could be created, and it would be at the same time a great economy. There was nothing so expensive as a floating house. Barracks once built they would have little or no expense with them. They would then be able to drill the men in sails, spars, and boats, and send them into sea-going ships, well-traiued, and in a thorough state of discipline. Sooner or later they must adopt barracks. The old ships were gradually getting scarce, and he believed that a very few years would see them forced to face the necessity. The cost could not exceed £300,000 at Portsmouth or Plymouth, and that spread over 10 years ought not to be sufficient to frighten them. An accurate account taken of the expense of hulks would show a considerable saving on the annual charge. There was also an opinion which he knew existed amongst a great many officers, that the time had arrived when that splendid body of men, the Royal Marine Artillery might be amalgamated with the Royal Marines. Nothing could exceed their high state of discipline and efficiency; but he knew it was very much doubted whether it was necessary to maintain this special class of artillerists, now that they had so many seamen passing through the gunnery ships, and a large number of first-rate captains of guns. If this ever was carried out, their capital barracks would at once be available for the Navy. In suggesting an increase of pay the hon. Member for Reading had spoken of the possibility of diminishing the number of petty officers' ratings. He thought this should not be attempted without great consideration, as there was no greater incentive for work and for good conduct as the prospect held out of these ratings. At the same time he was inclined to think that if the A B's pay was raised, the rating of leading seamen might be abolished. It was a rating established when there existed a large number of old men who could not well be sorted as petty officers, but the necessity for it had long ceased to exist. The enormous amount which the hon. Member for Reading said the 1540 pension fund would rise to—namely, £1,000,000, induced him to think that the question of pay and pension ought to be considered together. He was much inclined to the opinion that a larger pension at a later date would prove more efficacious and less expensive; especially, if combined with an increasing rate of pay according to number of years served. He could not sit down without alluding to two subjects which he knew caused some discontent. The first was the question of paying the men in depreciated silver. Some few weeks before he had questioned the First Lord of the Admiralty on the subject, and the right hon. Gentleman had admitted—"That the petty officers and seamen on the India and China stations were paid a portion of their pay in Indian currency, but that the exchange value of the rupee was under consideration." He (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) was afraid that that was a sample of many other cases which when pointed out did not receive immediate attention, and caused considerable discontent. The facts of this case were very simple. It was well known that silver in India had depreciated about 10 per cent, and yet although the men had a right to receive the full amount of their wages, as voted by Parliament, they were nevertheless mulcted of the difference in exchange. It was not a case of the Government losing by the transaction, for they actually credited themselves with 10 per cent. The paymaster drew a bill and credited the Government with the balance, after paying the men at the rate of 10 rupees for a sovereign when the real value was 11 rupees to the sovereign. That might seem to them only a small matter, but he knew it was considered a serious cause of complaint by the men. To show how strong a grievance it was, he would quote a passage from The Times of India—The seamen of the Flying Squadron are entitled to wages in English currency—£ s. d.—and there is no mention of rupees in their contracts. Such being the case, it is obvious that if it suits the convenience of Government to pay the men, when serving in foreign waters, in other currency than that of England, they should as a matter of course receive the exchange value of the sterling coinage. But this has not been the experience of the Flying Squadron in Indian waters. Although both the Home and Indian Governments practically recognize the fact that a rupee is worth 10 per cent less than two shillings, the seamen are paid 1541 their English wages in rupees, at the rate of one rupee for each florin due to them. The consequence is, that on every payment made in an Indian port, the ships' paymasters, who obtain Indian money in Bombay or elsewhere in exchange for hills on London for the full amount of the wages due to the men in £ s. d., have to 'credit' Government with sums remaining on hand 'after payment to the crews' at the rate of a rupee for every two shillings due, 'the direct profit accruing to Government by the process amounting to about 10 per cent of the total wages.' The Naval and Military Services are by no means over-paid, and there is considerable difficulty in recruiting either in a highly-paid labour market. It is short-sighted policy to add to the unpopularity of the Services by literally filching from the men what is legally and morally due to them. We trust that publicity may have the effect of putting an end to a scandal which, though