§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £2,684,048, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Wages, &c. to Seamen and Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1878.
§ MR. E. J. REED
said, that while there were in the Service certain classes capable of taking care of themselves, there were others who had not that ability, and who were therefore neglected, and it must have been with pain the House heard the statement made the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty—that there was a difficulty in getting men to serve as petty officers. Some of the important classes who had to do with the boilers and machinery had also been neglected. In the few remarks 146 that he should address to the House, he should look at the manner in which the programme of the Government had been fulfilled, then at that which was set down for the coming year, and finally make some remarks upon the Engineers, and upon the Government proposals brought forward to meet the absolute necessities of that great branch of the Service. Taking the first point, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty stated the other night that the shipbuilding programme of last year had been fulfilled, and, indeed, a little more than fulfilled. If, said the right hon. Gentleman, the tonnage was calculated according to the old plan, they had built 13,966 tons as against 13,407 tons promised to be built; and there was a sense in which that statement might be almost justified, although it could not be said to be altogether correct. In point of fact, however, they were 510 tons short of the promise as regarded the iron-clad programme, and 551 tons short as regarded the unarmoured programme. No doubt, if they took the money voted for new ships and the tonnage to which it had been devoted, and compared the result with the expenditure, they would get at a tonnage that very nearly corresponded with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. Nothing, however, could be more fallacious than was that mode of dealing with the question. First of all, the Agamemnon was 176 tons short of what had been promised, the inflexible 322 tons, and the Ajax 269 tons, making in all, after deducting certain excesses on other ships, 5l 0 tons. Then, in the case of unarmoured vessels—as to which he would not mention the individual instances—the deficiency amounted to 551 tons, making a total of 1,061 tons. The deficiency in money was £5,603 upon iron-clads, and about a similar sum upon unarmoured ships, altogether £13,756. With respect to last year's programme, he would mention two ships only—the Inflexible and the Dreadnought. The proposal made last year, as to the Inflexible, was to add 2,000 tons to the 4,049 which had been built and the expenditure mentioned was £36,164. Instead, however, of 2,000 tons having been built, the ship had been advanced by 854 tons only, bringing her to 4,903 tons, and that although a larger amount of money than had been asked for—namely, £37,915—had been expended. They would doubt- 147 less be told that the reason for this was the Admiralty had discovered that the original estimate of what the Inflexible would cost was insufficient, but, however that might be, how, he asked, could it be said that the programme of last year had been fulfilled? Then, again, as to the Dreadnought. When they looked at the figures of last year they were asked for £6,973 for work at Pembroke, for 387 tons; and £13,619, for 270 tons; and it was a curious thing that they were asked double the amount of money for what was to be done at Portsmouth as compared with the amount of tonnage at Pembroke. Further, hon. Members were told last year that at the end of the present month that ship would have 6,667 tons built; but they were now informed that she had only had 6,217 tons finished, and instead of there being, as they had been lead to believe, only some 26 tons remaining to complete her at a cost of £468, there were actually remaining 1,133 tons which required to be built, at a cost of £25,486. The programme of last year would lead them to believe that they would be asked this year for a trifling sum to complete the Inflexible and the Dreadnought, but in fact the completion of those ships would involve an expenditure of £80,000. If that constituted the fulfilment of a programme it was a very astonishing fulfilment. Turning to the contract work, the right hon. Gentleman had also stated the other evening that in respect to that work the Admiralty had likewise practically fulfilled their programme. The Committee were told last year that the Government required certain sums which would leave standing over on ships already ordered £75,900, and that they were going to order other ships, which would leave standing over £238,000. The total of those two sums was £313,900. But they were told this year that they had to find £431,302 for ships already ordered; and for some which were standing over. In other words they were in debt on account of those ships to the extra amount of £117,402. But that was not the whole story. When they turned to the figures regarding engines a similar result appeared. They were told last year that there would be standing over at the end of this year on new engines already ordered £38,800, and on others then to be ordered £280,245, giving a total of £319,045. What, however, was the sum now actu- 148 ally asked for? The amount was no less than £441,483. Here again they were in debt, to the amount of £122,438. On the whole, therefore, they were asked for something like a quarter-of-a-million of money more than they had any reason to look forward to. Two explanations presented themselves to his mind to account for this state of things. Either that the contractors had only earned part of the money voted, or that, which was a much more serious matter, the Government had on their own responsibility been ordering work without the consent of the Committee. Now, if they looked to the rate of advance that should have been made they found a very curious state of things. The method adopted for arriving at the state of advance was to say so much money had been spent, and the tonnage which that represented was so much. Figures were then set down which were to be the basis upon which the House was to be guided. But this was evidently a delusive way of putting the case, for some ships cost £22 a-ton, while others cost £33 a-ton. If he turned to the programme he found that the two steel ships were to be advanced 1,110 tons at a cost of £36,850, and that the Inflexible was to have been advanced 2,079 tons at a cost of £47,000. Now, what did he find? Why, as he had said, that the Inflexible, instead of having advanced 2,079, had only advanced 854 tons, and the Dreadnought which on the 31st of March of this year was to have reached a weight of 6,667, whereas by this year's estimates he found that she was only to be 6,217 tons on the same date, or 450 tons less than they were promised last year. All that he could deduce from these figures was that the figures he had quoted were put down so as to hopelessly bewilder hon. Members. The programme of the present year was to advance these three ships by 3,189 tons, but he was satisfied that when they came next year to review what had actually been done, it would prove to be just as delusive as last year's programme. In short the method of "advancing" ships adopted by the Admiralty was a very fallacious one, although he entirely exonerated the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty from having invented it. The only proof vouchsafed as to the advancement was that the Committee voted certain money and the Department spent 149 it; but as to any inference respecting the number of tons completed, not only did the figures supply no trustworthy information, but they were the means of involving the Committee in positive mystification. Such figures simply debarred the House from making proper inquiry and were most objectionable. The right hon. Gentleman must admit that whatever was the actual progress made this year, the programme of the Admiralty had been on paper a miserable failure. He now came to the programme of next year, and here he would congratulate the Admiralty for increasing the number of men to be employed on construction. During the last two years there had been a marked improvement in that respect, and in the coming year it was proposed to employ a still larger proportion of men than before on the construction of iron-dads, and here viewing the question in the light which had been thrown upon it by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Waterford (Lord Charles Beresford) he would like the Committee to look at the Admiralty programme from three points of view. First, it should be observed that there was only one iron-clad of importance that we were going to lay down for three years. The next point he would wish the Committee to consider was this—that whatever we might think about iron-clads, and however easily we might suppose they would be disposed of by torpedoes, it was a very grave question whether this country should allow itself to be outstripped by any lesser European Power in a first-class ship. He had heard lately, from what he considered to be on good authority, that the Italian Government was about to build a ship to be plated with 3 ft. of armour, to carry 150-ton guns, and to be of the enormous speed of 18 knots. He admitted, however, that that was a very critical ship, and that her construction must necessarily be a matter of difficulty on account of her monstrous dimensions. In the next place, we were bound to consider our policy with regard to the torpedo question, with respect to which the noble and gallant Lord opposite (Lord Charles Beresford) had given some significant and important information amounting to this—that, provided only you could get near enough to a large iron-clad, very small means would be sufficient to destroy her. Therefore, our policy ought to be framed so as to have reference to 150 the two facts that some States were going on increasing the power of the ship, and that there were apparently insignificant means which might be effectual for the ship's destruction. What, then, was the proper way to meet this state of things? It was proposed to build a new Agamemnon, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, in the very brief account he had given of her, stated that the design of the ship had been very carefully attended to. Now, he was not at all convinced that a new Agamemnon was the proper response to the present state of things. He looked upon a new Agamemnon as an Admiralty compromise under very difficult circumstances, one authority being for one thing and one for another, the only result being a decision that a new Agamemnon should be built. [Mr. HUNT: No, no!] The right hon. Gentleman's denial was conclusive on the point; but the Committee, notwithstanding that, ought to be informed of