§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The Estimates to which I have now the honour to ask the attention of the Committee are Estimates framed, as the Committee will see, upon what I may term a normal condition of affairs. It became my duty to consider early in the year what character of supplies I should, ask from the House for the conduct of the Department over which I have the honour to preside; and I came to the conclusion—which I am afraid may not be entirely shared by some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House—that it was not my duty at a time of peace, which I hope will continue, to ask the House of Commons for any considerable increase in the provision for the Navy. Therefore, the Estimates which are now submitted are of a very unambitious character. I have not thought that I should venture to change in any very considerable degree the policy which I found in existence, and which the experience and ability of my Predecessor left for my consideration.
It may be for the convenience of the Committee that I should now proceed, Vote by Vote, to ask attention to what is now proposed to be demanded of the country. The Committee will see that in the Vote for Men and Wages there is no sensible increase. The number of men provided for is precisely the same as that provided for in former years; and I may take the opportunity of saying that after careful investigation and inquiry, I am 1405 satisfied that the supply of seamen is sufficient to ensure the ample protection of the shores of this country and to preserve the honour and interests of the nation. We have men enough in the Coastguard and in the Marines on shore to man every ship which it would be possible for us to put in the Fleet at the present moment; and we have also the Royal Naval Reserve, which is available for us to fall back upon. It may be interesting to the Committee to know what the Naval Reserves consist of. There are in the first Reserve, of Coastguard men entered from the Fleet, 332 officers, of whom 226 are chief officers, fit for quarter-deck duty, and 3,968 seamen, mostly qualified for petty officers' ratings. As hon. Gentlemen know, the flower of the Service is to be found in the Coastguard; consisting, as it does, of men of high character, experience, and training. All are borne on ships' books, and are liable to serve in the Fleet, and they receive the naval pay of their ratings. They are bound by written contracts to serve in the Fleet, and if called upon, their places can be supplied by Pensioners who are not fit for service at sea. The second Reserve—the Royal Naval Reserve—consists of two classes. In the first there are 12,135 first-class men, able seamen of the Mercantile Marine. These men have received £10 4s. a-year, and are annually called up and drilled. There are 5,479 men of the second class, principally drawn from the fishing population, who receive £7 17s. each annually; they serve under an engagement for five years, and can be called out by Royal Proclamation to serve with the Fleet in any part of the globe. I have thought it my duty to inquire how soon those men could be made available, and I find that they could certainly be brought together as soon as it would be possible to provide ships to put them in. It will be seen that, so far as the personnel of the Fleet is concerned, there is an ample supply of men and officers to meet any emergency which is at all likely to occur. There is still a third Reserve—the Seamen Pensioners Reserve—consisting of 850 men, who are enrolled to keep up their efficiency in drill. They receive the naval pay of their ratings for 14 days' drill annually, become entitled to the Greenwich Hospital age pension at 50 instead of 55 years of age, and cost about £1,000. The annual drill keeps up 1406 their efficiency to whatever it may have been, and their efficiency is from time to time tested by the visits of a competent Inspector. There are also the Royal Navy Artillery Volunteers, enrolled for the defence of the coast, and consisting of 1,025 men, who come from all classes, and cost the country £1,500. There is a small increase in the Vote for Wages, arising, as is known to hon. Members acquainted with the details of the Service, from the fact that there is a larger number of ships than usual in commission at the present time; and it has been found necessary, therefore, to give full-pay instead of half-pay to the officers, who are employed in greater numbers.
Now, there is one feature in connection with the Fleet about which I may say a passing word. I refer to the addition to the Fleet during the last two years, for training purposes, of training ships. The additions are Seaflower and Eurydice, but the other brigs have been employed for training purposes during the winter, which they did not use to be. We have received the most satisfactory reports from the officers commanding these vessels, and from the commander of the small frigate, Eurydice. As hon. and gallant Gentlemen are aware, these vessels go out for cruises of six months' duration, which tend to bring young and able seamen into a condition of discipline and efficiency, without which they would be of very little use on board men-of-war. As is known, there is difficulty in the present day in keeping up the efficiency of seamen as sailors. I, for one, do not feel prepared to recommend the addition to vessels of masts and yards, which would injure their fighting capacity, or to sacrifice to a subsidiary object the main purpose for which they are intended as fighting machines; still, the Committee will agree, with me that it is of great importance that the seaman-like qualities of the sailors should be maintained. This is the main object in employing men in a healthy and invigorating service away from the ports and from associations of a deteriorating tendency.
There is nothing to call for special remark in the Vote for Victuals and Clothing. It will be seen that there is a decrease of £32,418 in the Vote, which is £1,146,192 against £1,178,610 last year. This reduction is not due to any diminution in the quantities that have been asked for or required; but it is due 1407 to the fact that prices on the whole have been more favourable and the Department has obtained supplies on better terms. I must pay a passing tribute to one officer of the Department concerned in the management of this particular Vote. I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) will confirm me in the opinion that in the public service there is hardly a more efficient officer than Mr. Rowsell, who has charge of the contract Votes.
In the third Vote—that for the Admiralty Office—there is an addition of £5,000 to provide for what appears to have been a debt long due to some officers of the Admiralty. In 1870 a revision of the Department resulted in an economy to the public service. These revisions were accompanied by a promise, if not an undertaking, of recompense to officers who undertook work which had been done by a large number of men. I believe that a further revision may result in a still further economy, and I hope it may be effected in the course of the Session, although I am not in a position to make any statement to the Committee at present on the subject. If we do not effect any considerable economy in the cost of the establishment, I think we shall accomplish the work in a more satisfactory manner. I must refer to one gentleman who is no longer an officer of the Admiralty —Mr. Vernon Lushington, the late permanent Secretary. It must not be considered that this gentleman, who possesses great ability, and is a man of most excellent qualities, has been dismissed from the Admiralty from any fault of his own. He found himself in a position which did not afford scope for the abilities he possessed; and shortly after I had the honour of being appointed to my present position, he expressed his willingness to retire from the Department, and I was glad to have the opportunity of recommending him to the Lord Chancellor for an appointment which his abilities well qualify him to discharge. He has retired upon a pension; but so long as he retains the office of County Court Judge, the pension is suspended, except as regards £250 a-year, which is compensation for a house he formerly occupied, and which is required by the Admiralty for other purposes. The effect, therefore, of the change has been one which tends to the improvement of the 1408 administration of the Admiralty—not by any means through any want of zeal or ability on the part of Mr. Lushington— and great economy in the public service.
As to Vote 4, it requires very few remarks from me. It relates to the Coastguard Service. The Vote is a normal one, and the few remarks made about the Naval Reserves will apply to that Vote.
Vote 5 deals with the scientific branch, and here I have only to remark that there is very little change, and that the change is rather in the direction of reduction than otherwise. We hope that the cost of the observations with regard to the Transit of Venus will be brought in during this financial year. It must be admitted that the expense attending on the Royal Naval College at Greenwich is very considerable; still, we can hardly pay too dearly if we obtain a real scientific knowledge and approved ability and capacity to discharge their duties in the officers appointed to Her Majesty's ships. I believe that the Institution itself is a most efficient one at the present time, and I am engaged with my Colleagues in seeing how far we can render it still more valuable to the younger officers of the Fleet.
Now I come to Vote 6, which is the Vote upon which the House of Commons, I think, generally feels the greatest possible interest. It is the Vote for the Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad; and I will, with the permission of the Committee, consider this Vote together with Vote 10, Sections 1 and 2. They are bound up together, and it will be convenient that I should take them together. Vote 6, as I have said, is for Dockyards, and Vote 10 is for Naval Stores, and Building and Repairing Ships by Contract and Machinery. The Votes which we proposed for these last year were, on the whole, £3,590,980. This year we are within £500 of the same sum. I think it may be convenient that I should refer, first of all, to the work which was promised to be done last year. It is always a matter of interest to the Committee to ascertain whether the undertakings which were made by the Government at the beginning of the year were fulfilled at the close. Upon that I must admit that there is to all appearance a considerable failure to complete the amount of work winch was 1409 promised. In the programme for 1877–8 the shipbuilding work was grouped as follows:—It was intended that in the Royal Dockyards 8,621 tons of iron-clad shipbuilding should be constructed, upon which 3,308 men were to be employed. It was intended that 41 unarmoured ships should be built, or advanced, amounting to 5,619 tons, employing 2,863 men. The total tonnage expected to be built, then, was 14,240. The tonnage actually built as far as we can tell—we have not yet arrived at the end of the financial year; and it is possible, and indeed probable, that the opportunity for increased activity which the Vote of Credit has given us to hasten the completion of some of those ships will alter this somewhat—up to the 31st of March will be 11,538, against the 14,240 provided for in the programme. I may now explain to the Committee how it was that this deficiency arose. It has been principally in the Inflexible, the Ajax, and the Agamemnon; and these ships have been held back on account of the doubt which existed in the public mind with reference to the construction of the first-mentioned ship. The loss in the Inflexible is 923 tons, in the Ajax 570 tons, and in the Agamemnon 1,123 tons, making a total of 2,616 tons, amounting very nearly to the difference between what was proposed and what was accomplished. The further difference is explained by the new Agamemnon having been stopped altogether. The work has been further delayed in consequence of the proposition to build torpedo ships requiring further consideration, and some experiments that have been carried on in regard to steel armour plating. These experiments, which promise satisfactory results, have not yet been concluded. The torpedo ram announced by my Predecessor was not put in hand immediately, as it appeared desirable that further consideration should be given to the subject. It is now about to be proceeded with. It is a ship of very novel construction, and it appeared desirable that further consideration should be given to it by the Board of Admiralty. I am glad to say that the actual labour which would have been employed on these ships has been most profitably employed in hastening forward the repairs to the ships now almost completed.