directly beneficial to the Exchequer, is certainly injurious to the reputation of the Admiralty and the Home Government.It was quite evident that the feeling expressed on the lower deck would be somewhat stronger than this, and no one could wonder at there being some discontent in consequence. A blue jacket simple and obedient as he was, was peculiarly sensitive to his rights or to any attempt to a breach of faith, and these sort of questions ought never to be allowed to exist. The question of victualling was also a matter in which many people considered injustice existed, but he would only allude to it for a moment. It was well known that under the existing system a most beneficial plan was adopted, satisfactory to the men, and economical to the State. The arrangement made was, that the men received the value of any provisions they did not wish to take up, and these sums were expended by the men through their chosen caterers in purchasing and laying in stock of appetizing food, potatoes, pickles, &c. It formed the domestic life of the men. Unfortunately, the rate at which the provisions were paid for was fixed a long time ago, and the prices did not always correspond with the cost price. The difference was very large. Salt beef was paid for 3d. per 1b. less than it cost; pork 2½d., and biscuit 2d. If the principle was good to enable the men to vary their diet in a manner most to their taste, surely the full price of the provision ought to be given. Instead of this £65,000 was saved by the transaction, and thus taken from the men. He would not go further into that question then; but he thought it 1542 was one of several requiring very attentive consideration. He hoped that all the facts brought out by the hon. Member for Reading would be carefully examined, and he had no doubt the number of desertions would soon be considerably reduced.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that he felt the Committee was much indebted to the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), who had brought this subject under their consideration he was sure in no hostile spirit, but with an anxious desire to increase the efficiency of the Navy. He need not assure the Committee that the subject was one of constant and anxious attention, and that any plan by which desertions could be lessened would have due consideration. But he must say that the statistics before him did not bear out the fears or apprehensions expressed in some quarters. While looking at the number of desertions we ought also to look at the stations from which they occurred, and the statistics showed that there was no increase of desertion upon the home stations. In 1872–3 the desertions of the home stations were rather more than 3 per cent; in 1873–4 they amounted to nearly 4 per cent; in 1874–5, they were reduced to 3½ per cent. That was not an unreasonably large percentage, especially considering that nearly the whole of our seamen were taken as boys, when they had hardly realized what the kind of life would be and their views of their future career were not matured. On the foreign stations the statistics of desertion varied from next to nil up to a high rate, showing that it was not so much dislike of the Service as the nature of the inducements presented which led our seamen and Marines to desert abroad. Indeed, the temptations put before our men at some foreign stations were such as to almost make us wonder that more did not yield to these temptations. During the last year the desertions on the Mediterranean station were only 1 per cent of the Force. On the North American and West Indian stations they were 2 per cent; on the South-east Coast of America, 8 per cent; in the Pacific, 6 per cent; the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa, 1 per cent; the East India station, 1 per cent; China, 1 per cent; Australia, 17 per cent; in the Channel Squadron, 7 per cent; and the Detached Squadron, 2 per cent. On 1543 the whole, the proportion of desertions was not such as to show that the Service was unpopular. Captain Wilson, in his able paper, suggested that a certain number of men should be allowed their discharge after a few years' service, and thought they would come back. He (Mr. Hunt) did not quite see how that plan was to be carried out. If discharges were allowed on foreign stations, they must be allowed on home stations; but you would thus entirely break down the present system of early training and continuous service. This system had given us a finer and a better trained body of men than we had ever had before, and it would be imprudent to risk the success of this system by such a change as was proposed. It was said that Merchant seamen ought to be induced to enter the Navy, and the Committee had been told that wages in the Merchant Service were so high, that the seamen would not leave that Service for the Navy. He (Mr. Hunt), however, did not think it was a question of pay, for the Committee must remember there was no such thing as pensions, the value of which had been estimated at 3s. a-week. Moreover, in the Merchant Service there was no continuous pay; the seaman was only paid for the voyage, at the end of which he had to shift for himself. It was not, therefore, fair to compare the pay in the Navy all the year round, with pension in reserve, with pay which might be higher while it lasted, but was only for the voyage. But it was not a question of pay