HC Deb 18 June 1877 vol 234 cc1954-70

in rising to call attention to the results of the changes made in 1875 in the nomination of Cadets to the Naval Service; and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, the abolition of limited competition for the appointments of Cadets to the Navy has been injurious to the interests of the Public Service, referred to the Motion which he had made in the House on this subject in 1875, which although defeated by the usual Government majority had created a very strong feeling in the country. Every newspaper in the country had denounced the change. His object in taking the step he had, was based upon the fact—which he was ready to prove—that the system of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt) was an absolute failure, and the official Reports showed the fact. It was identical with the system in force until the year 1869, when competition had been cautiously introduced. About that time, too, the number of officers was slightly reduced, so that the quality of the juniors was a matter of the highest importance. This limited competition worked very well, and improved the character of the young men who obtained appointments; but, unfortunately, in an evil hour, the right hon. Gentleman opposite had appointed a Committee to inquire into the state of things on beard the Britannia, where it was said that the cadets were overworked, and that Committee had reported on the whole subject of Naval Education. The Committee was, in his opinion, a weak one, and not properly competent to deal with so important a subject; and he ventured to say that the evidence taken before it in no way supported its conclusions. The Committee had found that limited competition was hurtful to the Service. With respect to the evidence on which this decision was based, he would notice that of the four surgeons on beard the Britannia, three had pronounced strongly in favour of the physique of the boys, whose height and weight was well up to the average. Captain Foley and Dr. Woolley gave it as their opinion that the health of the boys had not been affected by hard work, or by competition. However, the Committee condemned competition, and on the strength of their Report the system of pure nomination was restored, limited only by a test examination. The result had been that of 48 cadets appointed in July, as many as 30 obtained at the following half-yearly examination less than 30 per cent of the possible total of marks, whereas under the previous system only about 10 per cent acquitted themselves so ill. This was quite unprecedented, and it was recommended that those who had not gained a certain percentage of marks should be made to stay half-a-year longer in the training ship. Unfortunately, that advice was not acted upon, the right hon. Gentleman opposite probably not wishing to admit the total failure of his system. Of the following half-yearly examination Dr. Hirst said— The marked inferiority displayed by the cadets who entered the Britannia in July, 1875, in all the mathematical subjects is as striking, as in December last. It would appear that the attempt to push on those whose case is hopeless has retarded the progress of those whose advancement might otherwise have been satisfactory, and I fear many have proceeded to the more advanced parts of mathematics without ever having been properly grounded in the elementary parts. Another half-year elapsed, and another examination of those boys who had begun their third term on beard the Britannia was held, while two of the batches of boys had been nominated. Meantime Mr. Goodwin had temporarily replaced Dr. Hirst, as Director of Studies, and this was his Report, dated January 6, 1877, on the third-term cadets— It will be seen from these tables that the cadets of the third term continue to show signs of the same inferiority which was commented upon at the examination of their first and second terms. The averages obtained are low almost beyond precedent, and it is hardly too much to say that a considerable proportion of the cadets of this term are quite unfit to proceed to the study of the fourth-term subjects. Therefore we had direct comparison of the boys appointed under the new system with those appointed under the old, and we had conclusive testimony that the boys appointed under the now system were by no means comparable with the boys appointed under the old. From a table showing the result of the examinations for two years, it appeared that of 195 cadets appointed under the system of competition, 14 only, or one in 14, obtained less than 40 per cent of the marks; while of 252 appointed under the new system 128, or just one-half, obtained less than 40 per cent of the marks. There could not, however, be a more conclusive condemnation of the new system than what was contained in the Report of the gallant Admiral in charge of Greenwich Hospital itself. In forwarding the Report of the Director of Naval Studies to the Admiralty, Admiral Fanshawe said— These results appear to me to call for very serious consideration, particularly as regards the third term, at this examination. Should these cadets pass out of the Britannia they will, according to the existing system, enter the College as acting sub-lieutenants about five years afterwards. It appears inconceivable that, even should they get through the Britannia, they can have the solid foundation of elementary knowledge that will enable them after five years at sea to come to the College with any reasonable prospect of passing the sub-lieutenant's examination. Though this failure appears more distinctly probable in the case of the class referred to, I would submit that the knowledge acquired by the classes junior to this class, as compared with that obtained by previous cadets, affords no good hope that they will be prepared for the sub-lieutenant's examination. I offer these remarks for their Lordships' consideration, as the matter seems to me of very serious importance in its relation to the future supply of moderately well-educated officers. He would be glad if hon. Gentlemen would turn back to the debate which occurred two years ago, and compare the results which he had read with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. That right hon. Gentleman told the House that the