HC Deb 12 March 1877 vol 232 cc1788-810

in rising to call attention to the Iron-clad Navy, and the condition of its boilers, said, that a Departmental Committee had been appointed three years since to inquire into the entire subject, and that so far as he could learn no Report had yet been received from the Committee by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty. He trusted that when the Committee had reported, the House would be put in possession of the facts which they had ascertained and the conclusion at which they had arrived. Of this there could be no doubt—that the boilers of several of the Iron-clad Fleet, the Lord Clyde, the Caledonia, Ocean, Prince Consort, Royal Oak, Zealous, Favourite, Enterprize, Royal Sovereign—[Mr. HUNT: You may add the Royal Alfred]—were worn out and not worth repair, making with the Vanguard a decrease of 11 ships removed from the list. Ten of these were the dummy ships alluded to and condemned by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty when he took office. Of the 23 broadside iron-dads they possessed, 13—Agincourt, Minotaur, Achilles, Black Prince, Alexandra, Warrior, Hector, Valiant, Defence, Resistance, Audacious, Shannon, and Lord Warden, according to the information they had before them—were all that were perfectly efficient, and 12—Northumberland, Bellerophon, Hercules, Sultan, Penelope, Invincible, Iron Duke, Swiftsure, Triumph, Repulse, Pallas, and Research—still required considerable repair. Then, again, of the sea-going iron-dads, the Monarch—a turret sea going ship—required new boilers; the Dreadnought was not yet completed; the Devastation had had her boilers in so long that they required repair. [Mr. HUNT said, his right hon. Friend was mistaken in regard to the Devastation.] Well, he was glad to hear it, but he had been so informed. This, he thought, would be found to be the case—that we had 13 broadside iron-clad ships in perfect order, three turret ships—Dreadnought (not quite ready) Thunderer and Devastation—in the same satisfactory condition, 12 broadside iron-dads that required repair, and four turret ships—Monarch, Rupert, Hotspur, and Glatton—that needed attention to their boilers. There were, of course, the 13 ships for harbour defence—Viper, Vixen, and Scorpion at Bermuda; Abyssinia and Magdala at Bombay; Cerberus at Melbourne; but these were of no use for any purpose but the defence of the harbours where they were stationed; and for English defence, the Wivern, Waterwitch, Prince Albert, not very efficient, and the Cyclops, Hecate, Gorgon, and Hydrœ; but the fact ought not to be lost sight of that of the 13 iron-dads, six were abroad and only seven at home for coast defence. That was the whole iron-clad Navy of England. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had, in an article published in his own name, adopted an unsound basis of comparison. It was not enough that our Inflexible, if she caught two inferior vessels of the enemy, should be able to make "mincemeat" of them. Two of these second-class vessels of the enemy might appear, one before Liverpool and the other before Aberdeen, and command contributions, and as the Inflexible could not be at both places the fact that she was superior to them both together would not save one of the towns attacked. Our first-class ships could not be in two places at once. He would take another illustration. The Turkish Navy contained 15 iron-dads, which might be considered good ships. It could be imagined that the English Fleet, lying in Besika Bay, might have received instructions under certain contingencies to take possession of the Turkish Navy. That Navy was commanded by an Englishman, who would, no doubt, in such an event have given up the command to a Turk. But 15 Turkish sail could not be expected to give themselves up to nine English ships without fighting, and thus the loss of life and property at Navarino and at Copenhagen would have been again incurred for want of an overwhelming English Fleet. He did not deny that we were the strongest Naval Power in the world; but we must always have an iron-clad ship in China, in the Pacific, and in North America. It was not possible for the First Lord to have added more than four vessels to the nine in Besika Bay, and it might have been important to have more than 13 vessels in the Mediterranean to arrest and lay hands upon the Turks. We should have in time of war our coaling stations abroad to protect. Malta, Gibraltar, Aden, and Halifax were armed, but the Cape of Good Hope and other stations were undefended, and our iron-dads would only be strong and powerful if upon distant stations they could obtain coals which the vessels of other Powers could not procure. We had not above 20 iron-clad ships that were thoroughly and entirely efficient, and of these not more than 17 that could be regarded as available for service in European waters, because three or four must be away on distant service. Of these 20, some required considerable repairs. Upon the whole, it would have been, he thought, more prudent for the First Lord of the Admiralty to have asked for a little more money, so that he might have built a few more ships, and thus have placed the country in a stronger position among the Naval Powers.