alone, for unless you took sailors when young, they found the discipline irksome on board a man-of-war, and adults would not, therefore, often join from the Merchant Service. If anything could be done to induce men to come from the Merchant Service into the Navy, as a matter of economy, much might be said for the idea; but, at present, he could not see his way to induce them to do it. He thought the present system was going on very satisfactorily. They had a large body of men who were becoming trained in the use of arms and inured to discipline. On the subject of pay the hon. Member had admitted it was a difficult one; for him (Mr. Hunt) it was a delicate one; and he hoped he should be excused if, upon that occasion, he would rather not enter upon it. It was said—"The better the pay the less the number 1544 of desertions;" but there might be circumstances under which it was better to risk some desertions than incur greatly increased expenditure. With respect to the observations of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) as to the depreciation of silver and the effect upon our seamen on East Indian stations, he was scarcely able to give any opinion at that moment, seeing that the Committee had not concluded their inquiries; but he hoped that ere long the matter would be settled in a way which did no injustice to the sailor. As regarded the savings on provisions, that was a difficult question, and it was a great question whether the men ought to be tempted to save more on their provisions than they did. They must be careful not to give the men too much inducement to refrain from a diet which was necessary for them. It was a question which required consideration; but, anxious as he was to proceed with the Votes in Committee, he hoped hon. Members opposite would excuse him if he declined to discuss these and other topics which had been referred to. In conclusion, he begged to assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Reading, who had rendered good service in bringing this matter forward, that he should consider the suggestions he had made.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he thought the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty singularly fair; but there were one or two points upon which the right hon. Gentleman did not touch. His hon. Friend the Member for Reading suggested that a fewer number of boys should be trained, and that a certain number of men should be entered from the Merchant Service, together with an increase in the pay, in order to meet the evil of having too large a number of boys and young sailors and too few of greater age. There was one point on which they would all agree with the First Lord of the Admiralty, and that was to do nothing to weaken in any degree, the admirable continuous system which had been built up during the last few years. He (Mr. Childers) was rather sceptical about the introduction of any considerable number of men from the Merchant Service. That Service was not more popular than the Navy, the physique and morale of the men was inferior, and on that ground he should not be disposed 1545 to look for very much increase from the Merchant Service. With respect to increased pay, an addition of 2d. per day would at one stroke add £250,000 a-year to the Estimates, while probably 10, 15, or 20 years would elapse before vested rights in the present rate of pensions would have been satisfied and any diminution could be expected. He was not quite sure that the Returns to which his hon. Friend had called so much attention proved his case with regard to desertions. He hesitated before he assumed that there was this very great increase of desertion during the last few years, and that it was to be attributed to the permanent causes which the figures would seem to indicate to the House. He admitted that if increased pay was necessary it ought to be given thoroughly, and in no niggardly spirit, but before adopting an alteration of that kind there should be a very careful preliminary inquiry, and they must do it on an intelligible principle. He should be the last to advocate anything which would tend to impair efficiency merely in order to effect a cutting down of expenditure. In some respects his hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had made very valuable suggestions, and he hoped that next year, probably when the Estimates were produced, the House would learn that the First Lord of the Admiralty had given the subject due consideration.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he quite agreed that it would not be safe to rely on the Merchant Service for manning the Navy. Years ago there was a great affinity between the two Services; but they were now a distinct race of men, especially in their ideas of discipline. One of the chief causes of the deterioration of the Merchant Service was attributable to bad legislation, in doing everything that could be done to destroy discipline, and the Merchant Service was now reaping the fruits of that work. It would be impossible now to reconcile the differences that existed, and bring the two Services advantageously together. He was convinced that the so-called "delicate question"—namely, increase of pay, was one which they would soon be forced to deal with, the main cause of desertion, in his opinion, being insufficiency of pay. If Parliament wished for a good article in the market it must pay for it.