the reason why such vessels were to be built. By building these vessels the right hon. Gentleman was not adding to the variety of ships under construction, provided that the words "New Agamemnon" did not imply any new changes in the details of the vessel. He (Mr. Reed) had been charged with inconsistency, because, in some remarks he had made, he spoke of the advantage of variety and in others of the disadvantage. In both cases he was correct. When he spoke of the advantage of variety, he had in view the fact that a dozen ships of different types, speed, and tonnage would prove a great embarrassment to an enemy. But if we carried variety into the details of ships, we should in each ship create a new problem of management. He cared very little about variety in size, but a great deal about uniformity in details, so that ships could be more easily managed. He considered that the solution of the problem was to be found in building smaller ironclad ships than we had at present, but it was certainly possible to produce a ship of the Inflexible type that would reach a great speed, have very powerful armour, and which would become a formidable vessel in attacking with torpedoes. He should like to have heard from the First Lord of the Admiralty a few more particulars about the Torpedo Ram proposed by that distinguished officer Sir George Sartorius, because he thought the Committee were at a disadvantage in considering it. He would 151 like to know whether it was to be a large or a small one, and as to her tonnage, whether she was be 1,200 or 1,500 tons, or more, because he should object to any large vessel being added to the Navy without guns, for, however efficient as rams or torpedoes, they would be of very little advantage in attacking forts. The British Navy had to be prepared for that, though its work would often be of a different kind. The secrecy spoken of might very fairly be maintained, but if they knew something of her tonnage they would be able to form an opinion of her cost. Then as to the last point with which he would trouble the Committee, he had been in hopes that when the Government scheme for Naval engineers was propounded, he should have heard that they were to be put into a different position. The altered circumstances of the times rendered it necessary that they should receive full recognition by the Admiralty. He was grievously disappointed with the Admiralty scheme, though there were elements in the proposals which were admirable, and deserved consideration. They gave engineers some substantial, though not a large increase of pay, and some improvement in rank, and also enlarged the source from which the supply of engineer officers were drawn. It was a wise proposal to improve their position, and open up a career of advancement for the officers of the engine-room; but they must look at the position of these men now in connection with the altered circumstances of the Navy to what it was some years ago. All their ships were now steam ships, and, wisely or unwisely, they were constructing great vessels full of machinery, and engineer officers must in future play the most important and responsible part in their control and management. He felt it to be a great misfortune that he had sometimes to say things more or less distasteful to Naval officers. He did so with a considerable amount of pain. He spoke only from a sense of strong necessity, and he was very glad to take this opportunity of saying that he found some of the most liberal evidence given before the Committee had emanated from Naval officers of the executive class. He would read an extract from the evidence given by an eminent officer known to many of them, whose opinion was of considerable value. He referred to Admiral Fellowes, the Admiral Super- 152 intendent of Chatham Dockyard. That evidence covered the whole of his case, and it suggested that the engineers should be placed on a totally different footing from that which they now occupied, and that chief engineers to ships should be considered executive officers. How far did the Admiralty plan touch this question? He could not better illustrate this than by referring to Appendix No. 1 of the Navy Estimates for the present year. Page 148 gave a list of the salaries paid to Naval officers of all ranks; that list amounted to £68,723; but not one farthing of this sum went to engineers. On the next page there was another list of salaries, amounting to £243,993, of which only £4,000 was assigned to Naval engineers. Of the aggregate salaries, exceeding £1,000,000, only £170,000 went to all the Naval engineers of the Service. The necessity of the times required that the class of officers who were coming into increased demand should have a fair remuneration; and, while coinciding in the idea that any great and satisfactory change in the class of Naval engineers could only be done by a gradual process, yet he should have been better pleased with the right hon. Gentleman's proposal by some recognition of the necessity of a great change in the direction of increased pay and promotion. On the contrary, all that was proposed was to add £1,000 to the full pay of all the engineers for this year. He, however, thought that the question must be dealt with in a larger manner than it had been by the Admiralty, and he did not believe that if it were placed before the people of this country they would be satisfied with the proposal. They appeared to be only playing with a great subject, and he was of opinion that the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty would not by any means prove satisfactory, or a final solution of the subject. He had noticed, he might add, that in several quarters no small amount of adverse criticism, and even censure, had been passed on the First Lord of the Admiralty for some remarks which he had let fall a few nights ago with respect to the grade from which most of the men serving as engineers in the Navy were drawn. He (Mr. Reed) had received several letters complaining, with more or less bitterness, of words which fell from the right hon. Gentleman. He 153 should be sorry to say anything which would be at all likely to hurt anybody's feelings, and he did not believe the right hon. Gentleman intended to hurt anybody's feelings. He believed the right hon. Gentleman intended to advert to a fact which had been pressing upon the minds of Naval Administrators for a long time—that was that the whole profession of Royal Marine engineers and Naval architects in this country was exclusively drawn from what were called "poor lads." That certainly was a remarkable thing and open to amendment. The scheme now pro posed by the right hon. Gentleman was based upon the Report of the Committee, and he was sorry to say that he did not think the scheme would work. He should be very sorry to close any door by which a young man in our dockyards might rise to position; but he at the same time thought some steps should be taken which would prevent the exclusion of gentlemen's sons from training for the Naval service. The solution of the difficulties by which the question was surrounded was, he believed, to be found in the American system. If we would secure young men of gentlemanly manners and education as Naval engineers, they should, in his opinion, be placed in a Cadet College, and pains should be taken to see that they were as well instructed in their business as other young officers. It was no uncommon thing for the sons of gentlemen to become marine engineers, and he had known instances where distinguished Naval officers—for instance, the late Controller of the Navy, Sir Spencer Robinson—had gone into the workshops, put on a canvas jacket, and worked at a lathe, in order to learn the practical details of the Profession; and there ought to be no difficulty in inducing young gentlemen of a higher social status to enter into the engineering branch of the Royal Navy. He should like also to know, seeing that the Admiralty experienced the same difficulty in having the hull of a ship properly looked after as the engines, why the young men who took charge of the hull should not also be trained in the Naval Cadet College. If that were done, an assimilation would be effected which would be calculated to be productive of a great deal of good. He was sorry to have detained the Committee so long, but would conclude 154 by saying that in a recent interview with Lord Clarence Paget—among other Naval officers whom he had consulted on the subject—that distinguished officer had told him that he looked upon the introduction of the cadet system into the various engineering branches of the Navy as the ultimate and best solution of the question.
desired to make a few observations on the proposals in regard to the Marine and Engineer officers. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty on what was on the whole a very satisfactory statement the other night in regard to this matter, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not think his remarks were directed against him, or the office he so worthily held. He hoped he might not be considered ungracious if he took the liberty of saying how extremely dangerous and inconvenient were those delays in redressing what were admitted to be grievances. He spoke the more openly upon this subject, because he was not blaming the right hon. Gentleman; but he would say that it was very unfortunate that when the Government had recognized the existence of grievances among any important class of naval subjects, the Treasury should step in between the recognition and redress of those grievances. The case of the Marine and Engineer officers had been recognized two years ago, and yet by the action of the Treasury, the redress of this grievance had been left till now, and during the whole of that time the supply of those classes had been most deplorably deficient. He was quite certain in the remarks which the right hon. Gentleman made the other night he never intended any slight on the existing members of that Service, but he could quite concur in what the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) had said, that they did feel aggrieved at the observations which then fell from the right hon. Gentleman. They maintained that they were entitled to be considered as high a class as the Medical and Paymaster branches of the Service, and they appealed to the records of naval courts martial to show how singularly free their branch had been from charges of breach of discipline. No doubt the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman had offended the Engineers, for it was, in their opinion, 155 hard that the world should be told by the right hon. Gentleman that their branch of the service was not so satisfactory as it ought to be.
did not wish to impute the desire to the right hon. Gentleman to say what was at all likely to hurt the feelings of anyone; but a feeling was abroad that what he had said was a reflection on their branch of the Profession.