said, he had been accused of telling tales out of school, and showing the deficiencies of our Navy to foreigners. Upon the subject of the Navy, however, you could tell no tales out of school, for every foreign Government which had any interest in knowing the naval strength of Great Britain knew to a ton, to a gun, and to a man the strength of every ship in the British Navy. It was sad to see that the people who seemed to know or care nothing about the subject were the British nation and the House of Commons, and one proof of this indifference was that during great part of the speech of the right hen. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) only 12 hon. Members were present. Some information might be kept secret with advantage, but the practice now was to allow foreigners free access to our dockyards, and put them in the way of learning everything, and he could not think that this was a reasonable or a rational mode of proceeding. It had been his intention to call attention to "the great variety of the form and properties of the ships of the same class in Her Majesty's Navy." The subject, however, was so complex and scientific that he thought he should be best consulting the convenience of the House by abstaining from entering upon it, leaving it to others, and especially the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed), to say whether it was not possible to make the British Navy a little more homogeneous in point of construction. His own belief, whether right or wrong, was that no ship could fairly be called a man-of-war available for all purposes which was not able to take care of herself under canvas. We had, however, with a few exceptions, a number of lumbering, unwieldy batteries, covered thickly with iron, unmanageable under canvas, and unfit, in his opinion, to leave the Channel. Vessels propelled by steam only were hardly fit to be sent to any part of the world, being dependent on fresh supplies of coal every few days. But an efficient man-of-war should be fit to be handled independently of her machinery. Of course, there were great difficulties in the way. After a ship had used a certain number of tons of coals she was so out of trim that she could not be handled efficiently under canvas, and though you might by means of water ballast steady the ship as a platform for guns, you had not under certain circumstances which were likely to occur in time of war the certainty of obtaining in distant seas the necessary propelling power. Then most of our ships were too long to handle under canvas; they would not come round. The answer was, that it was necessary in order to obtain the required displacement; but that was met by the reply that the struggle between guns and armour had been nearly brought to a completion in favour of the guns, and that being so, would it not be possible to protect by armour-plating the machinery and magazines of ships of war, leaving the two ends unencumbered by armour, and thus getting rid of the weights at the two ends, which were the great obstacle to the sailing qualities of a vessel? The Northumberland, for example, was perfectly unmanageable under canvas, and could hardly be steered under steam. You ought to be able to put a ship under canvas and at the same time possess all the advantages of a steam iron-clad. He would like to ask whether science had so completely failed that we were unable to devise a ship which would combine the protection of iron to certain portions of her hull with the sailing qualities of the old line-of-battle ships? We had heard very lately a good deal about the casualties which had occurred to Her Majesty's ships at anchor either in bringing their anchors home or parting their chains. If he was not mistaken, these casualties were much more frequent than in the olden time, when line-of-battle ships were said to be able to ride out almost any weather, but that was not the case now. Some time ago experiments were made with great care by the Admiralty of the day as to the holding powers of anchors, and the result was that the best was declared to be Trotman's anchor, and the worst that which was known as "the Admiralty anchor." It was the Admiralty anchor which he believed was supplied to Her Majesty's Navy, except under exceptional circumstances, or when some other kind was applied for by the officer in command of the ship. Latterly he believed that a good many of Her Majesty's ships had been supplied with Martin's anchor, on the singular ground that it was stowed away much more snugly and easily, and that it did not interfere with the line of fire of a turret gun. But the use of an anchor was not when it was stowed, but when it was let go. He did not ask that the Trotman anchor should be forced on the officers in command of Her Majesty's ships, but the Admiralty should not refuse to adopt it on the ground of cost. The Great Eastern was rather more than double the tonnage of the largest vessel in the Navy, with about double the displacement, and pretty nearly double the weight to hold. And yet that vessel had been knocking about the world with a seven-ton Trotman anchor which had never started. If the Admiralty was not satisfied with the former experiments on this matter let them direct new experiments to be made. Then as to cables, it was notorious that the chain cables supplied to the Navy frequently parted, and the reason was that the chain cable of the present day was not in proportion to the size of the ship. The Great Eastern worked a 3-inch chain cable, and, as far as he was informed, had never parted a chain on more than one occasion, and, in his opinion, a heavier description of chain would prevent the many casualties arising from this cause. On the whole, looking to the present aspect of European affairs, he maintained that neither in regard to numbers nor efficiency was the Navy in accordance with the requirements of the country. In conclusion, he must say that whether it was from apathy or parsimony he could not tell, but he had witnessed the fact with the deepest regret — he could not trace in the Estimates which his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty had placed on the Table the spirit which animated his views when he first addressed himself to the condition of the British Navy on his acceptance of office.