cadets under the old system had been injured, not only physically, but mentally, and that they had acquired a superficial habit of study from which they found it difficult afterwards to escape. But it appeared that the cadets under the new system never acquired any habit of study at all. Well, if that were so, it was incumbent on them to inquire what was the cause of this deterioration in the quality of the cadets who entered themselves for naval service; why was it that so very inferior a batch of cadets had been appointed under the nomination as compared with the competitive system? There were two causes for it. In the first place, under the system of competition, it was never worth while for parents to obtain a nomination for a stupid boy, as they know he would fail in competition with others. On the other hand, they could always hope that a stupid boy might be crammed sufficiently for a mere test examination. On the one side, therefore, there was a natural selection of clever boys; on the other, a natural selection of stupid boys. That was no new theory of his, for in 1875 he made this prediction— Looking to the extent to which competition barred the entry to so many other professions, he feared they might expect that in those families fortunate enough to obtain a nomination for the Navy, the stupid boy of the family would be reserved for the Navy."—[3 Hansard, ccxxi. 455.] The result of two years' experience showed the prediction was justified. The other cause was that under a system of this kind it was totally impossible to maintain a high standard of examination. Lord Macaulay in 1853, in reporting in favour of competition for the Indian Civil Service, clearly explained how a system of competitive examination by an infallible and self-acting process, maintained and even raised the standard of excellence, and how a system of pass examination tended surely and constantly to lower it. Lord Macaulay's argument ran thus— Under a system of competition every boy struggles to do his best, and the consequence is that, without any effort on the part of the examiners, the standard keeps itself up. But the moment you say to the examiners, not Shall A or B have the nomination?' but 'Here is A, is he fit for the nomination?' the question becomes altogether a different one. The examiner's corn-passion, his good nature, his unwillingness to blast the prospects of a boy, lead him to strain a point in order to let a candidate in if he possibly can. He quite admitted that the First Lord had endeavoured somewhat to raise the standard of examination; but the testimony of the Chief Instructor of the Britannia itself went to prove that this was a failure. One of the chief objections constantly urged against competition was that it led to cramming. There might be some foundation for that statement. But in spite of that, he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) insisted that if competition were properly carried on, it must inevitably lead to the selection of the best boy. All that was wanted was to reform the system of examination itself. These whose duty it was to examine would not have any real difficulty in detecting and deciding between cases of cram and the cases of honest study. But let it not be supposed that they got rid of "cramming" by substituting the nomination for the competition system. He was informed that "cramming" had not only gone on, but was flourishing still more since the introduction of the new system by the right hon. Gentleman. There was another matter to which he wished to allude, and that was the suitability of competition for boys of the age of 13. There was considerable difference of opinion on that subject among many competent persons. It might possibly be desirable to extend the age one year, and not allow boys to compete with those of the Britannia, till the age of 14. But they had the experience of the effects of competition on boys of 12 and 13 in the public schools to guide them. At Eton, Winchester, Rugby, harrow, and other public schools, he thought it would be impossible to obtain the condemnation of that system. He believed it would be found on a comparison of the boys at the public schools that, in almost all eases, the boys who were at the head of the classes, and who obtained scholarships by competition, were slightly superior in physique, both as regarded and weight, to the average boys of the same age. It was a delusion to suppose that boys were injured by hard work only; he believed that a far greater number of boys were injured by indolence and sloth, and even in over addiction to cricket and foot-ball, than were injured by over work. But even leaving all these considerations out of sight, it was sufficient for him to base his case upon the right of the public to, and the desirability of the Naval authorities having, a wider area of choice of boys than was at all possible under a mere system of nomination. Under the system which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had restored, the only entry to the Navy was by either personal or political favour. The public interest required that the area of selection should not be so limited. In his speech delivered two years ago the right hon. Gentleman opposite hardly expressed his own opinion at all, but relied mainly on the Report of the Committee. He would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should forego the advantage he might gain by dividing against the Motion, and frankly admit that he had been misled by the Committee, and that the present system had been a failure. It was impossible to exaggerate the importance to the Navy of that question. If an iron-clad was lost, they could replace her by a Vote in that House; but if a mistake was made in the ap- pointment of a Naval officer, it might not show itself for years afterwards. The boys they now admitted would not practically come into responsible positions till some 15 years hence; if a mistake were now made, its effects might then prove irremediable. It was, therefore, especially in these days, a matter of the most vital importance to the country that the system of entering naval cadets should be one which would secure for our Navy officers of the very best abilities and intelligence. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.