said, he was quite sure, as he had said before, that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to cast a reflection upon anyone. He was only stating what was understood out-of-doors by a large number of officers in regard to his remarks. With reference to the selection of Engineer officers from higher social position that was a very delicate subject, and one which the House ought carefully to consider. It was much more important to consider what a young man was in himself than what position in society his father or mother might happen to have held. He should be very sorry if this idea of introducing the sons of noblemen and gentlemen into the engineering branches of the Navy should close that branch of the Profession to the sons of the humblest and poorest members of society, who had qualified themselves to occupy such positions. It was a great happiness that we lived in times when a man was valued for his own qualities, and not by such matters as the humbleness of his origin. The proposal of the Committee was that these positions should be offered to free competition among those approved by the Admiralty, and they were told that in another class of naval appointments there was free competition among those selected by the First Lord. He did not call this free competition at all, but limited competition, and the result would be that the appointments would be given to friends and connections of the First Lord for the time being. He could not think it right that a young man of ability and industry, who might have been Senior Wrangler at a University, should be liable to be rejected if he wished to 156 enter the Naval Service. In these days they required all naval officers to be of the highest attainments. If his right hon. Friend had proposed to raise the educational test, it might have deserved encouragement, but the Admiralty ought to get the best men out of the whole country; and if any young man of ability and good conduct were to be excluded from the Navy because his parents fell below a certain social standard, he protested against such an oligarchical doctrine being propagated in these days in the House of Commons. The actual proposals made were a step in the right direction; but only a step. Even with the proposed increase of pay, the salaries of the chief engineers and inspectors of machinery were far below the pay and rank of other departments, and it would be found that they would not be long contented with it. In regard to the engine-room artificers, the proposal of the Committee to pay at the rate of 5s. 3d. a-day for the first few years of service would simply have the effect of securing the bad men instead of the good. Good men could be obtained for 5s. 6d., and for the sake of saving 3d. a-day per man, which altogether would amount to only £1,600 a-year, they were going to employ the worst, instead of the best men. The Committee should further recollect that their work was of the greatest importance, and that a single accident to the engines of a man-of-war at Gibraltar, say the Alexandra, would cause a greater outlay than the Admiralty would save during the whole year. The uniform imposed upon the engine-room artificers was another just cause of complaint. Elderly men who were a little stout did not like to be compelled to wear a short round jacket, and they had petitioned to be allowed to wear a pea-jacket to cover their loins. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would say something on the subject when addressing the Committee.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that he highly approved of the intention of the Admiralty to increase by 2d. a-day the pay of the seamen of the Fleet who had completed 10 years of service, and who were prepared to enter upon a second 10 years' service; and regretted that the Government had not also given that increase to those who had served five years. This would have effected only 5,000 men, and would not have involved an outlay 157 of more than £15,000 a-year. That course would have had a great effect in stopping desertions. It had, moreover, an important significance from an economic point of view. It was calculated that the cost of each seaman in training amounted to about £200 a-head for every able seamen; and therefore the loss of 800 or 900 men a-year by desertion occasioned a great pecuniary loss to the country. The desertions occurred almost wholly among men in their first term of service, and they could reduce the number of desertions by one-third, as he believed was quite possible, the arrangement would be an economical one. The subject was well worthy the attention of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman opposite hoped by means of the extra 2d. a-day to induce a large number of the men who had served 10 years to re-engage themselves, but he doubted whether that small increase of pay would have much effect in that direction, inasmuch as that class of men had shown themselves ready to sacrifice at the end of 10 years so much of their pension as they had already earned. At the same he thought those who had served 10 years were entitled to a higher rate of pay than those who had served a shorter period. The next subject he would notice was that of the Marine officers. The proposal in that respect was not, however, before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman intimated that there was some difference of opinion between the Admiralty and the Treasury on the subject, and that the matter had been referred to a Committee of the Cabinet. On that, he would remark that, in his experience, it had not been the practice, nor was it wise, on an important subject like that, to ventilate the differences between separate Departments when the Government was responsible as a whole for the decisions of any and every single Department. Still more unusual was it to ask for a lump sum of money in respect to a scheme which had not yet been carried out. The right hon. Gentleman ought to withdraw the part of the Vote which related to that scheme and submit it later in the form of a Supplementary Estimate, when a practical decision had been come to as to the nature of the scheme to be laid before the House. Adverting next to the proposal concerning Engineer officers, it appeared to him generally to go in the 158 right direction. An improvement in the status of those officers was almost of more importance than an increase of their pay; but he thought it would be impossible to put them in a better position all at once. The right hon. Gentleman said that the number ought to be somewhat reduced, and that on the other hand the number of artificers should be somewhat increased. He further said that great pains would be taken in regard to the vouchers of respectability of young men entering that branch of the Service. If by that it was meant that the principle of competition was to be limited, it would be rather a retrogade measure, and one which would hardly meet with the approval of the House. In his opinion, the question of status was more important than that of pay, and all that was needful was to take care that the status and pay of the Engineers should be such as to attract good men, and then he believed that young men of good ability would be forthcoming. If some of their number should happen to be of humble rank, so much the better, provided they had the requisite competence for their duties. He now came to the question of the programme of ship-building in the dockyards, and by contract for the ensuing year, which, as he understood it, was a very simple one. There was to be some reduction in the amount of tonnage to be built as compared with the past year. In the coming year, the tonnage proposed to be built was 20,000 tons, or the normal amount laid down by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) in 1869. During the five years from 1869 to 1874 there were built by contract and in the dockyards under the late Administration exactly 98,000 tons, making as nearly as possible 20,000 tons each year. During the first three years of the present Government 66,000 tons, as he gathered from the statement of the First Lord, had been built, being at the rate of 22,000 each year, or an aggregate of 6,000 tons more during the whole three years than the average normal amount which, he presnmed, they now thought to be necessary—namely, 20,000 tons per annum. In his reply the other night to the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) the First Lord of the Admiralty pointed out, at great length, the number of vessels he had built in three years, and appeared to think that no previous Administration had built any ships at 159 all. The real gist of the matter was, what amount of tonnage had been built in excess of the normal amount, and also what amount had been built in proportion to the increased outlay voted by Parliament. Now, as to the amount which had been expended. During the last three years the present Government had obtained an average sum of £1,000,000 sterling more for the Navy than the average sum voted by the House during the previous five years when the late Government was in office, and that additional £1,000,000 had gone almost entirely for the building and repairing of ships. That that was so was proved by the fact that during those five years the amount expended in shipbuilding and repairing in dockyards and by contract was £2,600,000; while during the last three years the amount had been £3,700,000. The present Government, therefore, had taken something over £3,000,000 during the last three years in excess of the normal expenditure of the five previous years. And what had we got for that? From the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty it was clear that we had only got an addition of about 6,000 tons of iron-dads. That appeared to him to be a very small amount, and a question necessarily arose as to what had really been done with all that money. During the last three years in which there had been this excess of expenditure we had lost the Vanguard, which about equalled in tonnage the excess built during that period. The First Lord of the Admiralty said new boilers had been put into eight iron-dads during the last three years. That did not appear to be a very large number and would not in any way account for the increase, for he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) presumed the repair of each of those vessels could not have cost more than £50,000 or £60,000. It appeared to him that the increased expenditure in the Dockyards was in great measure due to the repair of a number of vessels of doubtful utility. During the past year several vessels of that kind were repaired at the Dockyards. First among them was the Lord Warden, a wooden vessel plated with armour, which no doubt had been in her day a powerful and very useful vessel, but which had long passed into the class of vessel of very doubtful value. Between £50,000 and £60,000 had been expended upon 160 her, although he believed she was a vessel that never could be used for warlike purposes in future. Although this enormous sum had been spent on her, he understood that the rotten timbers of her hull had not been replaced, and he was informed there was a broad belt of rotten timbers at her water-line which were not removed. Although new boilers were placed in her, new cylinders were not provided, and her old cylinders had been bored so thin that her speed was reduced to eight knots. He thought, under these circumstances, the money was thrown away. Last year the Urgent also, which was an old hulk, was repaired at a cost of £20,000, for the purpose of being sent out as a depôt or hospital ship at Jamaica. He was astonished that such an expenditure should have been incurred for such a purpose. Many of the vessels which it was proposed last year to repair apparently had not been repaired, and appeared again in the programme of the present year, and he ventured to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it was wise to undertake the repair of some of those vessels, seeing that the money spent for repairs in the Dockyard had not been spent judiciously. Among them was, in the first place, the Liffey, which was an old hulk, and which, he believed, was intended to be sent out as a depôt ship. He believed it was intended to spend £23,000 on this vessel. Then he gathered from the programme that it was proposed to repair the Enchantress at an expense of £24,000. [Mr. HUNT said, the cost of improvements was included.] A shipbuilder some days ago stated that an iron vessel of that kind could be built for £30,000, and if that sum at all approached the amount for which such a vessel could now be built by contract on the Tyne, he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) thought it would be very unwise to spend so much as £24,000 in repairing the Enchantress. As she stood she would sell for a number of thousand pounds for the purpose of being broken up. The next case was the proposal to repair the Lord Clyde. [Mr. HUNT said the Lord Clyde was only to be repaired as a gunnery ship.] But it was proposed to expend £26,000 to fit out the Lord Clyde to take her post, as he understood, at Portsmouth, as a gunnery ship in addition to the Excellent. Was it wise for the pur- 161 pose of naval drill to fit out at great expense such vessels as the Lord Clyde and the Excellent, which were of no use for naval purposes, when we had always at command the Thunderer and Devastation? In the experience of his right hon. Friend who sat near him and himself nothing was so expensive as maintaining and repairing these hulks, and it would be much better, instead of maintaining such ships as these, to build barracks on shore for the training of the men. The ships to which he had alluded were not suitable for the employment of the largest guns now coming into fashion, whereas in barracks on shore the men could be trained thoroughly in the use of large ordnance. He thought expenditure in the Dockyards ought to be confined to real fighting ships. He would not enter in detail into the programme of the coming year. It was a very simple one, and the chief novelty involved the building of a great torpedo vessel at Portsmouth. As the right hon. Gentleman, however, had not entered in detail into the character of that vessel, it would be rather difficult for him (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) to discuss the matter. The discussion upon that point had better be postponed until Vote 6 came under the consideration of the Committee. With regard to the Dockyard Vote, he wished to know whether he had correctly understood the right hon. Gentleman, in reply to a remark he made the other evening, to state that it was his intention to increase the responsibility of the Naval Superintendents.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
was anxious to know whether that alteration in the form of the communications would increase the responsibility of those officials or not. The old form had been—"You are requested to do so and so," or—"You are to instruct the officer below you to do so and so;" whereas the new form was to be—"You are to do so and so." In his opinion that alteration in the form of the communications would increase their responsibility. This was an extremely important matter, and ought not to have been made without careful consideration, nor with- 162 out submitting the whole question to a Committee. He deprecated fresh responsibility being thrown upon these Naval Superintendents, and his opinion upon the point was supported by that of Sir Spencer Robinson, and he suggested that the wiser plan would have been to have built up a substantial civilian management of the Dockyards under those officials. For his own part he should have liked a Committee to have been appointed in order to decide how far it was wise to compel Naval Superintendents to have the charge of mere civil work, such as the building of ships and the control of the workmen. He wished also to know how it was that the shipbuilding programme for the year showed so large a sum as nearly £250,000 in excess of the amount required last year. In conclusion, he observed that he had only dealt on that occasion with some of the more important branches of the subjects which were relevant to the general discussion upon the Navy Estimates, and that he should take another opportunity of referring to the other points of minor importance.