§ MR. RYLANDS
concurred with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) in thinking that while the scheme of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) would involve an immediate increase in the Estimates, the saving to be effected by it was very remote. He thought it would be better not to train so many boys every year; but only a sufficient number to meet the actual wants of the Navy. He objected to the scheme of naval barracks on account of the expense without the probability of a corresponding benefit. It would be better to reduce the number of men and boys, and trust to the Reserves in case of an emergency.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that to a great extent the absence of desertions on the home stations proved that it was not the unpopularity of the Service, but that there were peculiarities in certain foreign stations which caused desertions. It was recommended that they should have naval barracks to prevent desertions; but it was remarkable that at Sheerness, where there were such barracks, there were more desertions than at Portsmouth and Chatham, where they did not exist. With regard to the Marine Artillery, he thought that unless there was a real intention of dealing with it, the fewer disturbing suggestions that were thrown out respecting it the better. That corps, of which he had a high opinion, seemed always to be the subject of schemes of one kind or another, and never to know whether it was to be permanent or not. Desertion on foreign stations was a very serious evil, and in order to diminish it, he thought it would be well to diminish the number of ships sent to those stations, unless they were most urgently needed. He suggested that a corvette might be sent to the Pacific station, instead of the frigate Shah. He begged the First Lord of the Admiralty not to send out more ships than were absolutely required for the service to the South American and the Australian stations, on which there were so many desertions. Again, it was surprising that the desertions from the Channel Squadron should be so excessive, while the proportion at home was only 3 per cent, and he thought the desertions from the Channel Squadron must practically be added to those in this country, because the stations to which that Squad- 1547 ron generally proceeded made it highly improbable that many of the desertions from it occurred abroad. He also hoped that the admirals and captains would be requested to ascertain the cause of them; and that a remedy would be found to prevent them in future. While he entirely approved the present system of training our sailors from boys, and while he thought the continuous-service system must be maintained, if possible, yet the present system was attended with this drawback, that it had no expansion whatever in it. If, therefore, they could establish a relation between the Mercantile Marine and the Navy in the way of enlisting men from the former to a limited extent, a great advantage would be gained.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that there were certain revolutionary States on the Pacific which were continually in a condition of ferment; and not 10 years ago, at Valparaiso, a very distinguished officer in command of a wooden frigate found himself in a position in which it was necessary for him to protect British interests in that port, but he was deprived of the power of doing so because his ship was incapable of meeting the iron-clads of a revolutionary State. The Government then in power therefore thought it requisite to send an iron-clad to those waters, and he (Sir John Hay) thought one was equally necessary now. [Mr. GOSCHEN: The Shah is not an iron-clad.] If she was not an iron-clad, she was a very powerful vessel. With regard to the Marine Artillery, the reduction of that Force by the late Sir James Graham was, in his opinion, a most unfortunate, proceeding; and he regarded as undesirable the suggestion of such changes as had been recommended that evening in regard to that corps. When they had got men so highly trained and valuable they ought to keep them. With respect to obtaining men from the Merchant Service, it would be desirable to obtain them, but he did not know how it was to be done; and, therefore, he hoped that the First Lord of the Admiralty would think twice before he made any alteration in the number of boys entered for the Navy, or in the way in which he was training them.
§ MR. E. J. REED
thought the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down (Sir John Hay) failed to see the force of what had been said by 1548 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London in respect to placing a smaller class of vessels on the Pacific station. He (Mr. Reed) understood that the desire of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London was, that the Government were not to weaken the naval force on the South American station, but to have a strong ship there with a comparatively small number of men. He wished to point out that the expenditure upon ships in proportion to the amount expended upon men was largely and continually increasing. In that view he had this year felt bound to suggest that the number of men should be reduced, and the proper answer to that would be for the Government to show that the number now asked for was requisite. The fact, however, now stared them in the face that, in order to keep up the number of men, they were going to send a large proportion of those men upon a ship, which was far from being efficient as a flag-ship, and which was to be placed on a station where desertions were very numerous. The Shah had in her armament miserably small guns, considering the nature of the service for which she was intended.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
said, he could not see the wisdom, as it was common, to do, of parading the number of desertions in our Army and Navy before the world. The desertions of seamen when they arrived at places where wages were high did not appear to him at all remarkable. He denied that merchant sailors were inferior to sailors in the Royal Navy; and there never was a time when merchant ships were so good and efficient or made such rapid passages as at the present time. It was not fair to disparage the Merchant Marine. The Royal Navy might be proud if it had made equal progress.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he had every reason to be satisfied with the discussion and the friendly tone in which it had been carried. He dissented from the opinion that there would be no saving until a distant day from the adoption of his plan. He should like to know whether the Admiralty had considered the expediency of extending to the Marines the proposal as to deferred pay, and also what was the number of disposable seamen in our home ports?