believed that the condition of the boilers of our iron-clads was not quite so unsatisfactory as it had been represented to be by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay). His (Mr. Shaw Lefevre's) object in publishing the article to which allusion had been made was to meet remarks such as had been made on that and on former occasions, tending to depreciate the condition of our Navy as compared with the Navies of other Powers. When fair and dispassionate comparisons were made, he believed it would be shown conclusively that the iron-clad Fleet of England was at the present moment stronger relatively to the Fleets of other countries than it had ever yet been; but the same rigid tests must be applied to other Navies that were applied to our own. As to the objection that he had confined himself to first-class vessels, he believed that those with less than six inches of armour plate which could be penetrated by ordinary guns could hardly be considered as first line-of-battle ships, though he by no means under-rated their value for certain purposes. But if vessels of the second class were to be included in comparisons and equally rigid tests were applied to all, he believed that comparisons would still be in our favour. Take the French Fleet, for example. With rare exceptions, the vessels which composed that Fleet were built of wood, and many of them had been constructed before 1865, and had less than six inches of armour on their sides. He did not know what the state of the boilers of those vessels might be, but he felt confident that a number of them must be in a worse condition than was the case in regard to the English Navy. Altogether, he had no doubt that the French Fleet was far from being in so satisfactory a state as our own was at present. Again, as to the Turkish Fleet. He believed he was right in saying that there was not a single vessel in that Fleet which had ever had its boilers replaced at all, although the vessels had been in continuous employment. Several, therefore, he considered, if not most of them, must be in a most unsatisfactory condition; so bad, indeed, that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would probably strike them off the list if they were our property, or consider them as dummies. In the course of the discussion which had taken place it had been said that we ought to have in Besika Bay a fleet not only sufficiently strong to destroy that of Turkey, but a fleet so strong that it would positively overawe the Turks by its very presence; but that appeared to him to be an exaggerated view of the necessity of the position. What it was necessary England should possess was a fleet able to meet any case of urgency which might arise within reasonable expectation; and it seemed to him that, in its present condition, our Navy was adequate to that requirement. The great advantage, it should be recollected, which we had over other Powers was that our vessels had so many stations at which they could coal, while other nations, he believed, had no coaling stations beyond their own shores. He thought it was a pity the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had not pressed on more quickly the Report of the Boilers Committee. The Committee had now sat for three years, and it would have been better if their Report had been issued as quickly as possible, because it was a matter of urgency and importance that the cause of the rapid deterioration of boilers should be discovered, in order that, if possible, a remedy might be applied.


thought that if hon. Members opposite had erred on the side of exaggeration, the last speaker (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had slightly erred on the other side of the question. He thought we should make a great mistake if we plumed ourselves on the excessive strength of our Navy at the present time. He would give the House an illustration of the weakness of the Navy in the matter of iron-clad ships. Some years ago the Admiralty thought it necessary, with the view of maintaining our influence in the Pacific, to place an iron-clad on that station; and when its time was expired another iron-clad was commissioned. The Admiralty, however, had now considered it better policy to despatch an unarmoured vessel as the Admiral's flag-ship. Only recently the Shah had been sent out, whereas she ought to have been kept at home, where her peculiar powers of speed would find infinitely better employment. That showed a change of naval policy, and was one reason which led him to think that we ought not to place all our dependence on iron vessels. Swift ships like the Shah were essential in their way, and the due proportion of their number to slower and more formidable vessels ought not to be lost sight of; yet he felt that the Shah would have been of greater service in Europe. He thought that if we applied the same tests to foreign Navies as the right hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) had applied to our Navy we should have to put a great number of ships off the Active List. Reference had been made to the Turkish Fleet; but in opposition to the criticism that had been urged, it was to be borne in mind that as their boilers were very little used, a contrast ought not to be drawn between them and the boilers of our own vessels. If the boilers on beard the Turkish ships deteriorated, it was more from negligence than use, whereas ours were really worn out by hard service. He was not fond of censuring men in authority; but if the First Lord of the Admiralty deserved censure for anything, it was for the comparatively heedless manner in which he had allowed the subject of the boilers of iron-dads to be dealt with. In first introducing his Estimates that right hon. Gentleman had assured them that that question of boilers was one of a most serious nature; and a Committee was appointed to examine into it. They had bad presented to them a preliminary Report from that Committee, which was of about as absurd a kind as could have been produced, considering the grounds upon which the Committee had been appointed; and from that time to this they had had nothing more. As he (Mr. Reed) had understood the right lion. Gentleman, the object of having that Committee was to ascertain how our boilers lasted a much shorter time than those of other countries, and then to find out some remedy for that serious evil. But they were now still without any assurance whatever that any efficient step had been taken for that purpose. They had had a Committee sitting for three years, and however valuable its inquiries might be, they had not fulfilled the just expectations of the House. He could not believe that this country was so deficient in practical men, who knew all about boilers, that, if the First Lord had applied himself to the production of proper results, we might not have been in a very different position from what we were in now. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) as to the futility of attempting to keep things connected with our naval proceedings dark from foreign Governments. Persons in this country who took great interest in these points were kept much further off from information regarding them than foreigners. In one instance he remembered himself being called on by a Committee to give the results of an investigation of considerable importance which he had kept strictly private, and he found the report of his evidence in the hands of foreign Governments months before he had had any opportunity of seeing it, and before it was placed in the hands of hon. Members of the House of Commons. The attempt to keep information secret caused it to assume a fictitious value, and ho thought the time had arrived when information connected with our Navy, which could not be kept from the knowledge of foreign Governments, should be communicated freely to the House. He knew it was denied by the Italian Government, but the dates and facts proved that, some time before they built the Dandolo and another ship, they had in their possession the design for English ships of the same kind. He did not say that different minds might not possibly have hit on the same design; he merely stated a fact, and he maintained that when British naval arrangements of importance were thus known to foreign Governments it was idle being squeamish about such matters in that House. The hon. Member for West Norfolk spoke of our modern ships as inferior to the old wooden walls, because they were not such good sailors, and to that extent less seaworthy. He (Mr. Reed), however, did not agree with the hon. Member that no ship could be ranked as a thoroughly efficient man-of-war which could not take care of herself under canvas. Steam had, for various reasons, become the great propulsive power, and sails had simply become an auxiliary, and the more that fact was recognized the more it became conclusive that the means of keeping up an increased and efficient coal supply was absolutely necessary. That being so, it was wrong to argue that our Fleet whilst it was in Besika Bay was weak, because our strongest arm of offence was represented by a mastless ship—the Devastation. With respect to the question of speed, he thought we had attempted to do too much. If we had only been content with getting 11 or 12 knots under steam we might have had better sailing vessels. The real problem was to neutralize the want of sails by increasing the capacity of coal carrying, and it was to the honour of the right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) that when he presided at the Admiralty he came to the conclusion that it was idle to put sails on certain vessels, but that the supply of coal must be augmented. He (Mr. Reed) was, therefore, of opinion that the Government had been right in accepting not only the inferior importance of sail power in certain ships, but the total absence of it in others, provided always there was a proper supply of coal. Still, in certain vessels intended for remote stations, where efficiency under canvas was of great moment, considerable improvements might be made in that respect, and he believed that those improvements had been made, as, for instance, in vessels of the Swiftsure and the Triumph class, which had considerable power of proceeding under canvas. A great deal had often been said about the speed of the Confederate ship the Alabama, but she was nothing more nor less than one of the ordinary sloops of the British Navy lengthened 10 or 12 feet to enable her to carry extra coal, and he might say that there were 100 Alabamas in the British Navy. On a recent occasion a comparison was made by an hon. Member between ships of the British Navy and the great mercantile fleets of this country. It was his (Mr. Reed's) fate lately to perform a journey in a vessel of one of the great steamship companies of this country. When he went on beard that vessel the tiller was broken. When the vessel got to Alexandria the rudder was broken in more places than one. The vessel was brought from Alexandria to this country to get her tiller and her rudder-head repaired. He never saw a statement in the newspapers about this, and not a single Question was put in Parliament about it. In a week or two afterwards he travelled in another ship of one of the great steamship companies. In four days that ship averaged something like four knots. He admitted that the weather was very bad; but he was quite sure if the same thing had happened to any of Her Majesty's ships in like circumstances there would have been several statements in the newspapers, and not a few Questions in Parliament to bring out the facts. Without at all concurring in the views of those who seemed disposed to exaggerate the shortcomings of our Navy, he thought good might be done to the Public Service by considering whether the forms and proportions of certain classes of iron-dads and other vessels might not be improved with reference to their sailing qualities. In the construction of modern vessels so many views had to be met, and so many requirements