§ MR. A. F. EGERTON
said, he did not intend to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) at any length through the various subjects he had touched upon. The hon. Member had begun his remarks by comparing the work done by the present Naval Administration with that which had been done by that which had preceded it. He would not enter on that occasion into the question whether the present Naval Administration had not done as much as they ought to have done, or whether they had done quite as much as could be expected of them; but he would quote a few figures which would show that, at all events, they had done something. Taking the number of tons built in the dockyards in the year 1873–4 there were built of armoured ships 4,050 tons, and of unarmoured ships 8,374 tons, while the average of tons built in the three succeeding financial years under the present Administration was of armoured ships 4,531 tons, and of unarmoured ships 9,518 tons. The number of men employed in constructing ships in the dockyards was in 1873–4 4,599, against an average in the three following financial years of 5,443, the numbers engaged in repairs being respectively 4,399 and 163 5,175. The number of tons built in private yards were in 1873–4 of unarmoured ships 4,976 tons, and of armoured ships none, while the average in the three following years was of unarmoured ships 5,100 tons, and of armoured 2,820 tons. Again, the horsepower of new machinery constructed was in 1873–4 26,680 tons, against an average in the three following years of 30,780. These figures showed that the present Administration, if they had not done so much as they should have done, had at all events done something more than had been done in the previous year. He did not think that in selecting the year 1873–4 for comparison with the three following years he was dealing unfairly with those responsible for the former Administration, but if the hon. Member opposite thought that there was anything exceptional in that year he could point it out to the Committee. The hon. Gentleman had charged the present Administration with extravagance in deciding to repair the Lord Warden and the Royal Alfred. The hon. Member had evidently obtained his information on the subject from the newspapers, which in this instance were incorrect. The question of repairing the Royal Alfred had certainly been under the consideration of the Administration, but finding that the ship on being opened was not worth repairing, they had decided not to repair her. The same course was taken with the Lord Warden, which was a stronger ship than the hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose. Along with the Controller of the Navy, he had gone over the Lord Warden, and they both thought she was worth keeping afloat, especially as she could be repaired at no very great cost. He was also of opinion that the Enchantress was worth repair, and that it was necessary to repair her. As to the Naval Superintendents, the hon. Gentleman had asked in solemn tones whether the Order lately issued by the First Lord had not increased their responsibilities. Now the fact was that there was no increase of responsibility. Moreover he (Mr. Egerton) maintained, in spite of Sir Spencer Robinson's opinion, that their responsibility was complete over their yards. Of course, you could not place them entirely in the position of managers of private yards, because those managers were almost invariably responsible for the purchases, while in a Government 164 yard the Contract department at the Admiralty provided the stocks. The Naval Superintendents, however, were really responsible for the whole management of the yard. They had the control of all the subordinates, and it was their duty to see that the work was done well and done economically, there being a concurrent jurisdiction in this matter with the Controller at the Admiralty. The change made by the First Lord in no respect altered the position of the Naval Superintendents. He would pass now to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed), who seemed to have formed a false idea of what the Admiralty were doing in the past year. The hon. Gentleman complained that the Admiralty had not been doing the work which in their programme of last year they proposed to do.
§ MR. E. J. REED
explained that his complaint was that the Admiralty had not been doing the work which in the programme of last year they undertook.
§ MR. A. F. EGERTON
replied that what the Admiralty undertook to do was to carry out a certain amount of work upon certain ships. They had not been able to adhere exactly to their programme and carry out the same character of work which they promised, but what they had done had been to spend the money, doing quite as much work with it as they had promised, though they had not always done such work as was expected. It was quite true that the amount of tonnage promised had not been added to the Inflexible; but a large amount of work had been done, and if there were any changes in the character of the work this was owing to alterations of fittings, which in almost every ship it was impossible to avoid. The same remark applied to the Dreadnought, and it was true, therefore, that the programme as regarded those two ships had not been entirely completed. The hon. Gentleman had also adverted to the regulation of the progress of the ships; but it was exceedingly difficult to calculate the tonnage which was said to be added to a ship. He (Mr. Egerton) did not know what was the method adopted by the hon. Gentleman when at the Admiralty, but he understood that it was arrived at by guesswork. The method of calculation adopted in the Estimates was adopted after considerable discussion, 165 and seemed to be the only way in which it was possible to estimate the amount of progress made. If, however, the hon. Gentleman could recommend a better method, no doubt if it were put before the Constructor's department it would be adopted. Then the hon. Gentleman said the Admiralty, in the contract work, had committed itself to larger sums than they estimated at the time of their programme. This was true, and arose chiefly from alterations made in the type of ships of the Comus class; but the First Lord stated that he did not commit himself precisely to details with regard to these ships, and that it might be necessary to alter them materially. This had proved to be the case to a considerable extent, and accounted for a large portion of the discrepancy mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. Viewing the work as a whole, he contended, as his right hon. the First Lord of the Admiralty would show when he rose to speak, that the programme of last year had been practically completed, that as much work had been done as the Admiralty expected, and that the variations in the character of the work, which accounted for the difference between the programme and the actual performance, were only such as were absolutely necessary in every year's work at the Admiralty.