in seconding the Motion, besides admitting its importance, insisted that it was not a Party question in any sense whatever. The efficiency of the Navy was a matter involving the interests of the country, and that could not be secured, unless we saw that our officers were men not only of courage and character, but of high intellectual ability; and that not merely because the ships they had to manage and the system of modern warfare required them to possess more scientific knowledge than were formerly demanded, but also because officers who had scientific men under them could not command proper respect from those whose inferiors they were in intellectual ability and attainments. Moreover, he contended that our Naval Service was so popular that it could easily secure the pick of the intellect of the country to officer it. He agreed with what had been said that the area of selection ought not to be limited, as was the tendency where nomination was substituted for competition. He did not blame the First Lord of the Admiralty for his administration of patronage; but the area of selection ought not to be confined to those who happened to be the personal or political Friends of the Minister, and they could not without an examination judge of the intellectual qualification of boys of 12 or 14. Again, that patronage was not administered under any check of public criticism. The only fault in the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was that it proposed to revert to the system of "limited" competition, a system often used to perpetrate very gross jobs. In his opinion, the right course to pursue was to resort to open competition, because he thought that a system of limited competition would be only a shade better than the system of patronage. Was there any real objection to the system of open competition? The boys who entered the public schools in that way headed the classes, and distinguished themselves at the University. Again he believed that if they asked the opinion of the elder officers upon the subject, they would find that, in general, the presence of young officers on beard was a great nuisance, and that they destroyed the discipline and efficiency of the crew. He, therefore, did not see why they should take boys for the Navy at so early an age as 12 or 13; and if the Admiralty would lay down the kind of mathematical and other knowledge which they required to qualify for a commission in the Navy, he believed that the public schools could easily undertake to teach it to lads who wished to prepare themselves for the Navy. What was taught them on beard the Britannia could not be easily learned by youths of 16 or 17 when they joined. In Germany the cadet joined at 17, and in no country did they join at so early an age as in England. In view of' all these considerations, they should select them from the best possible classes and from the whole of the country.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words " in the opinion of this House, the abolition of limited competition for the appointments of Cadets to the Navy has been injurious to the interests of the Public Service,"—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre,) —instead thereof.

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


before going into the merits of the question, which he admitted to be an important one, begged to say, on behalf both of his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty and himself, that they were not opposed to the principle of competition. His right hon. Friend had shown this in various ways, more especially in reference to the admission of Marine officers. The real question, however, was, whether that principle was rightly applied to the admission of boys of 11 or 12 years of age. But the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had raised even a larger question than that, for he had raised the question what ought to be the age at which officers should enter the Service. It was true that in foreign Navies officers were admitted from the ages of 15 to 17, while in our Service they were admitted up to 13½ or 14. In this case, however, they must be judged by results. He thought we might, with justice, plume ourselves on the fact that we had the best officers of any Power in the world; and surely that said something in favour of the age at which they were admitted. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) began his remarks by referring to the causes which had led his right hon. Friend to make this change, and he said it all depended on an error made by a clerk on beard the Britannia. That, he (Mr. Egerton) would admit, had something to do with it, but there was something else. His right hon. Friend went down to the Britannia, and he was struck by the want of physical power in the cadets; they looked rather puny and weak, and he therefore instituted a Committee to consider the subject. That Committee the hon. Member for Reading had attacked. He said they were all against competition; but from their Report, he (Mr. Egerton) would say they were anything but opposed to competition. They referred to the number of hours daily which the boys studied before entering the Britannia, and they considered the principle as applied to young boys mischievous. The new system was established consequent on the Report of the Committee; but their Report was corroborated by much older evidence. On this point he would quote the evidence of Sir James Graham in 1861, who said, "that naval cadets were rightly extremely young, and he was afraid if naval cadetships were thrown open to unlimited competition, there would be a system of cramming, injurious to the health of the individuals and not calculated to produce efficient officers." What was the practice of foreign States? The United States Navy was well officered; did they admit by competition? No; but by a test examination. The age of admission, however, was between 14 and 18. So in the French Navy, they were admitted after examination; and the age, which was higher than with us, was between 14 and 17. In the Russian Navy the age was between 16 and 18, and a system prevailed by which all candidates were sent to sea on a trial cruise; and if they liked the sea, they were admitted to the Naval College on a test examination. It would be seen, therefore, that the system of unlimited competition did not exist in any foreign Navy. With regard to patronage, under the old system, two candidates were entered for every vacancy, so that if there were 40 vacancies in the year 80 candidates would be entered, and from these the First Lord selected just as he selected now. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, and others who had filled the office of First Lord, must have selected in the same manner when the names were submitted to them without previous examination. Examination in that case took place after nomination. In fact, there must be some system of selection for the Navy as for the Army, and for the Navy still more than for the Army, because the nominations were fewer. The question of patronage entered very little into the question now before the House. He had stated that under the old system, 80 candidates were named for 40 vacancies, and under the new system 60 were nominated, so that patronage had been rather restricted than otherwise. Now, as to the results, the hon. Member for Reading said the system had been extremely injurious to the Service. He thought that conclusion was erroneous. It was quite true that a certain number of cadets had turned out badly; but that was not the case with the greater number of cadets. The fact was that when the old system was changed, a certain number of cadets was entered under a test examination, which was not properly conducted. It did not include mathematics. The first batch admitted under that examination was inferior to those admitted subsequently. His right hon. Friend took the proper steps to improve the test examination; it had been improved; and the effect of that improvement was only just becoming apparent. The boys could not enter under an improved test examination without notice, and the Report of the Chief Instructor stated, with respect to those admitted last year, the first batch after the full notification of the change were lads of much stronger mental power than their predecessors. The list was more satis- factory. Ten were of first-class ability, 15 of second-class ability, ten were inferior—["Hear, hear!"]—and three were quite weak. ["Hear, hear!"] Did hon. Gentlemen who cried "Hear hear," think that it would be possible in any group to secure an equality of either mental or physical strength, or that the cadets entered the Naval College in the same relative position as that in which they were admitted on beard the Britannia? A certain number of boys were bound to fail, and it could not be contended that because a boy passed a certain competitive examination, he should be equally successful in everything he undertook. Bearing this in mind, he looked upon the letter as very satisfactory. His right hon. Friend was not wedded to the present system; but it should not be forgotten that it had not yet been fairly tried. The new test examination had not been long enough in operation to furnish any conclusive data as to its efficacy. It only came into operation in November, and a year or so would show that the officers who came in under the new system were not at all inferior to those who came in under the old test. Under these circumstances, he trusted the House would support him in opposing the Resolution of the hon. Member for Reading.


said, that when he had succeeded Mr. Corry in the Admiralty, that right hon. Gentleman had impressed upon him the great anxiety he felt as to the future of the officers of the Navy, in consequence of the unsatisfactory condition of the young men who had left the Britannia, and had also begged and entreated him to introduce some reform which would have the effect of turning out a better class of young officers than had been previously obtained. Accordingly, in 1869, he appointed a Committee of six most able and experienced men to inquire into the subject, and they arrived at the conclusion that some limited competition ought to be introduced in the selection of boys for the Britannia. The result was, that since the beginning of 1870 to the beginning of 1875, the whole of the boys in the Britannia had been admitted after a moderate, indeed almost an insignificant, amount of competition, and had passed through the Britannia under the system of education prescribed by that valuable Committee, and which the present First Lord had abolished. Stating the results of the experience of those five years, he said, that of 345 young men who had been admitted under the system of this very diminished competition, and who had passed out of the Britannia, only 8, or 2 per cent, had failed to pass at the end of their term; only 20, or 6 per cent, had either died, or been dismissed for misconduct, or from ill-health, or for some other reason; and 317, or 92 out of 100, had passed satisfactorily, and were now officers of the Navy. There was this further interesting fact to be stated—that of the number who passed, no fewer than 159 went out at the end of their time within five places of the place at which they were admitted. Everybody knew how valuable that result was, as showing the excellence of the system of admission to the Britannia. In view of these facts, the history of the five years of limited competition might be regarded as highly satisfactory. The health of the cadets during the same period, according to the Report of the Committee, had improved remarkably. Inquiry showed that there was nothing unfavourable to health in residence on beard the Britannia, and, moreover, a Return of the heights and weights of midshipmen now serving in the Channel Squadron showed that their health was thoroughly satisfactory, and their physical development better than the health and development of boys at our best public schools. Still there was a grievance. The right of nomination had been looked upon as a valuable piece of patronage; and every officer who had enjoyed it, thought himself injured if his patronage was interfered with, no matter how great a dunce the youth nominated might be. In consequence of this feeling, the system of competition had been distasteful to the body