to be provided for, that they should view with great care and consideration any alleged defects. Still he viewed it as a fortunate circumstance that two hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House did not shrink from rising to call the attention of Parliament to questions which they considered of importance in connection with the present position of the Navy. The hon. Member for West Norfolk had drawn attention to what he considered the excessive shortcomings of anchors and cables, and he appeared to speak as if it were something peculiar that iron-dads were obliged to get up steam to enable them to keep off a lee shore in rough weather. Ho (Mr. Reed) did not know why this should be brought as as specific and peculiar complaint against iron-clads—that they should have to do that which was done in the days of wooden vessels; and, beyond that, as our modern ships were more costly than our old wooden vessels were, it was the more important that they should do so, if it was thought desirable in order to avoid risks they would otherwise incur. A great deal had been said about Trotman's anchors. The whole merit of Trotman's anchors lay in a very slight modification. It was the slightest invention ever made, and not a very important one. The question of anchors was never neglected within the Admiralty walls, and the difficulties with which the Admiralty had to deal in regard to anchors were shown by the fact that very often from two ships with anchors of the same kind, they had Reports which were in flat contradiction to each other. The hon. Member for West Norfolk had asked whether the time had not arrived to leave armour off our ships. That was not the first time the suggestion was made, and he (Mr. Reed) took exception to it. It was made every time a gun proved its superiority to the armour against which it had been tried. What had been our position throughout the last 20 years by virtue of the adoption of armour? Never since we adopted armour had the guns of any foreign Navy been able to pierce the sides of any British vessel. By advancing from time to time and never falling behind, we had always been able to secure positive pre-eminence, which was precisely the thing we wanted to purchase by our naval expenditure. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman had once stated that to send seamen to sea in wooden vessels would be to send them to sea in slaughter-houses, but it would be far worse to send them to sea in vessels insufficiently armoured, which, filled as they were with gunpowder and steam boilers, would be at the mercy of every projectile that would penetrate their sides. Complaint was made that we were spending more and more upon our guns and armour-dads. It might be a very expensive and disgusting race that we were running, but at the same time it was a very necessary one, for it imposed upon the enemy the necessity of either making or purchasing these enormous guns and heavy armour, and if we were to give up the struggle we could no longer pretend to maintain our naval pre-eminence. It might be imagined that we had reached the highest point in the development of our guns and armour, and the hon. Member for West Norfolk had spoken as if he felt that armour-plating must sooner or later be abolished; but he (Mr. Reed) did not believe that, for a class of facts had recently come to our knowledge which had opened up a new vista in connection with this subject, and before long we might have powerful guns at sea on ships protected by three or four feet of armour, and even protected against the favourite projectiles of the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford. He objected to this question being regarded as foreclosed against us on the ground of expense. We had started with four inches of iron armour, and we had now such armour 24 inches thick, and yet our present ships were not more expensive, seeing that we built them in a smaller and better form. On the whole, therefore, he did not despair of our pursuing the development of our Navy to the satisfaction of the Profession as well as of the public.


said, he did not wish to interpose more than a few minutes between the House and the right hon. Gentleman's Statement; indeed, he rose in the hope of enabling the right hon. Gentleman to make his Statement on another occasion earlier than he would be able to make it to-night. His purpose was to make a few remarks on behalf of the House of Commons and of the British Navy. The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) had complained while his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) and himself were bringing forward their important Motions to-night, that only about 12 hon. Members besides themselves were present, and therefore he assumed that the House of Commons did not take an interest in naval affairs. For his own part, he demurred entirely to that assumption, and he believed that if the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had been able to make his Statement earlier in the evening, and this formidable list of Motions —all of which, with the exception of one, emanated from hon. Members opposite—had not been placed upon the Notice Paper, and so intercepting it, the House of Commons would have evinced interest enough in the subject. Year after year, however, the same Motions were put down for discussion, and the same views were advocated by the same speeches, delivered in the same tones. As no man would care to go night after night to see the same piece performed at the theatre, so hon. Members of the House could not stand the same wearisome iteration of the same old play and the same old speeches in which the hon. Member for West Norfolk lamented "the decline and decay of the British Navy." The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stamford again, reminded him of one of those calendars, in which by turning a handle the date of the year was altered, while the figures beneath remained the same. For the last five years the right hon. and