1410 These ships are the Hercules, the Monarch, the Triumph, the Invincible, the Penelope, and the Prince Albert, all of which have been considerably advanced, and the men intended to be employed in shipbuilding have been engaged in hastening repairs. The result in 1877–8 from work in Dockyards and by Contract was, that of armoured ships 6,487 tons were built, and of unarmoured ships 9,111 tons, or a total of 15,598 tons. As regards the machinery and indicated horse-power, there is very little indeed to remark; but, if the Committee desire it, I can give full information of the difference, which is comparatively slight, on that point.
I new come to the work proposed to be taken in the corning year. We propose to employ on shipbuilding in the Dockyards 5,960 men, as against 6,171 men last year—211 less. On the repairs of ships and refits, including new boilers of ships, for reliefs, for casual repairs and maintenance of ships in commission, 4,855 men, as against 4,749 last year, showing 106 more in repairs than last year; on yard manufacturers, 2,260 men, as against 2,155 men last year, showing 105 more this year. The result shows there will be, on the whole, more men employed in repairing and refitting, the difference being comparatively small. The number of vessels on which work will be done will be, on the whole, 46; and the shipbuilding involves 13,568 tons, which, compared with 14,240 tons, shows a decrease of over 600 tons. I lay great stress upon the necessity for repairing existing ships. I look upon it as the worst possible policy to allow an existing ship to become useless for want of repairs to boilers, machinery, or hull, and it will be my duty, so long as I am at the Admiralty, to see that every ship which is worth repairing—and I shall not have any ship repaired that is not worth repairing—shall be at once repaired.
But to revert to my story—which I fear I am making very long. There will be 11 armour-plated ships, amounting to 9,831 tons weight of hull, either taken in hand or advanced; two iron corvettes, 193 tons weight of hull; seven steel and iron corvettes, 544 tons; two composite corvettes, 88 tons; eight composite sloops, 1,706 tons; two composite gunboats, seven iron gunboats, two armed despatch vessels, two torpedo 1411 mooring steamers, two sailing brigs, and one mooring lighter, or 46 vessels, with a total tonnage of 13,568 tons. The vessels which will be advanced to completion are the Dreadnought, the Inflexible, the Nelson, and the Northampton. These four first-class ironclads we hope to complete within the coming financial year. The Ajax and the Agamemnon will be considerably advanced. Besides the torpedo ram, one new ironclad will be laid down at Chatham, two new ironclads at Portsmouth, and one at Pembroke.
Now, upon this question of ironclads I wish to say a word in reference to observations which fell from hon. Members on both sides of the House in the course of the recent discussion. I was pressed to consider, and with very great reason, whether it was not desirable to have a greater number of smaller ships in Her Majesty's Service. Well, I am quite prepared to admit that small ironclads are very much indeed to be desired; and if I were to express my own preference and inclination, certainly—before I became First Lord of the Admiralty—I should say that it was most strongly developed in favour of small ironclads with a light draft of water. But, as was remarked by one hon. Member yesterday, there are very serious difficulties in the way of providing small ironclads which will be thoroughly efficient in these days of heavy armour and heavy guns. If you have an efficient ship in the point of view of the Admiralty, you must have a ship which will be capable of doing very effective service with the most powerful adversary she is likely to encounter; and in these days of 25, 35, and 80-ton guns, it is a problem of very serious importance —one which requires to be very carefully weighed and considered—what should be the character of the ship to be adopted, and what the weight of the gun; and when you have decided that question, you must then decide what should be the armour to protect the gun. I think hon. Gentlemen will see that a ship with a heavy gun must be protected by a very considerable weight of armour. It would be absurd to endeavour to protect an 81-ton gun with armour which could be penetrated by a 25-ton gun shot; and it would be wrong to place a ship in a position in which she could not by her speed save herself from 1412 overwhelming odds. All these things must be taken into account before the character of the ship to be adopted can be decided upon. I can only say that the House will be informed before a decision is finally come to as to the particular type of iron-clad we may propose to build. We have not arrived at any decision upon the subject at the present moment, although our attention has been invited to designs which have great merit, and at least two of them are of the smaller rather than of the larger class. There is one class of ship which is now in course of construction, and with which we intend further to proceed—I allude to that known as the Comus class. It is a swift corvette, with boilers and machinery placed well under water, and over them a shot-proof deck. We believe that a vessel of that kind, which is not at all likely to receive a shot in a vital part, will prove to be most useful as a cruising vessel in places where it is not desirable, or perhaps possible, to provide iron-clad ships. We are also proceeding with some gunboats intended for China, which will have greater speed than those we now possess. I have said that the programme for 1878–9 shows a reduction in the number of ships to be built and a reduction in the number of men to build them; and perhaps it would be interesting to the Committee to know the provision we propose to make for the repairs of ships during the coming financial year. Acting upon the policy I have ventured to recommend to the Committee, we propose to repair this year the Sultan, the Repulse, the Swift-sure, and the Northumberland. The Monarch and the Penelope were intended to be included in the year's work; but, owing to the exertions we have made during the last few weeks, their repair will be completed during this financial year. The four I have already named, I hope will be completed in the course of the coming financial year. There will also be seven third-class cruisers, four sloops, nine gun-vessels, and two store-ships taken in hand, either for reliefs or for the First Class Reserve. The Lord Clyde will be substituted for the Excellent. Hon. Gentlemen acquainted with Portsmouth will know that the Excellent has not been considered altogether satisfactory for the last few years, and it has been decided not to use her 1413 as a gunnery ship for the future. The shipbuilding work to be done by contract during the financial year 1878–9 is as follows:—We propose to complete the Orion, one of the Turkish vessels purchased under the Vote of Credit. The amount of work to be done on that ship is 1,717 tons. Thus there will be six corvettes, steel and iron, two composite gun-vessels, 28 torpedo boats, four iron barges, and nine floating stages— in all 4,699 tons—to which must be added the torpedo flotilla, including three new vessels of the Vesuvius class. There was no provision in the Estimates of last year for torpedo boats; but I thought it my duty to make arrangements, in which my Colleagues most cordially concurred, for a supply of those vessels. They are now in course of construction, and we shall, I hope, very soon begin to receive them. They will be completed and delivered during the course of the ensuing summer. It must be borne in mind that we had at all times available a very large amount of quick steamboats, which, in case of need, could be used for the purposes of torpedo warfare, and there is not the same necessity in England for the construction of torpedo boats as exists in other countries, though, no doubt, it is more satisfactory to have a number of highly-fitted torpedo boats. I do not undervalue the torpedo boat in the least. It is a vessel which we ought always to have in hand, and we shall, as I have said, possess a supply of them in the course of a few months. [Mr. GOSCHEN: Have they been commenced?] Twenty-four of them have been in course of construction for some months. [Mr. GOSCHEN: Out of the Vote of Credit?] With respect to the Vote of Credit and its relation to this Vote, it would be more convenient, I think, that I should refrain from stating what has been done or will be done under that Vote. Indeed, it is impossible to state the circumstances and conditions of its application, and the time has not yet arrived at which it would be convenient to do so. But hon. Gentlemen are aware that we had a larger number of men employed at the Dockyards than were provided for by the Estimates, and that there was a provision in the Vote of Credit itself for the employment of those men. The Estimates now under consideration provides for the normal establishment at 1414 the Dockyards; and on deliberate consideration I thought it best—and my Colleagues entirely concurred with me —not to include in the Estimates I am now about to submit to the House any provision for the employment of a larger number of mechanics or labourers than is regarded as the normal establishment of the Dockyards. It may be necessary that the men who have been engaged should be continued to be employed during some part of the next financial year; and if that should be so, it will be my duty to ask the House for a further supply for that purpose; and I am satisfied that if the whole number be continued for six months, even with over-hour work for the new men and the establishment, the additional amount required will not exceed £160,000. But I hope it will not be necessary to ask for that provision. It is, however, only right I should state to the Committee that it is possible some provision of the kind may become necessary. I am sure they will give me credit for saying rather less than more in circumstances like the present. I omitted to give an exact account of the liabilities. Hon. Gentlemen are aware that there is a statement showing the liabilities for the year 1878–9 that have been left over from the Estimates for the year 1877–8. The contracts entered into or contemplated in the year 1877–8 throw a burden on the year 1878–9. The amount of liabilities, as estimated last year for steam machinery under Item A, Vote 10, Section 2, was £183,650, and the actual liability which we take over on the 1st of April next is £216,509, being an excess of £32,859. The excess arises in the following way. In the first place, a liability of £20,000 has been incurred to complete the engines of the Orion, which was purchased under Vote of Credit in 1877–8, and there has been a further liability of £60,000 for the engines of 22 torpedo boats, ordered in excess of last year's programme. On the other hand, engines were not ordered for a torpedo ram as contemplated, upon which £50,000 stood over. Thus an excess of £30,000 is explained, and the small difference remaining is due to adjustments of the amounts finally paid in 1876–7, and to variations between estimated and actual contract price of machinery. The liabilities in regard to ships building by contract are 1415 as follow:—The sum which it was stated would be required in future years to complete contracts was £148,457; whereas, in the Estimates for 1878–9, the amount brought forward under this item is £324,279, being an excess of £175,822. That excess arises as follows:—The balance which will have to be paid for work not yet completed on the Orion amounts, in round figures, to £125,000. To complete the 22 torpedo boats £22,000 will be required, and the strike in the Clyde caused a loss on the six corvettes of the Comus class of about £20,000. Thus £167,000 of the excess is accounted for, and the purchase of the Daisy, the Sparrowhawk, and the Psyche, with other small payments and adjustments, make up the difference. I think I have said all that the House will expect me to say now with regard to our shipbuilding progress. I repeat that I think it is the first duty of the Department to maintain our existing ships in the highest possible state of efficiency, and to take care to add to the Navy vessels as efficient as possible for the particular work they have to do. It must not be supposed, however, that we have in this respect a light and easy task, because the duties of the British Navy are very varied, and our ships of war are distributed over so many parts of the globe and exposed to so many contingencies. For example, a ship which is thoroughly fit for service in the Mediterranean might be altogether unfitted for the Pacific, and a ship which is of the greatest possible advantage in the Atlantic would not be useful in the China Seas. We require vessels which differ widely from one another, but all of which have some use and some purpose for the work they are intended to discharge. I do not mean to say that we have the very best ships which could now be built if we were able by some happy force to improvise, as it were by magic, the vessels we require. But I do say that, on the whole, looking to the work our ships have to perform and to the information we possess of the shipbuilding of other countries, I do not think we have any reason to be ashamed of the resources and of the power and of the skill of our Constructive Department. Still, whenever we have an opportunity, we shall be glad to do everything in our power to improve the ships in Her Majesty's Service.