§ MR. SEELY
said, the Committee appointed to report on the supply of Naval Engineers observed in their Report that, notwithstanding the high education to be given and the position in which the Engineer officers would be placed as commissioned officers, a large portion of the students were the sons of artificers of various grades, of seamen or Marines, and of others belonging to the same class of society; and the Committee recommended that some attempt should be made to procure the entry of students who would be in all respects fitted to take their places with naval officers in the ward-room and gun-room messes. The First Lord had said that, though the matter was a delicate and difficult one, he proposed to try the experiment suggested by the Committee. He proposed to make the young men who were accepted as candidates pay £25 a-year for three years for their instruction. That proposal was not put forward to save the public money, but in order to exclude the comparatively poor from all chance of competition with the compa- 166 ratively rich. Three or four witnesses were examined to whom a list was shown indicating the classes of life from which the boys were drawn. It appeared that they were, to a considerable extent, the sons of dockyard artificers and seamen, and an opinion was expressed that they were not the class with whom the sons of naval officers would like to associate. He wished to know how it happened that this list was not printed with the Report, and he would ask whether there was any objection on the part of the Admiralty to furnish a copy of it? It appeared that one of the engineers was the son of a washerwoman, and he believed that this sealed the fate of the present system. He marvelled that in the year 1877 such a Report should have been presented to the Admiralty, and that the Admiralty should have sent it to that House. He ventured to say that if the present Opposition had been sitting on the Ministerial benches that Report would never have been presented to the House of Commons. What was the education required from successful candidates in this department? It included English, French, arithmetic, geography, algebra as far as quadratic equations, and the first six books of Euclid; and yet young men who passed by the sons of naval officers in an examination higher than the preliminary examination for solicitors, and more exacting in mathematics than the matriculation examination of the London University, were to be set aside as ill-mannered dogs, who could not be admitted into the gun-room and the ward-room. These young men must be, however, the best of their class, and before the First Lord carried this part of the Report of the Committee into effect it was desirable that the House of Commons should have something to say upon it. The evidence of various naval instructors went to prove that the Service would sustain no injury by admitting to the gun and ward-rooms sons of working-men and artificers—even sons of washerwomen, who by their ability were able to pass a competitive examination. If there was a little roughness at first on the part of these young fellows, that roughness would soon be got rid of when they found themselves mixing with gentlemen of a little higher grade. At present the chasm between different classes of society was quite wide and deep enough, and he thought they 167 ought to do nothing to render it wider. The real question, however, was not as to their manners and whether they were fit for the gun-room and ward-room, but whether the country was likely, by the system recommended by the Committee, to get the best engineers for the Royal Navy. Most people would say that the wider the area the greater would be the chance of getting better men. This was, in fact, an attempt to restore that principle of patronage which had been for so many years the curse of our public Departments, and the system of nominations by the Admiralty was nothing but throwing overboard the principle of free and healthy competition. With regard to the efficiency of the Navy now as compared with its state at the time when the present Administration began, the hon. Member stated that only two of the line-of-battle ships launched under the present Administration — namely, the Nelson and the Northampton—had been designed and built under the directions of the existing Board of Admiralty. All the others which had been added to the Fleet had been laid down and in progress under the preceding Administration. Replying to a request which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt) made on a former occasion for further information respecting the Assistance and the Invincible, which he (Mr. Seely) had spoken of as having broken down, he now quoted the authority of several newspapers in support of his original statements, the effect of the extracts being that the Assistance had gone to sea with a leak the existence of which was unknown, and had afterwards been helpless for 24 hours off Jersey, other vessels having to be sent to help her, and an Admiralty inquiry afterwards leading to the removal of two of her engineers; and that the Invincible's machinery had been found hopelessly defective when she was about to be re-commissioned. Of the 14 cases of the kind that he had referred to, the right hon. Gentleman had admitted eight, and the rest he (Mr. Seely) had substantiated. Alluding again to the case of the Thunderer, he expressed the opinion that the boilers of the Navy were not constructed with a view to strength so well as they might be, and he would conclude by pointing out that, at one and the same time, no less than five of our iron-dads—a very large proportion of our fighting power— 168 had from some cause or other been disabled. He ventured to differ from the view of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty that these accidents were unavoidable, and were not due in any degree to negligence or ignorance at the Admiralty; on the contrary, he thought that a little knowledge and a little care would save this country from the recurrence of such serious disasters in the future.
§ MR. SAMPSON LLOYD
thought the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty in introducing the Navy Estimates, while generally satisfactory both to the House and to the country, was in some particulars open to adverse comment, and upon those he would make a few remarks. The Royal Marines, who were one-third of the whole number of men on the books of the Royal Navy, had been called the step-children of the Service, but they might be more accurately described as the hapless orphans or foundlings, for they seemed to be without any caretaker, and their case was an extremely hard one. A hope had been already held out this Session that something might be done for them; and while he accepted the expression of that hope he could not forget that a similar statement had been made two or three times before, and that men were now losing what they might otherwise gain if the plan of the Government could be matured more quickly. In this corps promotion was utterly stagnant. Generals of Marines only retired at 70 years of age, while major generals in the Army did so at 60. Again, there were 60 subaltern officers who had served an average of 16 years, and one of whom had been 18 years a lieutenant, on pay of £130 a-year. Those unfortunate officers had been induced to enter the Service, trusting to the good faith and feeling of successive Governments, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would do something to relieve the stagnation of promotion, seeing that many of them were too old to change their occupations. Pending the elaboration of a scheme he suggested two or throe palliatives which would do some justice at a little cost. There were now three captains who were not on the rota for foreign service, having accepted other appointments, these might be placed on the list of supernumeraries; the colonels 169 second commandant might have their pay raised from £1 per day to £1 6s. 3d., the amount received by officers of a similar rank in the Royal Marine Artillery; and some other things might be done to stimulate promotion. What was proposed for the Royal Naval Engineers was satisfactory as an instalment of what they expected. The continuous-service men in the dockyards—many of whom had served in the Crimea and the Baltic—ought to be allowed to count their sea-service in qualifying for pensions, and something ought to be attempted to remove the disadvantages under which the mechanic-writers and the leading men of shipwrights laboured.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that many questions had been asked and had not been answered on the part of the Government, and it was exceedingly desirable that the Committee should be in possession of the desired information—particularly with regard to the scheme of the Engineers—before the debate proceeded. That information had not been supplied by the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary.
§ MR. HUNT
said, it was usual for the First Lord of the Admiralty to listen to all the observations hon. Members desired to make upon his statement before he spoke in reply, and that was the course he proposed to adopt on the present occasion. Of course the Financial Secretary could not supply information as to the policy of the Admiralty, because he was not in the same position as the Secretary to the Admiralty of former days who sat in the Board room to record the decisions of the Board. Beyond that, inasmuch as he had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) only the Financial Secretary, therefore he could not well reply upon questions of relative rank. The rule that the First Lord should reserve his remarks for the close of the debate was more convenient than the suggestion that he should reply piecemeal to every question that might be put, although it might be agreeable to right hon. Gentlemen opposite to have some chance of the last word. The right hon. Gentleman's criticisms, no doubt, would be able and worthy of attention, but he (Mr. Hunt) should like to have the last word. He was willing to make a 170 general statement of his policy and arrangements at once, if that was the wish of the Committee; but if he were to be subjected afterwards to further criticisms, he would rather sit down and let the right hon. Gentleman make whatever remarks he had to address to the Committee.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that nobody desired that the First Lord should have the first word. What his right hon. Friend near him (Mr. Goschen) meant was this—That when questions were asked by hon. Members someone connected with the Admiralty ought to answer them, and then their whole policy could be discussed. If, however, the Committee were to wait until the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord made his statement no opportunity would then be afforded to answer him, and the only alternative would be to adjourn the debate to another evening, when, on going into Committee on the Navy Estimates, all the questions might again be raised. That, however, would not be a saving of public time. The Admiralty ought to have some one on the front bench who was acquainted with their policy, besides the First Lord. He gave this reason for the Financial Secretary not answering. [Mr. HUNT: I said as to this particular question of relative rank.] Well, all he could say was that he ought to be, and that it was a great practical inconvenience to the Committee to find he could not answer the questions put to him. It was surely desirable that some official of the Admiralty should be in a position to do it, and not have all the necessary information confined to the First Lord himself.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that his hon. and learned Friend opposite (Sir William Harcourt) had misunderstood him. A question had been put in regard to the future relative rank of Engineer officers, and the other evening he made a statement that there would be an improvement in their relative rank, and to-night a question had put as to the exact change proposed to be made. This, he thought, was a question which did not require to be answered offhand, but might well wait until the close of the debate; and the reason he gave why the Financial Secretary did not answer it was that it did not come within his province. He could only answer as to the general naval policy.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, that the present was the only opportunity given to the Committee to discuss the general policy of the Admiralty. Both sides appeared to agree that they had practically been building about 20,000 tons of shipping a-year for several years. Both sides had taken great credit for improvements effected in particular years during their respective Administrations of the Admiralty, but the truth was that there was nothing to be proud of on either side. If hon. Members would refer to the debates which occurred when his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen) was First Lord, they would see that 20,000 tons only represented the annual waste in the Navy. Therefore, they were not making progress, but had only just been maintaining their own for the last 10 years. In his opinion, a slight amount of increase would be very acceptable to the nation. Though he had carefully studied these Estimates during the whole time he had been in that House, now many years, he had never been able to understand them; and his hon. Friend (Mr. E. J. Reed) had only been able to do so, because his official career made him one of the initiated. As a practical shipbuilder and accountant, he asked why, in the name of common sense, have these elaborate Estimates, which mystify everybody? Why not have a simple statement of the work to which the Admiralty proposed to commit themselves in the course of the year and the amount they proposed to spend? Such a statement might be comprised in a single page. How was it possible to represent a certain amount of progress in tonnage by a certain amount of labour? Some ships cost £100 a ton, others only £25, and during the period of finishing no progress was made in tonnage, and yet the greatest amount of labour then took place. These accounts were therefore eminently misleading. During the time he had been in the House three or four changes had been made in the form of these accounts, and each time they had become more difficult to understand. Why were not the Admiralty content to do what ordinary mortals did in this matter? He hoped that if the present debate had no other result it would, at any rate, induce the right hon. Gentleman opposite to take into consideration the necessity of getting rid of the absurd system which had been growing up for 172 many years in this matter of the Navy Estimates. He did not agree with all the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke; but with regard to the Italian ships, he agreed with him so far as to think that we had gone quite far enough at present both in the matter of armour and guns until we saw what would be the result of actual warfare. Our Navy was still superior to all others in number and quality; but, looking to the new means of attack which might be adopted against large vessels by torpedoes, he thought it was desirable to decrease instead of increasing the size of their vessels, as far as was consistent with their carrying thick armour and heavy guns, and preserving a high rate of speed. The torpedo question was the first naval question of the day, which ought to be dealt with to the fullest extent, and he would point to the Thornycroft type of torpedo ship as a triumph of engineering. If an engineer had been told a few years ago that it would be possible to get a speed of 18 knots out of such a ship 80 ft. long he would have said—"The thing is impossible." Such, however, was the result now attained. The Thornycroft was the type of boat they would have to make use of in torpedo warfare, and every large ship would probably have to carry torpedo beats which might in case of necessity act as sharpshooters and circle round her, keeping off other wasps of the same kind. If his right hon. Friend would order half-a-dozen or 10 of these vessels, so as to test their value, he would do a service to the country. With reference to the ram about to be built on the suggestion of Admiral Sartorius, he had no objection to it, but he thought if we got an ordinary little beat and stuck a torpedo at the end of it, we should be able to do more with it than with the ram. Had his right hon. Friend considered the conditions on which a ram could act successfully against another vessel? He (Mr. Samuda) had found that unless the ram had at least 50 per cent more speed than the other vessel, it would not have a chance to get into a position to strike her. With regard to the remark of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), he wished to point out that the estimate for a sister ship to the Enchantress was not, as the hon. Gen- 173 tleman stated, £24,000, but would cost at least £42,000.