gallant Member had been answering the speech of the right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), which was delivered in 1870; but somehow or another, he had failed to answer it when it was delivered. He trusted that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had made his last reply to that speech, but he was afraid that we should have it again next year. The matter, however, had its serious as well as its amusing side. The serious side of the subject was, that the hon. Member for West Norfolk and the right hon. and gallant Member for Stamford were always complaining that the strength of the British Navy was inadequate for its requirements. He could very well understand hon. Members holding that opinion, but what he could not understand was that, holding such an opinion, they should content themselves year after year with merely drawing attention to the subject. How was it that they never ventured to test the feeling of the House upon the point by going to a division? The matter was undoubtedly a most important one. They had to deal with their own Friends and with the Conservative Party, and why should they fear to test the opinion of the House upon the question? Were they so weak in argument that they feared that they could not persuade their audience to agree with them, or was their case so weak that they could not trust their Friends to deal with it? [Sir JOHN HAY remarked that it was not their case, but the Navy that was weak.] Yes; and yet, with the Conservative Party in office, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, fully believing that the Navy was adequate to the requirements of the nation, felt himself unable to test the opinion of the House upon the matter. In his opinion, Her Majesty's Government conscientiously believed that the Navy was inadequate for our requirements, or they would propose larger Estimates. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman brought a heavy charge against his Friends, because it would be a grave misdemeanour of the Government to keep the Navy below its due strength. He, however, believed that, prudent as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, he would not, even if the finances of the country were not in a satisfactory state, refuse the sums which the First Lord of the Admiralty might deem necessary for maintaining the efficiency of the Navy. The question for the House, therefore, was this—were the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his Friends and Supporters, the hon. Member for West Norfolk and the hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend (Captain Pim) right, or were the Government right, in. their estimation of the strength of the Navy? It was time that those hon. Gentlemen who came down year after year should do one of two things—either to seriously urge these matters upon the House by testing the opinion of the House; and, if the House rejected them, then they should cease to put these strong and highly-coloured accusations against the British Navy on record, or to establish them in a different way. He had no desire for one moment to trench upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt), but when the hon. Gentlemen referred to had pronounced their annual dirge with regard to the British Navy, he would ask the Government if they thought themselves in a position to reduce the Estimates by £300,000. He had thought it right to vindicate the British Navy from the charges brought against it by the hon. Member for West Norfolk. Speeches of that kind only led to long discussions, which prevented the First Lord of the Admiralty from making his Statement. The hon. Member for West Norfolk had endeavoured to show that no ships ought to belong to the British Navy except those which were able to sail, and he instanced the case of the Thetis. But the fact was that the Thetis could sail, and was far from being entirely dependent upon her machinery alone. True it was that a steamer had gone out to her assistance, but it was equally true that colour was always laid on in the case of accidents happening to vessels of the Navy. Similar accidents happened to vessels belonging to great steam-ship companies, which were not brought before the public, and it was not necessary or desirable that so much should be made out of them. In the course of the discussion the Navy had been attacked by the right hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Stamford and the hon. Member for West Norfolk, while there remained behind the Notice which stood on the Paper in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gravesend. In reference to these attacks, and the Notice to which he had adverted, he might allude to the recent demonstration which had been made by the Navy in Besika Bay—a demonstration made in sight of squadrons selected from other Navies, and one which showed that the British Navy was by no means the weak and contemptible Force it was represented to be by several hon. Members of that House. On the contrary, it was felt that our Navy was in a position of which the House and the country were not ashamed. If it had been in the weak condition ascribed to it, he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty would have asked the House to make grants of money sufficient to put the Navy upon a thoroughly efficient footing.


said, that engineers and warrant officers were very properly appointed to ships before they were put into commission, in order that they might become acquainted with the machinery; but the last man appointed was the captain. He was put on beard a ship, say, with 30 engines, and before he had the least time to become acquainted with the ship he was sent to sea. Was it surprising, then, that disasters happened? He thought it important that captains should be sent on beard their ships at least six weeks before the vessels were sent to sea the difference between the half-pay and full pay for that small period of time would not make a very appreciable difference in the Estimates.