1416 I will now pass over rapidly some of the succeeding Votes. There is really very little to say with respect to many of them. As to the Vote for Works, which is about the same as it was last year, being £539,115, as against £537,715, I need only remark in passing that the extension works at Chatham and Portsmouth are progressing rapidly. In providing dockyard accommodation at these most important ports I do not think the money has been thrown away. The advantage of having vessels secured in basins, as they will be secured at Chatham and Portsmouth, is one which will result in a very considerable saving in the actual cost of maintaining the ships which are in reserve. I think hon. Gentlemen who have seen these works will be prepared to admit that, considering their extent and magnitude, they have certainly not cost very large sums.
I come now to another Vote, which probably excites considerable interest— namely, that relating to the half-pay and the reserve pay of the officers of the Royal Marines. Hon. Members who took an interest in that most gallant and most useful corps urged my Predecessor to take into consideration the claims of the officers. It will be in the knowledge of hon. Members that an Order in Council, based upon the Report of the Committee which sat last year, has been issued, and that it considerably modifies the scheme of promotion and retirement for those officers. Now, I am happy to say that, excepting with regard to one or two individual cases—and there are always individual cases of hardship—I have not seen a single letter of remonstrance, or a single expression of dissatisfaction, at the operation of this Order in Council. It has, I believe, given general satisfaction, which is a most unusual circumstance in the case of an Order of this kind. The additional cost of the scheme this year will be £5,600. The total eventual increase will be £10,000 per annum. The scheme is based generally on that which has been adopted for the Army; but there is a difference in the age at which captains are compelled to retire. Ultimately the compensation to be given will be the same as is received by officers in the Army; but I have thought it right that officers who already had interests in a scheme of retirement pecuniarily 1417 better than that which will eventually take effect, should have their rights respected—so that I believe no officer in the Service will be pecuniarily damaged by the course taken by Her Majesty's Government.
Now, Sir, I come to the consideration of a question in which I am afraid I have, through some inadvertence of my own, excited a feeling which I should always regret to excite. The hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) put Questions to me in the earlier part of the Session with regard to the appointment of Roman Catholic chaplains to the Royal Navy, and in reply to him I stated what I really felt to be the case—namely, that however much the Admiralty might desire to make provision for the spiritual consolation of officers and seamen who professed the Roman Catholic faith, it was practically impossible to add a second chaplain to any ship in the Navy. I did not intend, however, to express the slightest want of sympathy with the claim which every man who served Her Majesty—every subject of Her Majesty —has to every possible consideration for his religious convictions. The difficulties with regard to this question are actual and real, as naval officers who profess the Roman Catholic faith perfectly well understand. It is impossible to place a Roman Catholic chaplain on a ship in the manner which is contemplated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and also by many of his Friends, if I may judge from the Amendments on the Paper. In my view, it would be the duty of the Admiralty to endeavour to make provision for the assistance of Roman Catholic clergymen in times of sickness and need, when, as I understand the matter, persons professing that faith attach peculiar importance to the presence of clergymen of their own persuasion. It will be the duty of the Admiralty to endeavour to make such provision by attaching a Roman Catholic clergyman to a Fleet of, say, five or six large ships operating at a distance from its base, and from any port, in order that in case of illness or sudden emergency, or imminent danger, he might be at hand to afford the consolations of religion which might be required. I cannot hold out any expectation of being able to provide an additional chaplain to any one ship; but I will do everything I can to bring within the reach of Roman 1418 Catholic sailors the ministrations of their priests. The hon. and learned Member for Louth will, I am sure, admit that the task I have undertaken is a difficult one. I sympathize deeply with the religious convictions of every soldier and sailor in the service of the Queen; but the necessities of the Service must be fulfilled. The life of a sailor is one which does not enable him to claim or to receive the facilities accorded to men who serve on shore; but, as I have said, I will do everything in my power on their behalf.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he proposes to do in reference to the Fleet now in the Turkish waters?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I think I have indicated as fully as I could the nature of the provision that will be made, and I may add that if there should be a hospital ship it will not be difficult to provide for the accomomdation of a chaplain in that ship. I am not at pro-sent able to say how we can provide further for that Fleet; but I will endeavour to make a provision which will be satisfactory to hon. Gentlemen.
I must now apologize to the Committee for the small amount of information which I have given them; but hon. Members must feel that a Minister, within six months of taking office in a Department which involves a largo amount of technical knowledge and detail, is not so well able to speak with the confidence and freedom which has distinguished many of his Predecessors. I followed one who did his work gallantly and well, and who left behind him a condition of things which caused little to be desired, looking at the resources he had at his command. The work of Dockyards, and the administration of the Admiralty, has been very often condemned and spoken of in terms of reprobation; but I am bound to say, if you will take the Department itself you will find it is admirably well served; and the same remark applies, as far as my observation goes, to the Dockyards— from the Admiral Superintendent down to the foremen and leading men. It had long been the object of my Predecessors to endeavour to secure a continuity of Superintendents, so that the Captain of the Steam Reserve should become Captain Superintendent of the Dockyard, and then Admiral Superintendent of the Dock- 1419 yard. That system has worked well, and we have now officers who thoroughly understand their duty, and do it well. That this is so is shown from the fact that those who visit us from foreign shores speak highly of the work done in the Dockyards, and say they are the best examples of dockyard labour possible. I have now to conclude by moving the Vote for 60,000 Men and Boys, Sea and Coast Guard Services, including 14,000 Royal Marines.
I and my Friends who are acting with me are not disposed to move the Amendments which we have on the Paper in consideration of the announcement which has just been made. But it must not by any means be understood that we consider that to be all that we might reasonably ask for; but we are quite disposed to let him try the experiment he suggests, and he will find that he has no need to be at all afraid of the physical inconveniences or any other effects that may follow from considering the religious convictions—I may say the religious rights—of the thousands of Catholic seamen in the Navy. However, we are quite disposed to give the right hon. Gentleman credit for his sincere intention to carry out the intimation he has made, in the first instance as regards the Fleet now in the Sea of Marmora; and I am quite sure he will find—as the War Office found in the Crimean War—that the appointment of religious ministers to care for the religious necessities of the men will not make them less brave soldiers or sailors in any emergency. In withdrawing the Amendments that stand in my name, I wish to express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not lose any time in considering the necessity of the appointments being made.
§ MR. SAMPSON LLOYD
thought the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty would be admitted by both sides of the House to be very satisfactory. It was generally conceded that for many years past the Navy had not contained so large a number of ships in a high state of efficiency, nor so large a number of sea-going ironclads fitted to do service in all parts of the world. That those results had been attained, notwithstanding the increased cost of materials and labour and the pressure put upon the Dockyards, at a small extra cost, amounting to £80,000 in the whole, 1420 was a subject for congratulation. The details of the statement would be dealt with by many Members of the House who had a practical acquaintance with the Navy, which he could not profess to have; but he wished to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the claims of some of the men employed in the Dockyards. In some cases a little more liberality shown to them would cause but a small addition to the annual Estimates, while it would promote the efficiency of the general work. First of all, there was a small but very useful class of men, the foremen of the Yards. Although they amounted to but 51 in all, yet they superintended the building, fitting out, and completion of every ship in the Royal Dockyards. Some of those ships cost £400,000, and the whole of that money was spent under the superintendence of the foreman of the Yard, who had the task of seeing that the different classes of men did their duty. Their wages had not been raised for a very long time, and even 20 years ago they received relatively larger salaries than now. When it was considered that certain other officials, such as Constructors, had obtained a considerable increase of pay from time to time, and that foremen of the Yards had had no increase of pay for half-a-century, he thought they had some little claim to consideration. Then there was that very important class, the Royal Naval Engineers. Ships of war were now floating masses of machinery, and the safety of each ship, and its efficiency in time of action, depended almost as much upon their skill as upon that of the captain. It was, therefore, right that they should be made satisfied with their condition. He believed they were dissatisfied; and, although not inclined to go into their case at length, he would quote the words of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) to prove that they had reason for their discontent. He said—The Royal Naval Engineer is where he was 20 years ago—a snubbed, subordinate, man, with a dozen officers to keep him in his place and look after him.Their grievances might seem to be, to some extent, sentimental, but they were, nevertheless, real; they complained of not being permitted to join the officers' mess, and of not having proper cabin accommodation. He would ask whether it was worth while to dissatisfy a re- 1421 sponsible and important body of men by refusing them such things as the joining the officers' mess and having proper cabin accommodation? Then there were the engine-room artificers, who, besides their dissatisfaction on account of the petty officers' badge, had still more substantial grievances. They joined on the understanding that they were not to wear the badge or stripes; but an order had lately been given for them to wear the badge of a chief petty officer. Was it worth while for a large body of trained workmen, on whom the efficiency of the ironclads so much depended, to be made discontented by such a matter as that? But the substantial complaint of the engine-room artificers was that, whereas the Committee recommended 50 of them to be promoted to the new grade of chief artificer, and some intimation was given that steps would be taken to carry out the recommendation, yet 22 only had been promoted, and those by a very partial selection. There had not been a single promotion of an engine-room artificer who had served on the Mediterranean or China Stations. The selection had been made by the commanding officer, and there had been a distinct breach of engagement. It was not policy to lose the good will of so useful a class of men as those by refusing what they desired. He ventured, further, to mention the case of the continuous-service men, who complained that their service in the Dockyard was not counted towards their pension. Service in the Navy was awarded a pension, and so was service in the Dockyard. But the men who had served at sea, and then were transferred to the Dockyards, found that their pensions were not granted as for continuous service. Then there were the mechanic writers, who must be skilled workmen before being allowed to obtain their appointments. They had longer hours, but were put in an inferior position to the Admiralty writers, who were clerks without their knowledge. The leading men of shipwrights, whose duty it was to scrape the bottoms of the iron-clad ships—a somewhat dangerous occupation from the poisonous matter collected thereon — would be more satisfied if conceded an increase of pay. He believed a little liberality to the classes he had mentioned would not be thrown away.