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £1,153,367, Victual sand Clothing.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (3.) £189,820, Admiralty Office.
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
said, he should like to see a larger number of naval officers, such as captains of the Navy, receiving remuneration under the Vote, as that would enable the Sea Lords of the Admiralty to devote greater attention to questions of construction and other matters of importance. Such a change would, he thought, fee attended with great public advantage. The Staff of naval officers at the Admiralty was very small, as compared with that of the Secretary of State for War, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might be able in the next Estimates to give some effect to the suggestion.
§ MR. E. J. REED
inquired whether the Staff of the Director of Naval Ordnance was completely represented in the Estimates, or whether he had the assistance of other officers who did not appear in the Estimates; and also, whether the Director of Naval Ordnance was under the Controller of the Navy in all respects? He asked also if the timber Inspectorship, which had a great salary attached, was an office intended to be kept up in these times? Another office to which he wished to direct attention was that of Director of Works. It was a most anomalous post. It was held by a military officer, and the duty of constructing docks was imposed upon him, although he and his department had no relationship and no consultations whatever with the Constructor's department as to the sort of ships likely to be constructed. There were estimates to be taken for new docks at Devonport; were they to be constructed by this officer without the control of the Naval department at all? Ships had been commenced of extraordinary proportions, and he would ask whether the docks at Devonport were to be constructed with 1550 any relationship to the vessels to be built?
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, that the office of Director of Naval Ordnance held by a naval captain appointed by the Admiralty and sitting in their own office was a most anomalous office. Formerly the Director, though a naval officer, sat in the War Office, and acted under the Secretary of State, who in some degree was able to exercise some check over the demands of the Admiralty for guns for our ships of war. But on the discontinuance of this office from the War Office, the Admiralty at once created in their own branch a new office of Director, but carefully abstained from relieving the Army Estimates of the expenses for the naval guns. He had complained of it for years, and for this reason—that that naval officer was allowed, almost without any control, to swell the Army Estimates by his demands for stores for the Navy. In this way the military expenditure had been swelled up by millions during the last 17 years of perpetual changes in the armament of the Navy, and which would not have taken place if the Admiralty had borne these expenses on the Naval Estimates. The evil was once about to be remedied; but the right hon. Gentlemen below him (the Liberal Party) came into power, and then all his hopes were at an end. The remedy was to transfer to the Navy the charge and custody of their own guns and stores, and to give over to the Army the charge and management of their own Transports. An examination of these two accounts would show the wasteful way in which the respective Departments swelled up these several accounts, necessarily left without check or control.
§ MR. HUNT
said, the Director of Naval Ordnance was in all respects under the control of the Admiralty. As to the Director of Works, he could bear testimony to the meritorious way in which the officer who now held that appointment discharged his duty. Such an officer ought, of course, to be under the control of the Admiralty; and as to the construction of docks he, of course, could not say what took place when the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Reed) was in office; he (Mr. Hunt) should never think of sanctioning any works of that sort without consulting the Constructor's department. The proposed docks at 1551 Devonport would be constructed by the Director of Works, but the plans had been submitted to the Constructor and Controller of the Navy.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
said, he would like to know what was the cause of this increase of £6,000 a-year for one office?
§ MR. HUNT
said, that £4,000 was for the progressive increase in the salaries of the officers, clerks and writers. Then there was an increase in the salary of the Director of Works; £1,200 for the re-organization of the Naval department, a matter which had been a long time under consideration, and there was also an increase for travelling expenses, which depended on the shipbuilding programme, which this year was larger than usual.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he could bear out the right hon. Gentleman in saying that there had been various applications for an increase of pay and an assimilation of salaries to those of the War Department; but those applications did not only come from the Naval department, but from other departments of the Admiralty. It was undesirable to deal piecemeal with this question, and when he was in office he was anxious to do away with the idea that there was any special preference given to the Naval department. He should like to know what was the nature of the re-organization of the department, and what increase was made to the salaries?