Sir, I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), that it is not very convenient that the Financial Statement of a Minister in explanation of the Estimates should be deferred till the latter part of the evening. That it should be so tonight is the result of our Rules and Orders; but I do not despair that a time will come when those Rules will be altered, and some arrangement will be made for a Minister to introduce Estimates without any preliminary discussions, except where there are grievances to be complained of. I value the old constitutional doctrine that grievances should go before Supply; but I have been sitting here for five hours and have heard not a scintilla of anything like a grievance, except from the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), who complains that certain warrant officers have not the same pay in harbour ships as they have in seagoing ships. That, no doubt, is an important subject, and one worthy of consideration, but it might have been postponed until after the Speaker had left the Chair. A great many of the other topics which have detained us, important and interesting as no doubt they are, might also, I think, have been discussed in Committee, after the Statement on the Estimates had been made. With regard to the grievance of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gorst), the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers) says that we have made a mistake in making that difference, which he did away with in 1870, and reduced the system to greater simplicity, having only two classes while we have seven. The fact that he had classes in 1870 proves that the present is not the only Board of Admiralty which considered there ought to be a distinction. My hon. and learned Friend suggested that this distinction was accidental; but I can assure him that it was made with a purpose, and because we considered that the duties in sea-going ships were greater than those required in harbour ships. With regard to the simplicity which we abolished, it is obvious that schemes which seem simple are not always satisfactory, and when we came into office we found the greatest dissatisfaction with regard to the simple scheme of my right hon. Friend. That scheme divided the warrant officers into two classes only, and paid them according to those classes. We, on the other hand, pay according to length of service, with a difference between harbour and sea-going ships. Our rate is—up to five years, 5s. 6d. per day; five years to 10 years, 6s. 9d.; 10 to 15 years, 7s. 9d.; and 15 years and upwards, 8s. 3d. I believe the warrant officers generally were well contented with the change, as it benefited all of them, except in the case of officers of 15 years' standing of harbour ships, who were reduced from 7s. 6d. to 7s. 3d., with the proviso, however, that no one should be reduced who had been paid the higher rate. Since that time, however, some inequalities have been pointed out which were not foreseen; and without making any promise at all, I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that I will see if any of those inequalities can be removed. The hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) called attention to the movement originated by the men of the Fleet rather more than two years ago, with regard to establishing a fund as provision for their widows. I then said the Admiralty regarded that movement with great favour. We sent a circular through the Fleet to see how far the men would join in it, and we had actuarial calculations made as to what contributions would be necessary. The scheme did not prosper for want of that support, although, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman stated, the men were willing to contribute larger subscriptions, but still they did not offer sufficient for the purpose. The calculations of Mr. Finlaison showed that in the case of a young man and his wife it would be necessary to secure to the latter £24 a-year, to pay in an aggregate sum of certainly more than twenty times that amount; and even then a monthly contribution of 10s. or 15s. would be enhanced when the period of middle life was approached by the seaman. The House will see, therefore, that it would be quite impossible to carry out the scheme suggested. It has been suggested"` by the hon. and gallant Member that a certain amount of assistance should be I given by the Admiralty in carrying out the pension system. I think it would be an advantage to the Service if such an inducement were held out. But when we come to the question of the Admiralty contribution, it should be remembered that it makes a fresh charge on the Exchequer, and in that view I do not know that all the sources of income will necessarily be maintained. The only one of any amount is the saving on provisions. A Committee sat on the subject in the year 1870, and were not able to come to any consent as to what they would recommend. My hon. and gallant Friend has told the House that there is dissatisfaction as regards the present system, but that Committee agreed upon this point—that the present system, by which the men had some choice as to their provisions, was popular in the Service. It is possible, however, that that may not be a permanent fund. However, whether you take it from that or any other fund, it comes to this—that there roust be a contribution from the Exchequer in some shape or other. But when I meet my right hon. and hon. Friends who occupy that very important building called the Treasury, I am told, if I speak on the subject, that I am raising a question not only of the Navy, but of the Army, not only of the Army, but of the Civil Service—and really the question is one of such huge dimensions that it is very difficult to grapple with it. It would be impossible for me, representing one Department, to pledge myself to anything like the proposal which has been made; and most desirous as I am in the position which I hold to encourage thrifty habits on the part of our sailors, I cannot say that I have any pledge or promise to make in the direction which has been so well pointed out. I may say, however, that whenever the House of Commons is ready to receive such a proposition favourably — whenever we are in easier circumstances than we are now—it is one well worthy of their consideration. My right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) has spoken of the condition of the iron-clad Navy and the state of the boilers. Well, that is a very important question, and I am very properly asked why I have not discharged my duty in seeing that the Report of the Boiler Committee has been laid on the Table? I can only say that no exertions of mine have been spared to extract that Report short of personal violence. This I know, that the Committee has taken extraordinary means to make their inquiry perfect and exhaustive, and that certain experiments, chemical and otherwise, are being made, the result of which will not be known for some little time. I have requested that a Report—not the final