§ MR. SAMUDA
was glad to hear from what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty that, before the Shipbuilding Vote was reached, he would explain to the Committee the general character of the new iron-clads that were to be built. He had, however, not noticed in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman any intimation as to the way in which the Ajax and Agamemnon were to be finished. He should like to know whether it was contemplated to make any change whatever in them, and, if so, what change? With regard to the six steel corvettes, he had not gathered whether they were to be completed in the course of the present year. If he had understood the statement aright, the Navy was still 3,000 and 4,000 tons below what had been contemplated. It was intended last year to build 20,000 tons in the Dockyards and private Yards together, but only about 16,000 tons were built. He understood that it was intended to build about 13,500 tons in the Dockyards in the present year. Taking into account what was intended to be built in private Yards, about 18,000 tons in all were to be built; but the smallest quantity that would prevent the country from going back, allowing for depreciation and loss, was known to be 20,000 tons. Last year they were short to the extent of some 4,000 tons. That had been explained to be owing mainly to the transfer of men from building to repairing. But he had been 14 years in that House, and he had never yet known a First Lord of the Admiralty who had completed his programme, with the exception of the late Mr. Corry. The moral he should like to draw from that was, that there must be some good reason why they all fell short; and it appeared to him that it was to be accounted for in their strong desire to keep the Estimates down, and thus under-rate the necessity of repairs. Having done this, the inducement was very great to take men away from building and put them to repairing ships. He would urge upon the First Lord of the Admiralty that it would ensure his work being more perfectly completed, at the conclusion of the year, if he were to increase, considerably, the amount of work put out to be done in private Yards. If that were done, there would not be the same inducement to transfer 1423 men from one work to another. With reference to the engagement between the Shah and the Huascar, there was a misapprehension which he wished to explain. It did not appear to him that any explosion took place. The facts were that the shell struck the ship, penetrating one side, breaking up, and working its way through, struck the other; but as it kept on its course it could not have exploded. It was only a harmless burning of powder at the time of the breaking up of the shell. That was a very important and very useful fact to note.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
wished to point out to the hon. Member who had just sat down, that the programme of the Admiralty was completed in 1867–8.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, it was also completed in 1875–6, according to the Return—No. 421 of 1877—he held in his hand. In 1867–8, when the late Mr. Corry was First Lord, it would be seen that the performance rather exceeded the promise; and in 1875–6, though the wooden and composite building was a little less than the programme as to ironclads, it was quite up to the programme, and, on the whole, fulfilled the promise of the First Lord on moving the Estimates. He thought it due to the memory of two eminent men now no more to call attention to the accuracy with which they had performed their duty. He was glad to hear from the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty that they had sufficient men to man all the ships which they could by any possibility commission; not only ships belonging to the Navy, but such merchant ships as they might require for special purposes. He was not quite sure, however, whether they were entering a sufficient number of boys for the Navy; he did not think that 27,000 was quite sufficient to keep up the waste, and he should like to have some information on that subject. He believed there was some proposition as to extending the training slops; he was doubtful whether, if the Navy were to be recruited from those that at present existed only at the ports, the number of boys would be sufficient. There was no doubt that the practice of going aloft, in which seamen 1424 were formerly trained, gave them a certain amount of courage and self-possession that was of the greatest possible value. It gave them a readiness of hand and eye, which was of the utmost value; there was a considerable falling off in that respect, however. As Captain Shaw, of the London Fire Brigade, who drew upon the Navy for his men, said, last year, in evidence before a Committee of the House, the men had, in those respects, deteriorated; and that, while he could now get steady excellent men, yet they were deficient in that ability for climbing which was so extremely necessary. If the boys were now exercised aloft, it would be found to be of great advantage. He had next to thank his right hon. Friend for what had been done with regard to officers of the Marines. He had formerly been used to poster the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) to give back the rank of major to the Marines, and every year he received innumerable letters from officers stating their grievances. This year he had not a single letter, thereby showing that they were extremely well satisfied with the arrangements which had been come to in their case. With regard to the question of building additional ironclads, he was glad to see a notification in the newspapers that a vessel built for the Brazilian Government—the Independencia — had been bought for our Navy. He should be very glad if that report wore true; and he hoped the Japanese ironclads, and any others that might be obtainable, might also be purchased—whether out of the Vote of Credit or out of the Navy Estimates was immaterial—so that our Fleet was made more efficient. It was a most fortunate thing for this country that there had been a scare, if only the results were the strengthening of the Navy and the strengthening of the country. It was satisfactory to hear that the class of corvettes was to be increased; but he had not heard that the Cormorant class were to be added to, and they were very useful and efficient ships, which might fairly be increased with great advantage. With reference to torpedo boats, steps should be taken to increase their number—the greatest danger to ironclads was from torpedoes —and to protect them from those machines was a subject which had been considered by the most competent judges. 1425 Various plans had been invented; but, while hampering the ships, they gave but little protection. To be really protected, a very large ironclad ought to have, at least, three steam torpedo boats to patrol the neighbourhood, and keep off the boat attacks of the enemy. But, although the number of ironclads had been increased, there was only provision in the Estimates for 28 of those boats, and they would not be sufficient for more than nine or ten ironclads. Considering their small cost, he hoped the Government would construct many more of them. There was another class of boats he should like to see increased —he meant the boats for the defence of ports and harbours, like the Staunch. That boat had only cost £7,000, while it carried a 12-ton gun, and was capable of performing the most useful and valuable services. Harbours, like the Mersey and the Tyne, ought to be provided with a flotilla of such vessels, ready to be manned by the Coastguard or Reserve men at the approach of a hostile ship. He would be very glad to see some provision in the Estimates for the defence of the ports and harbours, based on the construction of that class of boats. As to the extension of Chatham and Portsmouth Dockyards, the information that had been given was most satisfactory. They had Dockyards with which Kiel and Wilhelmshaven could not compare. They could not in these days afford to be behind other nations in the construction of such places, and he congratulated the House on the statement which had been made on that subject. It was extremely satisfactory to know how far the works were advanced at Chatham and Portsmouth, and that there was a determination to complete them. With regard to the extra men in the Dockyards, he should like to know whether the charge for them would be covered by the £109,600 mentioned—those men having been engaged for eight months certain. On the question of Roman Catholic chaplains, the difficulty was where to put them. All ships having a crew of 180 to 200 men were entitled, by the Regulations, to have chaplains. About 12 per cent of the seamen were Roman Catholics—that was, in about 60,000 men, 5,000 were Roman Catholics, who were disposed of in various ways. Consequently, in such ships as the Alexandra, with 600 seamen on board, 50 would 1426 probably be Roman Catholics. As a chaplain was not given for less than 200 men, 50 could not be entitled to one. Although he recommended the right hon. Gentleman to do everything to secure seamen the ministration of priests of their own religion, yet there was the greatest difficulty in finding a place on board ship for them. The only way in which it could be done—if he might make a playful suggestion—was to give a Roman Catholic commander a ship manned entirely by seamen of his own faith, with a chaplain. In the same manner, if the officers and men were of that faith, they might have a Presbyterian chaplain. But, speaking seriously, he had no doubt that everything would be done, by providing chaplains at the hospital ships, to remove the grievances. While at sea one clergyman could not possibly communicate with any of the seamen on board of the other vessels; but in harbour the men could attend their own place of worship. The present system had the advantage of numbers on its side, and it could not be expected that the 12 per cent could make the 88 per cent give way to it; but whatever was possible to be done would, no doubt, be done.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, the Estimates for the present year so closely resembled those for the preceding, that he had come to the same conclusion as that stated by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that he had been so short a time at the Admiralty that he had not thought himself justified in adopting any new and important policy, or in reversing the decisions of his Predecessor. The House, he was sure, would give him every consideration in that respect, nor would it expect him prematurely to come to any decision on many important points. It was satisfactory to know that the Estimates were of a normal and unambitious character, and that the Vote of Credit was hitherto the only warlike symptom, and that would expire at the end of a year. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would, at no distant date, explain what was really to be done under the Vote of Credit—how much had been spent on more ironclads, and how much on dockyards, on shipbuilding, on repairs, and on stores; for from the manner in which that Vote was mixed up with the Estimates, it was all but impossible to judge what 1427 had been done in the Dockyards. It would also be desirable that the House should have some information on the precise character of the ironclads which had been bought from the Turkish Government, and the other vessels which had been acquired under the Vote of Credit. Those vessels had been actually added to the Navy, and it was right that information with respect to them should be given. He believed the vessels belonging to the Turkish Government wore extremely valuable; and had the Government asked for a Supplementary Vote for their purchase, he believed no objection would have been made. They had been told that the work of shipbuilding was somewhat behindhand, and there appeared to be a deficiency of 3,000 tons in the Dockyard work during the past year. That was on account of the work having been retarded on the Inflexible, Ajax, and Agamemnon. But if the work were retarded on those ships, it would have been possible to have proceeded with others. That was an excuse which was good as far as it went, but was not altogether sound and good; for if men were taken off these new ships, the Inflexible, Ajax, and Agamemnon, it would not have been impossible to have put them on the other vessels. He had no doubt good reason could be alleged for the delay—that there was pressure with the work at the Dockyards in fitting out vessels for employment in the East. But it would have been better to have taken a Supplementary Vote, rather than to have withdrawn the number of men employed in shipbuilding. From the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, he gathered that it was proposed to lay clown, in the present year, four new ironclads and one torpedo ram, which was not begun during the past year. He gathered from this that there were to be five new ironclads. That was a very large number of vessels to be commenced in one year. No doubt, however, it was rendered necessary by the fact that, within the last two years, no new ironclads had been laid down. He would point out, however, that there was an increased responsibility on the right hon. Gentleman of a very serious character. He was glad, therefore, to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that he would lay a statement before the 1428 House at no distant date as to the nature of the designs on these now ships. He did not, however, expect that the right hon. Gentleman would do more than state generally the nature of the vessels, without entering into such specific details as would enable those vessels to be minutely criticized. He did not think such minute criticism desirable. He thought it desirable that the First Lord should take upon himself and his Board the responsibility of deciding what the designs should be; and although it was reasonable and right that he should acquaint the House with the general nature of the types of these vessels, it was not desirable that the responsibility for the designs should be shifted to the House of Commons. Nor did he approve the plan proposed of having at the Admiralty a standing Committee of scientific and naval men, to whom designs should be referred. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that in France there was such a Committee, and he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) quite agreed with the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman that such a Committee was more likely to be an obstruction than an aid to the Admiralty. He believed that such had been found to be its operation in France. At the same time, he would venture to suggest that, at a time when a new departure was made, when entirely new designs were adopted—at such a time it might be desirable to appoint a certain number of men outside the Admiralty, to whom might be referred designs of great novelty and importance for their general advice. This he said, because he found it had not unfrequently happened, when vessels of this great novelty were constructed, the public mind became excited, and it was found necessary to have recourse to a Committee of scientific men outside the Admiralty. What had occurred in the case of the Devastation, and more recently in that of the Inflexible, showed the expediency of taking advice outside the Admiralty where new designs, involving great expense, were involved. Inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman had promised not to bring on Vote 6 or Vote 10 that night, and that thus the House would have another opportunity of discussing the Dockyard Vote, he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) should not refer further to what he had said on this point. With reference to other points 1429 not mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, there were two on which he hoped to have heard something from the right hon. Gentleman. One was the appointment of naval cadets. A rumour had reached him (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make some change in the appointment of naval cadets. It was a subject which he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had twice brought before the House, and he would again have given Notice with regard to it, had he not had the expectation that the right hon. Gentleman himself would have made some statement on the subject. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the most serious attention to the subject. Great disadvantage had resulted from the change made by the late Mr. Hunt. That change amounted to a restoration of the system of pure nomination. He had already pointed out on two occasions the prejudicial results which had followed. The right hon. Gentleman approached the subject with a fresh mind, and with no predisposition against the modern system of competition, which held that those appointments should be given to those who showed the best ability. For these reasons, he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way towards returning to the system established by his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefraet (Mr. Childers). The other question to which he wished to refer was that of the boilers. More than four years ago this matter was brought under the notice of the House. Before his right hon. Friend behind him and he himself had left office, they had determined to appoint a Committee on the subject. He believed Mr. Hunt acted on their Minute; for almost immediately on entering office, he appointed a Committee to investigate the causes of the rapid deterioration in boilers. It was most unsatisfactory that that Committee had been four years in existence and had not yet completed its work; for while the Committee was sitting the boilers were wearing away. The evidence before the Committee showed that boilers in the Navy did not last more than five or six years; and it was clear, therefore, that nearly a whole set of boilers for the Navy had been worn out while the Committee was making its investigations. It was really monstrous, after the assurances 1430 so frequently made, that they were about to send in their final Report, that this Committee should not have come to some conclusion. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had waded through the bulky volume they had already laid before the House, and a great part of the volume it was waste of time to study. The Members of the Committee had been about the country; had held a great many meetings, and had examined a great many important witnesses; and yet he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) failed to find that they had discovered any new facts. The really valuable information was contained in the Appendix under two Returns—the one Return showing the average duration of boilers in the Merchant Service, and a similar Return with regard to the boilers in the Navy. When they compared these two statements, they would see what a difference there was between the two. If, for instance, they looked at the Report given by the Inman Lines, they would find some cases of the most extraordinary character. They would find that boilers had lasted for over 10 years; and, not only this, but that the mileage run was extremely large. He should like to bring one or two cases to the attention of the House. In the City of Antwerp, the boilers had been put on board in 1866; they lasted for eight years, the distance run being 539,000 miles, and they were represented to be still in a good condition, and likely to last two years longer. Some cases in the Navy were quite as extraordinary the other way. Thus, the Daphne received her boilers in 1866; and she was paid off in 1870, four years after. After two years and four months of active service corrosive action had set in; the boilers were condemned; and he saw by the Report of the Principal Engineer of the Admiralty on this case, that the cause alleged for this was inexperienced management. This was a most important question; it was not one merely of cost, but of continued efficiency, for if the boilers were to wear out in this way, vessels would be laid up for months at a time when they were most needed. No one could read the Appendix without seeing that the evil was due, on the whole, to inefficient engineers. That inefficiency was, in the main, due to want of service, and partly, also, to the general inferiority of the position of the engineer. The expedient proposed last 1431 year was a mere palliative of a temporary character, and it would be a great misfortune if the whole question were not again considered. He was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that he proposed to do something in respect of the Roman Catholic chaplains. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) did not quite understand what the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do. As far as he could gather, the right hon. Gentleman proposed to put a chaplain within reach of the Roman Catholic sailors where a great many of Her Majesty's ships were collected together; but how he proposed to do this the right hon. Gentleman did not explain. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it would not be advisable to have two chaplains of such opposite creeds on board each vessel; and the result, he thought, would be that they would soon have no chaplain at all. He hoped they would hear from the right hon. Gentleman at greater length; but with the general tone of the right hon. Gentleman's observations he agreed, and he certainly hoped that Roman Catholic sailors should have those ministrations in their own religion which they no doubt desired. He could only say, for his own part and on the part of those beside him, that they would do their best to assist the right hon. Gentleman carrying their Votes. With the exception of Votes 6 and 10,—which, considering their matter and. the fact that this discussion had come on somewhat unexpectedly, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would postpone—he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) would offer no opposition to the right hon. Gentleman's proposals.
§ MR. HOLT
said, he would not then discuss the question of Roman Catholic chaplains for the Fleet. He was not able fully to understand the proposal of the Government; indeed, the only thing clear from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman on the point was that there was to be an increase in the number of Roman Catholic chaplains in the pay of the Government. That arrangement might be perfectly satisfactory to some hon. Gentlemen; but there were a number of Members on that—the Ministerial—side of the House who would not view it with satisfaction. It would meet with opposition at the proper time; and what he wanted to know from the right hon. Gentleman was the precise manner in which the 1432 Vote would come before the Committee? Was it arranged for in the Estimates as they now stood, or were they to have Supplementary Estimates?