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
said, that in the Naval Department of the Admiralty the first class clerks were to get an increase in their salaries from £900 to £1,000, and were for the future to be styled principal clerks, being, in fact, the Heads of Departments. The second class clerks were to get an increase from £550 to £650, and were to be styled first class clerks. The third class clerks were to get an increase from £350 to £420, and were to be styled second class clerks. This classification was adopted from that of the Treasury and other principal Government Offices. There was a distinct promise made to the secretariat of the Naval Department when a large reduction was made in the Staff, that the salaries of those who remained should be increased, and the Government was now only doing justice in fulfilling that promise. In the Departments of the Admiralty outside the Naval Departments, the difference existing be- 1552 tween their salaries and those of the War Department was regarded as a grievance; but it was hoped that some alteration would be made which would prove satisfactory.
§ MR. E. J. REED
said, he did not question the ability of the Director of Works, who was a very able man and a most zealous officer, but he objected to the system which enabled him to initiate his scheme for docks.
observed that the second-class clerks, whose salaries were raised to £650 a-year, would be actually in a better position than the first-class clerks, in whose salaries no change had been made. That would naturally cause dissatisfaction, and it illustrated, the inconvenience of dealing piecemeal with the department.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that when he was at the Admiralty, it had always been the custom to go through all the Estimates of the Director of Naval Ordnance, who had no power to expend a single shilling until they had been examined and approved of. He believed his right hon. Friend (Mr. Hunt) followed the same rule. As to the Director of Works, he had when in office paid considerable attention to the proposal that he should be an officer in the Controller's department, but the difficulty was that he had a great deal of duty to do which was in no way connected with the Controller's department. It was quite true, as had been stated by the hon. Baronet the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Massey Lopes), that when a reduction was made in the staff of the Naval department a promise was given to the clerks who remained that their salaries should be increased.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £210,230, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Coast Guard Service, Royal Naval Reserve, and Seamen and Marine Pensioners Reserve, and Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1877.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Rylands.)
§ MR. HUNT
hoped the Motion would not be pressed, as he believed there was 1553 no Amendment proposed to the Vote. He wished to point out that there was an important Vote before them which it was desirable to take without delay—namely, Vote 10, Section 2, for "Steam Machinery and Ships built by Contract."
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that the Shipbuilding Vote was the most important Vote in the Estimates, in which there was an increase of £500,000; and, there fore, he did not think an appeal could be made to hon. Members to abstain from discussing it.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, the second section, Vote 10, might be taken on the full understanding that full opportunity should be given for full discussion on the other Votes.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
was of opinion that that could not be done without involving assent to the entire shipbuilding programme of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. E. J. REED
said, that a month must be lost if they did not that night take Vote 10, and it was as much the duty of the House as that of the Government to advance the public service.
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty would undertake to bring on the Estimates at a reasonably early opportunity, so that they might not have to discuss those important questions, as was sometimes the case, at the end of the Session.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
thought the Committee had good reason for protesting against the position in which they were placed through the action of the Government in being called upon either to vote, without debate, an increase of, as he had said, £500,000 to the Estimates once for all, or to be exposed to the reproach of interfering with the public service. They were asked to vote the money first and afterwards to discuss the style of ships to be built, which were to be ordered at once, in order to save a month. Many hon. Members on his side of the House felt that this money would be better spent upon ironclads than upon gunboats and corvettes.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he had understood that his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract wished to say something about the Naval Reserve department, and perhaps the Committee would not object to sit a little longer as they were going to have a holiday. However, he felt the force of what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, and he should 1554 agree not to go on with Vote 10 if the Committee would not complain if he took upon himself the responsibility of ordering six more river gunboats in the meantime.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he must decline to enter upon such a discussion at that hour. What the right hon. Gentleman proposed would not be objected to.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow, at One of the clock;
§ Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday 24th April.