§ MR. MACGREGOR
said, the boilers of the Royal Navy were strong enough generally for the strength of the engines; but he thought it would be better if those who had charge of that department would pay a little more attention to the strength of the engines, for they were not so strong as they might be made, or as they would be required to be if intended for merchant steamers. The engineers of the Navy were underpaid, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty would before long greatly benefit their position both in rank and pay. The chief engineers of the Navy were only paid, after five years' service, £15 4s. 2d. per month; but he (Mr. Macgregor) did not know where to go for engineers for the merchant service at such a sum. It was true they were frequently unemployed, when they were paid £8 10s. a-month; but with all that the Service was not popular. He had been asked to obtain employment for a naval engineer, but on the understanding that it was not to be in the Royal Navy. He must repeat that he sincerely hoped that the engineers' condition would be improved, so as to induce the best men that could be got in the country to accept service in the Navy.
§ MR. W. WHITWORTH
said, he was very glad to learn that something was to be done to raise the position and the pay of Naval Engineers. They were a most useful class of officers, and were becoming more so every day. He only hoped that fair play might be allowed to every class, and if officers' sons in the competition took the prize, they would be entitled to it. But this he would say—if engineers in the Navy were not polished gentlemen, at all events they were well-conducted and gave no offence to others, while he believed those who conversed with them might derive improvement from their conversation. Upon the main question involved in these Estimates he could not help saying a few words. He thought the Estimates too large. They might fairly be reduced. He believed that the Navy was at present far larger than was necessary for the defence of the country. It might be very well to talk of the Navies of other countries; but he had known ships belonging to those Navies which had been 174 the bugbear of Europe when they could not move a mile out of harbour. They had the Russian Fleet, which was a gross humbug. Its sailors were no use as an offensive power against one of our ships manned with our officers and men. We spent too much money on our Navy. He would only spend so much upon the Navy as would secure the safety of the Empire, and he would repeat that he believed the present Estimates might be largely reduced and still leave it in a position to do that. He would not say that any particular Vote might be reduced, but he thought the gross amount of £10,000,000 might be brought down. The American system of doing away with the Fleet when they did not want it was far the best, for they were gaining the experience for which we were now paying. He would not take the responsibility of moving the reduction of the Vote himself; but if any hon. Member would do so, he would support him.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt) would admit that while they had had a very interesting discussion, those who sat on the front Opposition bench had not attempted to trench unduly upon the time of the Committee. His right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had preferred not to address the Committee on that occasion, because he was anxious that every hon. Gentleman on both sides of the House who desired to speak upon the question should have an ample opportunity of doing so. It had been complained, at all events by those who sat on the Opposition side, that hitherto the discussions on Naval affairs had been conducted too much by those who sat on the two front benches, but no complaint of that kind could be made on the present occasion. He trusted, however, notwithstanding the hour, that the Committee would allow him to make a few observations. First, in regard to the attitude taken up by the Government with respect to the Naval Engineers. He made an observation a few minutes ago as to that attitude; but he felt himself in this position—that he had to address the Committee on a policy with which they were scarcely acquainted, about a ship which had not been described to them, and about arrangements for Marines which had not as yet been 175 decided by the Government. They had only the shreds of a policy before them. The Financial Secretary, as they learned from the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, proposed only to address the Committee upon the financial questions. He (Mr. Goschen) ventured to say that was an entire novelty in these debates.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman said he did not say so. He (Mr. Goschen) was certainly under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman had told them that the Financial Secretary, in addressing the Committee, would only speak upon the financial question in regard to the Engineers.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
asked, did the right hon. Gentleman mean to imply that the Financial Secretary would answer other questions with regard to the Engineers?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the Government seemed to be totally blind to this question of Engineers. A most able speech had been made by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) upon the subject, and yet the right hon. Gentleman said across the Table that there was no other question for criticism but that of relative rank, and that it was a very small matter. He (Mr. Goschen) ventured to think, on the contrary, it was a very large matter, that the question of the position which was to be occupied by Engineers on beard Her Majesty's ships was one of very great importance. It was not a question of pay, and no small increase of pay would settle this great question as to whether this branch of the Service would be put in that position on beard Her Majesty's vessels which had become necessary by the exigencies of our Navy? He wished to know whether the Engineers were to be placed upon the same footing with the military branch of the Service, as was recommended by the Committee? [Mr. HUNT dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head. Then he understood, with regard to that point, that the Government did not accept the recommendations of the Committee. [Mr. HUNT: No.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head again. He 176 gathered, then, that the recommendation of the Committee on this branch was not accepted by Her Majesty's Government. What, then, was to be the position of the Engineers on board Her Majesty's ships? He understood from the right hon. Gentleman that they were to receive a higher rank than at present. He must speak in the dark, however, because the right hon. Gentleman neither nodded nor shook his head in regard to that matter. All they learned was, that the Engineers were to receive higher rank; but whether that would be satisfactory or not they were unable to say at the present moment. It was a matter of supreme importance with regard to the safety of Her Majesty's ships that this question of the Engineers should be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. If the Engineers were to have equal pay with the other branches of the Service, but inferior rank, that branch would not attract equally able and equally good men. The hon. Member for Pembroke had put a very bold view before the Committee, in suggesting that Engineers should become cadets like other officers of Her Majesty's Service, and be educated as a scientific branch of officers in that Service. That was thrown out as a counter-suggestion to one from the First Lord, that persons of higher social position than those who entered the Engineer Service should be attracted to the performance of these important engineering duties. From all the evidence we had on the subject, it appeared that it was not money, but position, on the part of the Engineer on beard ship that was looked to; but they had to think of the safety of their ships and to consider whether the authority of the engineer was so great and so well defined as it ought to be; and whether it was sufficient to enable him to prevent a recurrence of such accidents as had happened lately. It was to be hoped that the Government would look at the question, not as an Engineer's grievance, or as a matter of a few hundreds or thousands of pounds, more or less, but in that broad light in which the importance of the subject demanded that it should be viewed. He should rejoice with the First Lord if it should be found possible to attract a higher class of men to the Service; but the problem which the Government had to solve was to keep the Engineers as a practical working 177 class, up to their duties, and at the same time to secure their proper position on beard; and, in order to do that, they must either give them higher pay or superior rank. The Report showed that the Engineers had great difficulty in getting cabin accommodation and other little comforts, and that social recognition which must contribute to the authority of officers on board, and lie trusted the Committee might be re-assured that the Government would look upon this, not as a small matter, but as demanding so much attention that every Member of the Board would be acquainted with their policy. He had next to call attention to the education of the Naval Cadets of the Britannia. No portion of our naval arrangements was more important than the education of our naval officers. He wished to know whether the supervision of the officers and of the very large staff on board the Britannia was thoroughly and adequately carried out, and whether the transactions that took place could not have been stopped, if the officers had been more vigilant and the supervision better. Or had there been a different class of boys introduced since the class of competitive examination was abolished which formerly governed the admission to the Britannia? Bullying, at least, there had been; but the right hon. Gentleman said that there was bullying at all the public schools; but then in the case of public schools, the parent had the choice of the school to which he would send his child, while, with respect to the Britannia, that vessel was, so to say, the only avenue through which a parent could send his son into the Navy. To turn to another part of this important subject, he had to point out that there were only two turret ships in commission—the Monarch and the Devastation. [Mr. HUNT: The Hotspur and the Rupert.] Yes, but they had been commissioned only for a particular duty with reference to the complications in the East. It was of much importance in his (Mr. Goschen's) view, that the Monarch and the Devastation had been some time in commission as ordinary sea-going ships, because if our seamen had not been sent to sea in such vessels, they could not possibly, in time of necessity, feel at home in them. They