of naval officers. Except, however, in so far as it had been distasteful to many officers, that system had worked well. When his right hon. Friend (Mr. Hunt) came into office, he arrived at a very curious opinion with regard to the cadets on the Britannia—namely, that their education had been very much overstrained, and that, in consequence, their health had deteriorated—and on this account he appointed the Committee of 1874, which entirely negatived that opinion. The system, however, was changed, although 10 of the officers who gave evidence were in favour of the principle of competition, and only three were opposed to it. One of these had since changed his mind, and the other two had given the most extraordinary reasons for the resolution to which they had come. One suggested that in order to secure satisfactory nominations, a solemn declaration should be obtained from whoever asked for a nomination, that the boy was likely to make a good naval officer, as if every parent in the country would not be ready to make that solemn declaration. Another of those who objected to competition, said that somebody might work out a scheme giving the House of Commons so many nominations, and that would satisfy everybody. On the Committee of 1869, there were persons of the greatest experience in the education of boys and young men; but on the Committee of 1874, although there were two gentlemen from Oxford and Cambridge well versed in University systems that particular experience was altogether wanting. To compare the two Committees was to compare men who had to grope their way in learning the subject, with men who were eminently qualified to report on a question of this kind. Yet it was upon the decision of these gentlemen that the First Lord of the Admiralty had upset the resolution that had been come to on the recommendation of gentlemen who had passed their whole lives in the study of the education of young men for the Navy. Had the change been successful? His hon. Friend had already given some figures, but he would ask hon. Members to read carefully the two Reports on the Table, in which the results of the four last examinations were given in detail. He would only quote one, which stated that out of 41 boys altogether who had had passed three terms on beard the Britannia, the examination of 23 was unsatisfactory, and that 3 more were sick during a portion of the examination, showing that in a year and a-half 26 out of 41 had failed as candidates for the Navy. Now, could there be, he would ask, a worse state of things? But what was proposed as a remedy? The Admiralty being in great distress as to how they should deal with this state of things held a sort of Committee, the result of' which was disclosed in the papers. One member suggested that there should be no outside exami- nation at all until the cadets passed out, and that, meanwhile, the boys should be examined by their own tutors. This had been wisely rejected. Another suggestion was that there should be no examination till the end of each year. But against this it was said that a large proportion of the boys were so unfit, under the present system, to remain in the Navy, that it was undesirable they should stay even for a half year to prevent others coming in, in place of those rejected! And this after, under the old system, only 2 per cent failed in the whole of their two years. This was not a question of patronage. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty was anxious, he (Mr. Childers) knew, to distribute his patronage with the strictest impartiality; but from the desire of naval officers to retain their patronage, pressure had first been put on the Committee, and next on the Admiralty, and the system which had been established in 1870, and which had been entirely successful, had in consequence been overthrown. As to the American Navy, it afforded an example of the working of patronage in its worst form, and nothing would be gained by a reference to the Navies of other foreign countries. All he could say was that, in his opinion, it was most unwise to go back to the system which the present Government had again set up.


said, he was in hopes that it might not be necessary for him to address the House that evening, inasmuch as the state of his foot was such as to render standing upon it painful, but he felt bound, after the speech of his right hon. Friend, to say a few words on the subject under consideration. The gentlemen he had selected to inquire into the state of the Britannia were, he thought, highly competent to perform that duty. Three of them were naval officers of reputation, and there were two other gentlemen, one from Oxford and one from Cambridge, of the greatest experience, one of them having been for years employed by the Government in competitive examinations in other branches of the Service. Now, the Committee which had been appointed by his right hon. Friend who had just sat down (Mr. Childers) went into the question of general education and made a Report. The Committee which the present Admiralty appointed saw the result of the changes which his right hon. Friend effected, and it was with that experience they had made the recommendation which he had adopted. As had been stated by his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, the principle of general competition was not at all at stake in the present instance. He had maintained the principle of competition with regard to the Civil clerkships as before, and had introduced the system of competition, which did not exist with respect to the Marine officers. The question was whether the late Government did a wise thing in introducing competition amongst boys of tender years, not because competition in itself was injurious, but because the preparation for the competition was such as to throw a great strain on the brains of the children. It was dealt with by the late Sir James Graham, who gave it as his opinion before a Committee that such competition ought not to be applied to such young children.


It is quite evident the right hon. Gentleman is suffering a great deal, and I dare say I shall not be out of Order, if I move that he be heard from his place sitting. [Hear, hear!"]