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
My hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) has very properly said that the kernel of the bulky Volume presented to the House by the Admiralty Committee on Boilers is to be found in the Appendix. I consider the tables presented to that Committee by the great Steam Companies most suggestive. It was impossible that the Committee could suggest any more efficacious system for the preservation of the boilers than that which has been adopted with such admirable results by the Inman, Cunard, and other Companies. I consider that what is most necessary in order to introduce an efficient service in the Steam Department of the Navy is that our engineers should have opportunities of acquiring experience in that excellent system of management which exists in the Merchant Navy. No doubt the Admiralty have established a very good system of theoretical training in the Dockyards and at Greenwich, but what is really wanted is practical experience in the management of steam machinery. I believe that under the present system the engineers, on the completion of their theoretical course, pass at once into sea-going ships. It is quite obvious that young engineers leaving Greenwich cannot possess much practical knowledge, and the evidence taken perfectly establishes that point. It is not to be expected that they should be competent. The Chief Engineer has to give himself additional trouble, and assist these young engineers on the watch, until they have acquired some experience. That is all very well in time of peace; but, if these engineers are employed actively in war service, it is practically impossible that the Chief Engineer should exert himself in this way. It is absolutely requisite that every engineer should be thoroughly competent for the duties he has to perform; and the great cause of the present want of efficiency is the want of practice. In times of peace, our ships are necessarily a great deal in harbour; and they are very seldom called upon to make long voyages at high speed. In the Merchant Service—in the Atlantic Service more particularly, owing to the great 1433 competition which now exists—the vessels are in the most active employment; they are driven at a very high speed, and are allowed to remain only a very short time in harbour. The Engineering Department is called upon to keep these ships in a thorough state of efficiency, which, in fact, are as constantly at sea, and as severely worked in the same way as the Navy would be in time of war. If the Admiralty could make arrangements, by which the junior engineers could serve as supernumeraries in these ships for one or two years, a great benefit would be conferred on the Navy; because the engineers would thus acquire that practical experience in which they are so deficient at the present time. The present want of skill in the Engineering Department causes expense, not merely in the renewal of the boilers themselves, but in the material injury to the vessel which the removal of boilers frequently causes. A large amount of shipwrights' work is necessitated by the replacing of boilers. Nor is the expense the only question; for, under the present system, a large number of ships may be under repair at the time when their services are most required. Mismanagement of boilers involves a further disadvantage in the loss of speed, from a premature reduction in the pressure of steam. For all these reasons, I think the Admiralty is bound to consider the means of improving the Engineering Department. The status and pay of the engineers has been considered by successive Boards of Admiralty. I hope that, in the changes which may take place, there will be a diminution in the number of engineers aspiring to the rank of officers, and an increase in the number of those practical men who are, I believe, called engine-room artificers. If we give a very high mathematical education to our engineers, we cannot expect them willingly and readily to undertake the manual work which it is so very necessary for the engineer often to perform. We want a greater number of skilful workmen in the engine-room, and a smaller number of officers. I should be very sorry to view with jealousy the aspirations of any class of persons; but I must confess that when I hear complaints from engineers in the Navy that they are not invited to balls and other similar entertainments at the ports they 1434 visited, I cannot help thinking that we are running into some danger in giving so high a training to a class of men, a large proportion of whom are required to do manual labour. The training of the officers and seamen of the Navy for their difficult and responsible duties is one of the most important questions with which the Admiralty has to deal. We have established training ships for seamen, and have organized a complete curriculum for officers, commencing at the Britannia and winding up with a course of study in the higher branches of the Naval Profession at Greenwich. Theoretically, the training now established both for officers and seamen leaves nothing to be desired. There is, however, reason to fear that the altered character of the modern Navy, the reduction in the number of ships in commission, the introduction of steam, the multiplication of armoured vessels, which are more powerful for battle than satisfactory as a school of training for seamen, the system of relieving the crews on foreign stations by sending out reliefs in transports, and the opening of the Suez Canal, which has so materially shortened the length of the passages under sail out and home to distant foreign stations, have tended to deprive the Naval Service of opportunities which it formerly enjoyed. The continuous-service system, which has enabled the Admiralty to supply a crew to every ship as soon as she is commissioned, has of necessity led to the accumulation of seamen in time of peace in the receiving ships at the home ports. It is satisfactory to know that the Admiralty have large numbers of seamen at their disposal. On the other hand, a long residence in port cannot but be prejudicial to lads who have just left the training ship, and who ought to be anxious to go to sea. I have very recently received a letter on this subject from an officer serving on the China Station. He writes as follows:—Our invaliding rate has been tremendous among the men; but they are not men, but boys, and cannot stand this enervating climate; no one under 22 ought to be here. We are suffering in the Service very much from the want of petty officers. I left England 13 short, with no quartermasters and no boatswain's mate, and only 19 A. B. s and 44 ordinaries. There is a screw loose in the training system for boys. Too much time is devoted to school, too little to seamen's duties, and their discipline 1435 is too slack. The consequence is, that when they are drafted into sea-going ships they kick over the traces, and our want of good petty officers makes it difficult to preserve discipline. The Eurydice, and a few more like her, would do wonders. The boys, when turned out of the training ships, ought at once to go into seagoing ships, instead of being kept learning vice in the guardships at home, and no ordinary seaman ought to be allowed in a home ship. The behaviour of the senior men in the service is as good as one could wish.The same observations apply to the young officers of the Navy. A large number are always endisponabilitè in the home ports. Others, who are nominally at sea, are attached to iron-clads and flagships, which are frequently detained for extended periods in port. It is a subject of general complaint amongst captains in the Navy that the young lieutenants are too often without the experience which they ought to have before they are allowed to take charge of a watch. As they go on in the Service they learn their work; and probably no Navy has ever possessed a more competent body of officers than the senior lieutenants of the present day. It is, however, a matter for regret that midshipmen and sub-lieutenants are not more constantly at sea. I venture to suggest the expediency of attaching a certain number of cruisers, capable of being handled under sail in the Channel, to the receiving ships at Devonport and Plymouth and to the barracks at Sheer-ness. The employment of such vessels would not merely increase the efficiency of the Navy, but might lead to great economy in the maintenance of the Fleet. If seamen were sent to cruise in training vessels, costing comparatively little to keep up, it would not then be necessary to have so many iron-clads in commission. A certain number of ironclads would, of course, be required to form an evolutionary squadron and to protect British interests in distant waters to which reinforcements cannot be despatched on an emergency. The remainder of the ironclads should be kept in the first-class reserve in the home ports, and in such centres of naval power as it might be necessary to establish abroad. Those ships should be in perfect readiness for immediate service. The crews of the cruising vessels should go through a complete course of gun drill on board the ironclads in reserve every year. They should also have their 1436 quarterly firing exercise in an iron-clad, which should be commissioned as a gunnery ship, and which should visit each of the home ports at stated intervals. A similar plan might be adopted in the Mediterranean. Our expenditure on the repair of ironclads, owing to the large number which we keep in commission in time of peace, is much heavier than that of any other maritime Power. Taking 1876 as an example of the ordinary expenditure in time of peace, we had 20 ironclads in commission, France nine, and Germany six. Assuming the cost of repair at £10,000 per annum for each iron-clad, our expenditure for maintenance was £200,000, while the corresponding figures for France and Germany would be £90,000 and £60,000 respectively. The money saved by a reduction in the number of ironclads in the Mediterranean, and in the Reserve Squadron, would in a few years have created quite a respectable squadron of ironclads. There is no reason why our evolutionary squadron should not cruise in the Mediterranean as well as in the Atlantic. No ironclads should be employed in the Reserve Squadron. Getting up steam only a few times in the year is even more deteriorating to the boilers than regular employment at sea. The Coastguard might cruise in the evolutionary squadron. Objections may be urged to the system of training here proposed, on the ground that it will deprive officers of the opportunity of serving in ironclads. To this it may be replied that under the plan actually adopted the necessary experience is very slowly acquired. Ironclads which can only make voyages under steam are naturally kept very much in harbour. The experience of a three years' commission, as regards the handling and manœuvring of the ship, might have been gained in six months if the time had been devoted mainly to such instruction, and the ship had been constantly at sea. By appointing officers in more rapid rotation to the evolutionary squadron, and keeping the ships more actively employed, it might be possible, while reducing the number of ships in commission, to give officers serving for a short time in the evolutionary squadron the same experience which they at present derive from a longer commission in ships much less actively employed. The omission to 1437 develop the enormous resources we possess in the Mercantile Marine is one of the most serious faults of our recent Admiralty administration. Having prepared a Paper on this subject, at the request of the Institute of Naval Architects, in 1876, it is with great satisfaction that I am able to state that the question has since received considerable attention at the Admiralty. The results were embodied in a Paper by Mr. Barnaby, in which he reported most favourably on the capabilities of our merchant steamers as auxiliaries to the Navy. We possess about 300 vessels which would have a speed of 12 knots and upwards at sea. A much larger number are only slightly inferior in point of speed, and they would be equally capable of carrying an armament. The recent changes in naval architecture have brought the first-class merchant steamer and the unarmoured ship of war very near together in point of fighting power. The Government should make such arrangements as would secure for the State the services of all suitable vessels in the event of war, and they could be applied, as Mr. Peed had said, with still greater advantage if shipowners who contemplate the construction of large mercantile vessels were invited to submit their plans to the Admiralty. Comparatively inexpensive modifications in the original plans of first - class merchant steamers would adapt them to the reception of a suitable armament. When ships are being built, shelf-pieces for carrying armour-plates could be introduced without the slightest detriment to the ship's capabilities, and the armour could be kept in store ready to be fixed, should the vessel be required for war service. A proper subdivision by means of bulkheads, and a judicious arrangement of the bunkers, would be conducive to safety under all circumstances, and especially advantageous for war service. All vessels in which the recommendations of the Admiralty were fairly carried out should be entered upon an Admiralty List, and the owners should receive a reasonable annual subsidy, on condition that their vessels should be placed at the disposal of the Government when required in the emergency of war.
§ MR. E. HUBBARD
did not wish to detain the Committee for more than a few minutes; but he wished to put in a few 1438 words of plea on behalf of the lieutenants in the Navy. He found in the Estimates an item of £697,223 for the payment of 2,779 commissioned and other officers, of whom 816 were lieutenants on active service. Of these, 110 had seen 11 years service; 102 had seen between eight and 11 years; 172, five years and upwards; and 432 had not seen more than five years of service. It was simply impossible for these officers to live upon 10s. per day and find employment for their time when the country was at peace. He hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty would be able to see his way to the adoption of a progressive rate of pay for the lieutenants, which would improve their position and give to those of them who had been longest in the Service a proportionately higher rate of pay. At the present time a lieutenant of, say, 14 years' seniority and between 35 and 40 years of age, received no more pay than the lieutenant of from 20 to 25 years of age, who had only just been appointed to his ship.