could not be expected to do the duty required of them in time of war, if they had not 178 become somewhat accustomed to it in time of peace. It used to be said at Portsmouth that the man who would send a sailor to sea in the Devastation, would be guilty of manslaughter, but now that she had been tested on active service and the Thetis rescued, that theory could not be sustained. With regard to the Admiralty programme of last year, the hon. Member for Pembroke had subjected the Government to a very searching criticism, and the questions he had raised had not been satisfactorily answered. It had been stated by the Secretary to the Admiralty that it had been found necessary to change some of the details of the programme; but the difference in the amounts was £250,000, and no satisfactory explanation of the expenditure of such a largely increased sum had been given. He thought the right hon. Gentleman opposite ought to give full explanation upon the point, for Parliamentary control became almost a delusion when not a single word of explanation was given respecting that increase. Then, as to the comparative amount of shipbuilding done by the two Governments, he would merely enter his protest against the system of taking one year of the late Administration and comparing it with the average of the work accomplished by the present Administration. He did not think that the Government could complain that the Estimates had been criticized in a carping spirit. It was a matter of supreme importance, and he would like to know what was to be the policy of Her Majesty's Government with reference to the Engineers and the Marine officers; and he trusted that the Government would not call upon the Committee to vote any additional money, until it was known how the increased liabilities had been incurred, what was to be the cost of the new ship, and what were the arrangements on board the Britannia. The mere fact of how much the vessel was to cost could not, he was sure, communicate to foreign Governments any information as to her type or her class.
§ MR. HUNT
said he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) that the Government had no reason to complain of the way in which the Estimates and their naval policy had been discussed. He was always exceedingly glad to hear the views of hon. Members 179 on whatever side they sat, and he felt that he might pick up many hints from the discussion on these occasions. That debate had ranged over very wide ground, embracing the kind of ships they ought to build and the kind they ought to put in commission; also the question of torpedoes, and again the question of the treatment and the behaviour of the cadets on board the Britannia. He would endeavour to deal with the different points which had been raised. With regard to the Britannia, the right hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to think that the alteration which had been made in the mode of admission to that training ship might have caused bullying to increase there. He could, however, re-assure the right hon. Gentleman on that head. Almost immediately after he (Mr. Hunt) went to the Admiralty, he found that there were great complaints of the bullying on board of that ship; and he adopted what some thought very severe measures, for which, indeed, he had been taken to task by an hon. Member below the Gangway. Mainly, however, he believed, in consequence of the severity of those measures, the bullying had very much diminished on beard the Britannia, and for the last two years he had been troubled with very few complaints on the subject. As he stated the other day, he did not regard bullying as wholly eradicated from the Britannia; but at the present moment, as far as he was able to judge according to the Report which he had lately received, it had been reduced to a very small compass. He did not venture to say that there were now no cases of bullying, and he certainly did not treat the matter lightly, but looked upon it very seriously, and was anxious to put an end to the practice. Certain boys, however, would be bullies whatever school they might go to; and he believed that from the nature of boys it was almost impossible entirely to prevent that. It was now the custom in the Britannia to trust to the honour of the boys more than was done formerly. There used to be ships' corporals appointed to act as spies on the boys during playhours; but that system had since been superseded by putting the boys more upon their honour, and he believed that the change had answered exceedingly well, and that there was much less of that disagreeable 180 practice than there was previously. Passing to a very different subject raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he might mention that when he (Mr. Hunt) made his proposals last year with regard to shipbuilding, he informed the Committee that they intended to build six ships of the Opal class, and also that the type of the ship was open to some modification. The engines of 200 indicated horse-power were larger than those which were at first contemplated. That circumstance made a considerable difference in the expense previously estimated, and he believed that that and other alterations caused a difference of £20,000 upon each ship. The right hon. Gentleman had said that liabilities were incurred without Parliamentary sanction. He believed that last year he had incurred some liabilities because of the interests of the public service. In regard to the engines of the Mercury, however, he could hardly be said to have been without Parliamentary sanction; because in the Estimates, they had the sanction of the House for the construction of the Mercury, and it was only a question of time as to the putting in of her engines, because nobody could suppose that Parliament intended to sanction her hull only and not her engines also. It had been thought desirable to order the engines for the Mercury earlier than was at first deemed necessary. £93,000 was put down for the engines of the Mercury. That sum was not put down last year. His right hon. Friend was astonished at the sum, but he must remember that these two ships were intended to go 18 knots an hour, and therefore they were to be engined with very great power indeed. Well, there were some other smaller matters. He believed some change was made in the engines of the Pelican, and that there were some small differences in the contract prices of some others. The hon. Member for I Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) criticized. his (Mr. Hunt's) statement with regard to the programme, and had said its proposals were not fulfilled; but he believed he was quite correct in his statement. He had figures prepared for him by the proper department, and be believed that, taking the same basis for estimated work and fulfilled work, as between different Governments, he stated with perfect accuracy what had been done. The 181 hon. Member criticized the basis on which his (Mr. Hunt's) statements were made, and no doubt they were open to some of the observations of the hon. Gentleman. As was stated in the Estimates, the tonnage was reckoned, not according to the number of men employed, but according to the actual amount of money spent on a ship. That was a mode of calculation adopted, he thought, in the time of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who was dissatisfied with the calculations previously made with regard to tonnage. He (Mr. Hunt) believed it was very difficult to state tonnage accurately, and that the present mode gave the fairest notion of the amount of work that was done. What used to occur was this—a certain number of men were put down in the Estimates to be employed in building and a certain number to be employed in repairing. But when it was left optional, on account of the exigencies of the Service, to the Superintendents of Dockyards to take men off building, and put them on some ship in process of repair, it was constantly done; and the consequence was that the new ships did not make the same progress that had been estimated. He found that was in practice the first year he entered the Admiralty, and he set his face against it, and had endeavoured to put a stop to it. His rule, which he had rigidly laid down, was that no transfers of workmen should take place without special sanction, and that the men who had been told off for building should continue at that work. Talking of Superintendents reminded him of observations of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), who wanted to know whether the Government had made any alteration with regard to the responsibility of Superintendents. He could only repeat what he stated the other night—that their responsibility was complete. The hon. Gentleman went at some length into the policy of repairing ships. Well, that was sure to be a vexed question, for there was nothing on which there was likely to be more difference of opinion than on the policy of repairing a particular ship. Whatever might be done would be open to criticism. If you put by a ship you would be told that you were going to build a new ship when you had an old ship that, if repaired, would last many years. If you repaired 182 that ship, then it would be said that you were "going to spend all that money on an old ship." That was an observation anybody could make. Nobody, he believed, was more opposed than himself to the repair of old ships, and nobody, he believed, who had been at the Admiralty had ordered so many old ships to be broken up as himself. He had repaired the Lord Warden at a cost of £40,000, although it was said she ought not to have been repaired; and she was now far more powerful than any ship in the Russian Fleet in the Mediterranean last year. With regard to the Royal Alfred, she was one of the ships which in his first speech he had sot down as "dummies;" in other words, had regarded as existing only on paper; and next year he adhered to what he had previously said about those ships, but made an exception of one which might possibly be worth repairing, and that was the Royal Alfred. Before she underwent repairs she was, in accordance with his strict instructions, very thoroughly examined, and it being found that the cost would be £100,000, the idea was abandoned. [Mr. GOSCHEN: What became of the money that was voted for her repair, then?] The money was spent on other ships. The repair also of the Enchantress had been a subject of careful consideration before it was begun. It was almost impossible for anyone outside the Admiralty, and unacquainted with all the data, to form a just opinion as to the expediency of these repairs. He had been told, during the debate, that he ought not to have had her repaired, and it was even stated in some of the newspapers that an entirely new vessel could be built for £30,000. That was all well enough, but he wished to know how much would have to be spent in the dockyards afterwards in order to prepare her for sea? Moreover, the question of time was to be taken into consideration. Two years would be required to build a new despatch vessel—and they were scarce—whereas the Enchantress could be repaired within a comparatively short period. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) had returned to the subject of the Assistance and the Invincible. As to the Invincible, she had not broken down at all, but having served her commission had come home in the ordinary course. It was true she was undergoing repairs 183 and having new boilers put in, but this did not alter the fact that she had not broken down. As to the Assistance, he was informed she had damaged a gangway by scraping against a pier. That was all that could be said against her, and he made the hon. Member a present of it. The hon. Member had further said we were no better as regarded ironclad ships than we were three years ago, and that the present Board had only added so many iron-dads to the Fleet; but he did not state the whole case with regard to the amount of work done, for it was necessary also to take into account the progress which had been made with those which had been under construction. The hon. Member also was quite wrong about the number of ships launched in different years. In 1876 four iron-dads were launched, and in 1875 three were launched. In the present year five iron-dads would be launched; and when he (Mr. Hunt) went out of office, he trusted to leave to the right hon. Gentleman or his Successor some work of the same kind to complete. The next question raised was that of the rank of the Engineers; and as he (Mr. Hunt) had already stated that their rank was to be raised, it appeared to him that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gorst) had made a great deal too much of the matter. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) thought they had not gone far enough, but the Engineers themselves were tolerably well satisfied with what it was proposed to do for them. As to the remarks of the hon. Member and of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham with respect to his (Mr. Hunt's) speaking disparagingly of the Engineers, he might state that he had never done so, but he had merely quoted an extract from the Report of the Committee, and that was the only way in which he had alluded to their social status. The Committee alluded to that as a serious fact which had to be considered in reference to the raising of the position of the Engineers. It was impossible to raise their position without considering their social status. They were the superior men of their class, and he had great pleasure in seeing them at his own table, and he was always glad to see them. At the same time, there was no use in disguising the fact that there was a difficulty in placing men of such different 184 social status in the same mess. It was found practically that it did not produce harmony in a ship, but discord. The question, therefore, was really a serious one, for it must be remembered that when they first entered the Service, not having had to associate with the same class as the administrative officers, they had those social disadvantages which prevented the latter from treating them on an equality. The Select Committee also recommended that we should endeavour to attract to the Engineering Profession for the Navy persons belonging to a higher social stratum. Moreover, the Committee proposed that they should belong to the military branch of the profession, but that they should never have command. This certainly would not be placing them on a par with the executive officers, and it went to the length of the suggestion of Admiral Fellowes, who said that they should be reckoned in the military branch, but never have the command of the ship. That seemed to him (Mr. Hunt) to give with one hand and take back with the other. He thought it would be quite proper, at some future day, to place the Engineers amongst the military officers. Without going that length, the Admiralty proposed to raise the pay of Engineer officers and artificers, and to make better arrangements for their comfort. The Government proposed that Chief Engineers of more than 10 years' standing should rank with Commanders according to seniority; that Chief Engineers of less than 10 years' standing with lieutenants of eight years' standing; that Chief Engineers of less than eight should rank with sub-lieutenants according to date of commission. He was glad to find that the Engineers received what was done for them as more than they expected, both in pay and position, and he trusted the improvements proposed would give satisfaction, and make the officers contented with the Service in which they were engaged. He did not say that this was to be a final settlement of the question, and it was possible that in a few years something more might be conceded. The hon. Member for Falmouth (Mr. D. Jenkins) suggested that we should leave our iron-dads and other expensive ships in harbour, and exercise our seamen in ships of less value. He (Mr. Hunt) had anticipated that suggestion 185 by promoting the employment of sailing vessels for exercise; but remembering the remark of a warrior of ancient days, when he declined to wear armour of the best construction because he had not proved it, he (Mr. Hunt) thought that our officers and men would not go with confidence into action on board an ironclad if they had not had some previous experience in handling one. The great object should be to give officers and men experience of all the different parts of a ship in use in the Navy, and particular pains to select as officers of the great iron-dads those who had shown great ability in managing ships of less value. As to the Devastation, he had himself expressed the greatest doubt as to whether she should be considered a sea-going ship—at all events, without a trial. Orders were given for that trial, and the Devastation was sent round the coast with the Channel Squadron, and having thereby gained confidence in her, the Admiralty had determined to send her to the Mediterranean, when her behaviour in crossing the Bay of Biscay fully justified their taking that course, her commander stating that she might be trusted to go anywhere and to do anything. Had she been kept all the time in harbour, he confessed that he should not have felt altogether justified, in the event of a naval war, in sending her to sea. From the experience gained by her behaviour he had now the same confidence in the Thunderer and in other similar ships, and this was certainly a considerable advance. The hon. Member for Pembroke had asked him questions as to the size and the cost of the torpedo ram. Her size was about 2,000 tons, but he could not state exactly what her cost would be, although it might be calculated approximately from her tonnage. The Admiralty had been challenged to-night to state whether they were going to permit the Italian Government to surpass them in heavy armour and in guns of large calibre without attempting to produce anything to match them. The matter had certainly engaged his serious attention, and he would admit that we were not, for this reason—when the Italians had settled what the form of these monstrous ships was to be, then he thought it would be easy for us, with our enormous resources, having given them that start in point of time, at any time to 186 overtake them. Unless he could not help it, he was not desirous of building ships of this enormous size, and he was rather disposed to take the view that small ships would be more effective in most cases than large ones. He had approved of the Inflexible, and two smaller ships were to be built on the same principle. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Admiralty were unanimous as to the desirability of building another Agamemnon. With respect to torpedo ships, he agreed with what the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) had said in reference to them, and he had had the pleasure of receiving the President of that Assembly—Mr. Speaker—on board a torpedo ship that day. It was quite true that while she could not go far to sea, and was too large to be conveyed on board an ironclad, she could be employed with great advantage within certain limits in many of our harbours, and that she would be a valuable addition to our Navy. Then as to the Marine Service, it could not be denied that it was very desirable to do away with the stagnation of promotion which had too long prevailed in that valuable corps, and as that was the object of the scheme, he hoped the Committee would not do anything to interfere with it.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he was not against the Vote, but he would like to know how the money would be employed?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
asked, whether the decision of the Committee was expected before the end of the Session?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Gourley.)
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that the Vote should be reduced by £1,000 for the changes for the Marines, which should be laid on the Table in the form of a Supplemental Vote.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that the Committtee had not yet reported. The money could not be spent until they had reported.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. D. JENKINS
moved to reduce the Vote by £5,600, alleging that the Engineer officers were as well paid as the Executive officers, and by their want of experience many mishaps occurred to Her Majesty's ships, notably the Thunderer. Neither was there responsibility so great as was supposed.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £2,678,448, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Wages, &c. to Seamen and Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1878.
§ After a short reply, in opposition to the Motion, from Mr. HUNT,
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,178,610, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victuals and Clothing for Seamen and Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1878.
§ MR. PARNELL,
in moving that Progress be reported, said, he thought the Government were rather unreasonable in endeavouring to take that Vote after the discussion on the last Motion, which, so far as he could understand, simply seemed to have been introduced to take up the time of the House. He hoped the Government did not propose to detain the Committee to divide upon the Motion, he (Mr. Parnell) was about to move. It was no intention of his to obstruct the Business of the House. ["Oh! oh!"] He had never done so, nor should he do so, unless it became necessary. But there was a considerable distinction between obstruction and proceeding with Business in a slipshod manner.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Parnell.)
§ Mr. GOSCHEN
said there was no opposition to the Vote, and he therefore thought it might be agreed to.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow, Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.