Report, but one which will be of some service—of the Committee shall be furnished to me, and although promised it has been delayed, I regret to say, owing to a domestic affliction to one of its Members, so that instead of receiving it, as I expected by the end of the month, it will have to be still further deferred. When, however, it is in my hands, it will be immediately furnished to the House, and I think it will be of use not only to the Royal Navy, but to the Mercantile Service in general. My right hon. and gallant Friend also went into the question of the different ships whose boilers are not in good condition. Now, I do not think it would be altogether advantageous to disclose for the benefit of the world at large the exact position of the boilers of every vessel in the British Navy. I do not, therefore, think I can give my right hon. and gallant Friend the Returns he asks for. With respect to foreign Navies, we get readily the tonnage and armament of the ships, but we have no account of the condition of their boilers. Indeed, if we had, I believe I might ask the House of Commons to vote Estimates smaller in amount than it will be my duty to do. This, however, I will say, that my right hon. and gallant Friend has an exaggerated idea of the defective character of the boilers of our iron-dads. It is true that a few of the ships have to steam at a reduced pressure, and that some have been ordered home for new boilers; but it is impossible to bring such ships home at once. But I may state generally that I believe that every ship but one is in the programme for having two boilers in the coming year. He says that the pressure has been reduced in respect of the boilers of the Devastation. It has been reduced not on account of any defect in the boilers, but simply from prudential motives, and we have no Report that her boilers are defective. The observations of my hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk have been, I think, pretty well answered by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen), and I fear that my hon. Friend always takes a very gloomy view of everything connected with the British Navy. He is, however, at least impartial in his criticisms, as they are pointed as much at right hon. Gentlemen opposite as they are at me. I flatter myself that in respect of anchors, cables, and other matters to which my hon. Friend has alluded, I have done a good deal to mitigate the state of things to which he has referred. He tells us that the chain cables are always parting. Now, since I have been in office, I remember only one instance, and that was owing to a slight misunderstanding as to the stopping of a ship. I think his remarks with respect to the non-sailing power of the ships, and the valueless character of ships which cannot face the sea under sail, have also been fully disposed of by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed), but I may add that many officers prefer ships which carry no sail at all. With regard to Trotman's anchors, all I can say is, that if a captain asks for a Trotman's anchor he can have it; but if, as is generally the case, he does not, then it follows that the anchor is not as valuable, or the captain is not as prudent as my hon. Friend supposes. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. R. W. Duff) alluded to the propriety of ap- pointing captains to ships some time before they were required to take command of them. Well, I concur with him on that point, and have acted on that view in the case of the Thunderer, and also in the case of the Alexandra. With regard to the engineers also, I have made a change. Formerly, it was the practice to appoint the chief engineer just before going to sea. I thought that system wrong, and that he ought to have time to become more intimately acquainted with his ship, and now the senior engineer is appointed some time before his predecessor leaves the ship. I trust that the House will excuse me for not going into greater detail at this hour of the night (20 minutes past 10 o'clock) as I naturally wished to introduce the Navy Estimates in Committee of Supply, and have but little time left for that purpose.


said, that although the question as to the condition of the Navy was one of paramount importance, he had no wish to interpose between the right hon. Gentleman and Supply, but lie wished to refer to two matters connected with the personnel of the Navy. The first was as to the naval cadets—of educating their young officers for future admirals; and respecting that, it appeared from a Return before him, that the cost to the State of educating each naval cadet on beard the Britannia was £308, to which was to be added the sum of 70 paid by the parents of each cadet and £5 to the naval instructor. The cost, therfore, was enormous. He was glad to hear that the Government were about to dispense with the Britannia; but regretted to learn that they were going to establish an expensive College on shore, at Dartmoor, because it was quite unnecessary. The cadets could be just as well educated at the Royal Naval School at New Cross, at the expense of their parents, and without costing the nation a single penny. From that school had issued no less than 300 naval officers and 82 marine officers who had served with credit. He had headed a deputation to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers), on the subject of the education of the young gentlemen, and he said it would interfere with his patronage—


The hon. and gallant Member is quite mistaken.


The right hon. Gentleman will find that I am quite correct, if he will refer to The United Service Gazettte for 29th of January.


I am not responsible for what may be written in a newspaper; but what I said was that under the plan of the deputation all nominations to the Navy would be in the hands of the governors of a private school, instead of in those mainly of naval officers, and that this would injure the service.


said, that he must be allowed to adhere to the account given in The United Service Gazette. He hoped the Government would take into serious consideration the best means of improving the education of the Navy. The next point he was desirous of drawing attention to was the question of Reserves. From a Paper on the Table it appeared that our Mercantile Marine had dwindled down in a few years from 120,000 men to about 13,000 able seamen. Two-thirds of the crews of our ships were foreigners, and a friend of his who had brought a merchant ship home the other day told him that not less than 16 languages were spoken on his forecastle. The loss of the London was attributed to the fact that so many of the sailers were foreigners, who could not understand the captain's orders. These 13,000 able seamen had joined our Reserves; but not one of them could possibly be forthcoming in the day of trial, because they would be wanted to bring home the grain ships necessary for our food supply, and therefore as a Naval Reserve were useless.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.