said, he was much obliged for the kind consideration of the House, but he would continue for the present to address the House standing. If he found it necessary he would address them sitting. The evidence before the Committee went to show that the boys nominated to compete had to study 9 and 10 hours a-day for six months before the day of examination; and the evidence of some of the successful boys was, that they did not recover the strain upon their strength for two or three months after they returned on ship - beard. These were serious facts, and upon them the Committee recommended that the competition examinations should be done away with. He had been very much struck a few months ago, when visiting Oxford, by a remark which had been made by a most able and very experienced tutor, who told him that he had noticed that many more young men came up to the University than formerly wearing spectacles. That, he said, was on account of the great pressure put upon them by competitive examinations, and the members of the Committee had taken the same view in thinking that so severe a strain was injurious to the boys in this case. He had adopted their suggestion in consequence of the reason they gave, and all that he wanted was to obtain the best possible boys for the Service. As for the results of the change, he thought it ought to be made clear to the House that the tests had been altered, and that the preliminary examination now was not as weak as it had been. At one time, however, some boys had been admitted by passing the weak-test examination only, but they were then much wanted in the Service. Naturally, each Report was much against those boys, and he granted that their admission had been a mistake. But the present system was quite different. He had asked the class-masters of the Britannia their opinion of the boys who came in under the new system, and they had replied that the boys themselves were as promising as ever, though not so well prepared. The time of study had not been sufficient for them to acquire the proper amount of mathematics, and the masters recommended that mathematics should be added to the subjects of the test examination. That had been done, and the present test was a very stringent one, as the Report of the Chief Naval Instructor showed. The system, however, had not been really tried as yet, inasmuch as it was only established last November. One batch of cadets had been admitted without the preliminary test; two under the new test before mathematics was added, and one batch afterwards. He felt sure that the existing test would not lose its stringency; and the question really was, whether one-half of the boys, or one-third, were to be rejected. A good deal had been said about the appointment of boys to the Navy being governed by political considerations. Now he quite agreed with those who thought that ought not to be the case. Precisely the same applications were made to him as to his Predecessor; Liberal and Consertive Ministers nominated from the same list; in the one case at the request of the Liberal friends, and in the other of the Conservative friends of the candidates. That would always be the case with respect to every Government, for whatever Government might be in power made not the slightest difference. The same number of applications came in on behalf of boys who "had a passion for a sea life," or from parents who wished their sons to enter the Naval Service. On this subject he spoke for himself, and he was sure his Predecessor in the office would agree with him, that the patronage attached to it was one of their greatest pests. As a matter of fact, he had generally bestowed it on the sons of officers of the Navy, of the Army, or of the Civil Service, who, from what their fathers had done in the service of the State, might be supposed to become good officers. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Reading that competition at a later period might be desirable; but the period of training in a ship was necessarily short, and he had long been anxious for an entire change in the plan of education, and for the establishment of a College on shore, in which cadets could devote three years instead of two to their studies; and he believed that such a change would be very beneficial to the Naval Service. But so long as training ships were used, he did not see how the time for education could be extended. They might, however, at any rate, look forward to a scheme which would include a three years' education and competition. He was not in the least wedded to the present system, and if he found that it did not produce boys of superior ability, he should be perfectly willing to constitute another. In conclusion, he had only to thank the House for the attention they had given to him.


said, he felt it his duty briefly to call attention to the observations made by the right lion. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt), who had, he was glad to see, made his appearance again in the House. He was sure that they were all sorry that he was still suffering from indisposition. He was glad, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had been able to state his case with that clearness which always distinguished him. He could not entirely accept the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman; and he wished to call attention to the fact that of the four batches of boys entered since the new system came into operation, one batch was admitted after a weak test. Eighty had been admitted who were found to be totally incapable. On the whole 128 were admitted, 30 per cent of whom were incapable of passing in a competitive examination. That was confessedly a mistake, and he would say no more about it. It would have been better even to have postponed the entries altogether until these boys had qualified themselves, rather than admit cadets on a test which the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues admitted to be insufficient. He did not think that the recent test would be sufficient, and he hoped, therefore that the House would support the Motion of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), and would enable the right hon. Gentleman to overcome any difficulty which might exist at the Admiralty in opposition to open competition. The present system was so unsatisfactory that he thought the attention of the House ought to be called to it, and, whatever might be the fate of the Motion now before the House, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would give the House an opportunity, on some future occasion, of discussing and deciding the whole question of the admission of officers to the Service.


said, he should vote against the Resolution, because he was opposed to admitting children of 12 or 13 years of age to the Service by competition. At the same time, he was in favour of limited competition.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 171; Noes 130: Majority 41.—(Div. List, No. 182.)