§ MR. D. JENKINS
could not admit that the defective state of the boilers of ironclads was altogether due to the inexperience of the engineers.
§ MR. D. JENKINS
said, he did not attach much importance to the Report. He spoke from experience; and he could say that the main reason for the boilers getting out of order and suffering deterioration, was that the engineers put salt water into them, and, in fact, were not inexperienced, but careless of the appliances which science had put at their disposal. He had boilers in his own steamers, the cost of repairing which during periods of seven years, had been almost nominal; and yet he found that in the Royal Navy it became necessary to replace the boilers once in four or five years. Further, he was of opinion that as a ship's boilers deteriorated more rapidly when the vessel was laid up in harbour than when she was actually steaming, it would be to the advantage of the Navy in many ways to keep the Fleet more constantly in motion. There could be no doubt that from want of more constant training and practice our sailors were not, in the present day, equal in efficiency to the men of 20 years ago, who were trained under the old system. He could not agree with 1439 the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) that training ships should be kept cruising in the Channel. He thought a better plan would be to commission a number of unarmoured ships, which should not use steam except when absolutely necessary, and let them sail between the home and more distant stations. These ships might not be fighting vessels; but it seemed to be forgotten that the country required cruising ships which should act as the police of the seas. Let them have ironclads in the distant waters by all means; but ships of the kind to which he had just alluded were equally necessary for the purpose he had described. He would throw out a suggestion with regard to reserve seamen in the Merchant Navy. There was no reason why men should not be allowed to draft themselves from the ships of the Royal Navy after serving half their time, on condition that they continued in the Naval Reserve for double the usual period. A bond of sympathy would be thereby created between seamen in the Merchant Service and those in the Royal Navy, and the men who had been trained in both Services would be the most efficient that could be obtained.
observed that a few years ago he made a suggestion similar to that of the hon. Member for Penryn (Mr. D. Jenkins) with regard to the interchange of seamen between the Navy and the Merchant Service. Seamen who had served for a number of years in the Navy, but had not earned a pension, would be willing to go into the Merchant Service for two years for the sake of the higher pay, if those two years were allowed to be reckoned in their pension earning period. The effect of that would be to make the number of men on the list of the Navy much larger, with scarcely any additional expense. With reference to the suggestion of the right hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) as to torpedo boats, he was of opinion that a great deal more importance would have to be attached to that branch of the Service. They would not have to run away from them; but they did not know at present their true value. They had made experiments with torpedoes, but they had had no experience of their use at sea, and ought to be prepared for various contingencies. He should further like 1440 to point out to the House the difficulty of making good practice at sea with their guns. They really did not know what a general naval action between two fleets was to be in the future. It was quite possible that two vessels like the Inflexible might be engaged for several hours without doing each other much damage, or that an Inflexible would be unable to inflict much damage on a weaker vessel. Not only pluck and skill, but good fortune and accident would be a great feature in future naval warfare. In a general engagement between two fleets, the smoke of battle might lift for a moment and give the captain of a ship the chance of firing a broadside at 200 or 300 yards, which might be culpably lost by a moment's hesitation. Or, in an opportunity of ramming a vessel, a chance might occur which ought not to be lost. Or, if a vessel were provided with torpedo boats, a chance might arise of making good use of them. There were several kinds of torpedoes, and some naval officers preferred one kind and some another. It would be well to let each captain try the torpedo he had most confidence in, and not distribute the Whitehead to all alike. Some remarks had been made with reference to the position of the lieutenants in the Navy. It was quite time that their pay should be increased. When he was lieutenant, he only waited 10 months for promotion, and from that to 18 months was then the average. But now officers had to serve four to five years before getting promoted, and their pay was just the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago. The Supplementary Vote for the Army had lately been presented to the House, based on the increased cost of provisions; and it was time that the same thing was done in the same matter with reference to officers of the Navy. There were certain anomalies, of which he should like to have some information — namely, the position of warrant officers, the so-called carpenters, and engineer officers. The country had broken faith with the warrant officers in not giving them commissions in the Service, as was promised 20 or 30 years ago. All that had been done was to give the senior warrant officers a separate rank in the Service. But that was not the same thing as making warrant officers lieutenants. Although that ought 1441 not to be done in many cases, it might well be done in some. He knew several cases in point, as that of Mr. Young, who was now Vice Consul on the coast of Africa, who had done great service to the country. There might be a difficulty in commissioning warrant officers to serve in the same ship in which they had previously been. But there were many ways in which warrant officers, when commissioned, could be made of service to the country without the least objection, in the Coastguard, for instance, or in command of gunboats. There was, also, another class of men to whom he should allude—the so-called carpenters—a term which, in these days was not quite correct, for they were identical with the Constructors' branch in the Dockyards. It was a small matter, but the term might be changed to that of naval surveyors, or something of that kind. These officers ought to be attached to the ships when they were building in the Dockyard, so that they might understand their construction from the keel upwards. That practice had not been carried out as much as it might have been. It was very essential that the carpenters, as well as the engineers, should be appointed to their positions before the completion of the ship. A good deal had been said about engineer officers. That was a large subject, and he would only say that he did not think the Government had quite realized what the Committee thought about that branch of officers. Last year, no doubt, something was done for them; but there was room for much more. They were formerly interfered with on board ship in a way which not only annoyed them personally, but interrupted their duties. In connection with their case was that of the engine-room artificers; and although it seemed a trumpery matter, the question of their uniform was a grievance. As had been stated, they were now compelled to wear the badge of an inferior branch, which there was no necessity for their doing.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, that as the system was still continued, by which the whole of the guns, warlike stores, and ammunition for the Navy was charged in the Army Estimates, he must again raise his voice in opposition to a bad practice, which facilitated waste and extravagance. The consequence was, that the Estimates of the Army had had to bear, during the 1442 course of the many years since the practice began in 1825, the whole of the charges for the armament of the Navy, and necessarily, during the past 25 years, of recurring changes in the description of gun in use. Those charges had been so frequently made by the naval authorities that the outlay had been enormous. Those changes were still in progress, and the Army charges were still on the increase, because of the cost of the large amount of ammunition now required for the ironclads. It was high time that the expenditure should be charged in the proper quarter. There would be no difficulty in the Army supplying the Navy with the ammunition required; but it ought to be credited with the cost of it, so that the money would be voted by the House under a proper head in the Naval Estimates. In the same way the Navy could debit the Army with the cost of transport of troops. He hoped they would obtain from the Admiralty a remedy for the present anomaly. There could be no difficulty in effecting this reform, seeing that the Naval Estimates of last year contained a charge of £80,000 for torpedoes. This year the War Office Estimates provided the fund for this weapon. But as the Naval Estimates had once borne the charge, there could be no difficulty in continuing the practice. Indeed, the War Office Estimates showed the calculated cost of all the warlike stores expected to be issued to the Navy in the course of the year 1877–8. Those charges could with greater ease be inserted in the Naval Estimates, and the funds regularly voted as a portion of the Naval Expenditure. The Army would then be repaid for the stores actually supplied, in the same way as now followed for many supplies between the Naval and Military Departments by agreement between the two Accountants General. The Army, in like manner, could repay to the Navy the outlay incurred by the Navy for the cost of transports. In this form economy would result.
said, it was satisfactory to learn that the grievances of the officers of the Royal Marines had been redressed; but he also wished to recommend to the consideration of the First Lord of the Admiralty the case of the sergeants, who now, at all events, when on shore, were in pay and allowance in an inferior posi- 1443 tion to the sergeants of the Army. Formerly the Marines had the same allowances and the same position as the Army while on shore, and a somewhat better position when afloat; but two years ago the position of the soldiers in the Army was altered, and they now had reserve pay. While sergeants in the Marines were accustomed to consider themselves relatively superior to Army sergeants, they now found themselves inferior, and he recommended their case to the consideration of the Admiralty. With regard to the Engineer Department of the Navy, they ought not to be satisfied with ordinary officers, and the best men were only to be secured by offering such pay and position as would attract them to the Service. The engineers deserved extremely well of their country, and rendered to it signal services, in many instances saving thousands of pounds. As an example, he would refer to the case of H. M. S. Rupert whose engines had worked so badly as to render her totally unfit for service, and it was thought that there was no remedy but by entirely replacing them. But by the assiduous attention and skill of the chief engineer, the engines were made to work, and the vessel was enabled to keep her station. The officers complained that their grievances having been brought before the Admiralty, and then before the House, an inadequate scheme was, in the first place, proposed, and then that that inadequate scheme had not been carried into execution. He did not wish to trouble the House at length; but if the right hon. Gentleman would look into the matter, he hoped he would take such measures as were necessary to remedy the grievances complained of. There was only one other point to which he wished to call attention—the naval cadets—a matter which well deserved the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith). England was the only nation in the world which sent children of 13 and 14 into its Navy as junior officers. They were also, he believed, the only nation in the world which appointed its officers by pure nomination. He was not entirely in favour of competitive examinations; but, surely, there ought to be some plan by which the Naval Service was thrown open to the whole country. It was an extremely popular Service, and more sought after than any 1444 other branch. There was no need for incurring the expense of the Britannia training ship, for if the Government would only tell the country what sort of lad they wanted at the age of 16 to enter the Service as junior naval officer —what knowledge of seamanship, of general education, of foreign languages —they would have the exact article supplied that they required, free of cost. He would venture to say, if there were 40 appointments vacant for junior officers in the Navy, they would have at least 400 youths to pick from, presented by the people of the country, every one of them perfectly well qualified to fill such a post. He did hope that the right hon. Gentleman would signalize his tenure of office at the Admiralty by placing these appointments in such a position that the country might get, as it would get, for its Naval Service, the pick of the youth of the nation. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) had rather reproached the Government for the small amount of shipbuilding proposed in the present year; but he thought, with the ships completed at the close of the present financial year, and with the tonnage announced by the First Lord for building and for completion during the next financial year, that the beginning of 1879 would see the Navy in a most highly efficient condition. There was no reason whatever to find any fault with the Estimates with regard to the quantity proposed to be built. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets made another suggestion, which he was sure the First Lord would not entertain—that our ironclads should be built by private contract and not in the Dockyards. The right hon. Gentleman smiled, no doubt thinking that he (Mr. Gorst), as representing Chatham, had a strong personal interest in the matter; but he could assure him that, long before he represented his present constituency, he always thought that the Dockyards should be used to their utmost extent. They had a splendid plant of machinery, and that certainly should be employed before they went into the private trade. As to the type of ships, he wished to say that he thought the First Lord a little misunderstood some remarks of his on the previous night. The right hon. Gentleman was going to do the very thing he suggested—namely, to lay 1445 not the details, but the principles of the design of the ships to be built before the Committee, before it was asked to vote money for constructing them. If that were done—and it was all he asked—he thought the result would be most satisfactory, both to the First Lord himself and to the Committee. He asked the other evening whether -the Admiralty were not convinced that the Inflexible ought to have been built 10 feet broader in the beam? It was a rhetorical Question, and he did not blame the right hon. Gentleman for passing it over. But he had asked another and a practical Question. The Report of the Committee of the Inflexible distinctly pointed to are commendation that the Ajax and the Agamemnon should be broader in the beam; and as only a small part of these ships was built, he did wish to ask whether these vessels would be built broader in the beam? Of course, if there was any reason why he should not be answered on this point, he should be quite satisfied with an an intimation to that effect. There was only one other topic to which he wished to refer—in speaking of that he did not wish to speak from local considerations at all—namely, the extension works at Chatham. These had already cost a great deal of money, although, in his opinion, no more than they were worth; but those works would be entirely thrown away, unless there was a further expenditure for factories and machinery. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) had, on more than one occasion, said that this matter required the attention of the House of Commons, and he (Mr. Gorst) had more than once tried to call attention to it. Extensive basins, dry docks, and appliances of that sort, had been provided for the repair of ships of war, the idea being that in time of war they could not be repaired in the Tyne, at Glasgow, or elsewhere, but must be brought to some place like Chatham; where, after a naval engagement, they could be repaired under the protection of forts. Unfortunately, before these works were completed a fit of economy seized the House of Commons, and they refused the money necessary for building the factories upon the banks of the basins. As a consequence, they now had repairing basins, in which no ships could be repaired, and an enormous dock called 1446 the Factory Dock, probably because there was no factory on its banks. Again, this machinery, if ordered now, would take three, four, or perhaps five, years to construct; and, therefore, this matter did immediately require the attention of the Government. The machinery provided in the present sheds was far too small in proportion to the magnitude of the extension works; and, therefore, he did hope the right hon. Gentleman would turn his attention to the subject. He could not better illustrate his meaning than by repeating what the late Mr. Laird, formerly Member for Birkenhead, said on the subject. He declared, after visiting the works, that if he were the owner of the place, and had not the money necessary to complete it, he would raise it on mortgage, in order to make the works useful. From an economical point of view, he declared that it would pay him to do this. As the matter stood at present, the money was, to a certain extent, sunk. There was upwards of £1,000,000 spent in making these enormous basins, and yet they had not got the machinery necessary in order to make them useful.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
wished to ask his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether there was any hope that some heavily-armed gunboats capable of keeping the sea under any weather would be built? He wished to point out that these were the vessels really required on the high seas for Her Majesty's Service, and that expenditure on mastless iron-clads was comparatively a throwing away of public money. For instance, the Devastation had cost at least £400,000. Vessels of that class would require about three years to complete. They were full of easily destructible machinery, and required a large crew to manage them, while one blow from a torpedo, or grounding, even under circumstances which would not injure a merchant steamer, would absolutely disable such a vessel. For the amount of money the Devastation had cost the nation, 16 such gunboats as he had described could be completed for sea, and that in three months by a single firm of shipbuilders. Would any practical man tell him what would be the fate of the Devastation with 16 such gun-boats attacking her? He (Captain Pim) would be very sorry to be on board that ship with only four gunboats properly handled attacking 1447 her. Anyone who knew anything at all of active service could tell the Committee what the fate of the Devastation would be. If he was right, on what grounds could the Admiralty persevere to continue to put so many eggs in one basket? Besides, being most useful and efficient for purposes of fighting, the gunboats he wished his right hon. Friend to build without a moment's delay, were the very class of vessel required to protect our commerce. An hon. Member opposite had stated that our magnificent oceangoing merchant steamers, of which we had some 400, were admirably adapted for protecting our commerce; but he (Captain Pim) wished to point out that there never was a greater fallacy. Our ocean-going steamers were long narrow vessels, some ten times their beam for length; and he had no hesitation whatever in saying that, directly they were out of coal, the armament the Construction Department proposed to put upon their upper deck would infallibly capsize them. Besides, was there an hon. Member present who did not know that the mere firing of such guns in those vessels would shake them to pieces? The gunboats he proposed, on the contrary, would keep the sea under sail alone and cruise for months without going into port—like the Alabama —while the one great gun—38½-tons—mounted on Moncrieff s system, was of the longest range afloat. He (Captain Pim) had, by permission of the Speaker, placed a mechanical drawing of the gunboat he now proposed in the Tea Room, and he hoped that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty and hon. Members would do him the honour to inspect that drawing. He thought it right to tell the Committee that he had no personal object whatever to serve in this matter, as he was in no way connected with shipbuilding interests. He earnestly wished to see the nation as strong and powerful as it ought to be, and this could be promptly, efficiently, and cheaply done in the way he proposed. He would undertake, as be did 20 years ago, to raise thousands of volunteer seamen round our coasts. He did not mean the Royal Naval Reserve, because that could not be relied upon; but what he meant was, men living on the coasts and ready at any moment to take the sea and go to any part of the world on board the gunboats he had 1448 described. He would put it to the Committee whether, with even 50 such gunboats manned by the pick of the volunteer seamen, there would any longer be reason to fear that Russia would continue to tread upon our toes as she was doing at present?
§ MR. BENTINCK
adverted to what had fallen from his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). He quite agreed with his hon. and learned Friend in thinking that the preference should always be given to the Government Dockyards, although they ought to resort to private yards when it was desirable to do so. No one had a higher opinion than he entertained of the admirable way in which private shipbuilding yards were conducted, and he did not mean to say one word in depreciation of them. All he contended was that Her Majesty's Dockyards ought to be kept up in the fullest state of efficiency. With regard to Chatham Dockyard, he could endorse the remarks of his hon. and learned Friend. He went over the magnificent works there, and it struck him — as it had done the commercial man whom his hon. and learned Friend referred to—that all the money had been wasted, and that although they had constructed these enormous docks, they did not possess the means of utilizing them. That was a matter which, he trusted, would receive the attention of his right hon. Friend. He was glad to be able to congratulate his right hon. Friend on his having acquired the happy art of never answering inconvenient Questions, if he could possibly avoid doing so. Yesterday he tried to call his right hon. Friend's attention to a grave subject which practically involved the whole question of the efficiency of our Navy. However, he did not succeed in eliciting any reply. What he wanted to know was what reserve they had of iron-clad ships in the event of the occurrence of those casualties which was inevitable in any naval action, however successful the result of such action might be to this country. Formerly, when they sent 40 line-of-battle ships to sea they used to have 20 or 30 line-of-battle ships in other parts of the world, and a reserve of ships at home equal to sending two or three more such Fleets. In short, they had ample means of fitting out a new Fleet if the first Fleet 1449 had been sent to sea and destroyed. Now, he wanted to know what their present position was in that respect? His right hon. Friend must know that it was no use to have any secret about these matters. Those foreign countries with which they might possibly come into collision knew the state of our Navy just as well as we knew it ourselves, and consequently hisrighthon. Friend would tell them nothing which they did not know already. Very recently circumstances led to the impression that additional reinforcements were required in the Mediterranean, and the first thing that was done was to send the Channel Squadron to reinforce the Squadron in the Mediterranean. But surely this country never ought to be without a Channel Squadron at any time. Their coasts ought never to be left defenceless. His right hon. Friend would, no doubt, tell the Committee that the Government had recently purchased four or five ironclads that were built for foreign Governments, and that other ships were now in course of construction. Well, he admitted that these vessels would increase the strength of their Navy; but he contended that when they had bought and built all these ships they would not possess such a reserve of ships as England ought to have for the maintenance of her honour, her security, and her interests. He likewise wished to learn from his right hon. Friend whether it was the policy of the Board of Admiralty to construct a certain number of ships for foreign stations of such proportions that they could be handled under canvas, independently of steam? That he believed to be a most important point. In his judgment, it was indispensable for the country, looking to the fact that they must have men-of-war in every part of the world, to possess a certain number of ships which could be relied upon when under canvas, and which could reserve their coals for the emergencies of an action, or of any unforeseen calamity. He also hoped his right hon. Friend would inform the Committee whether the Admiralty were taking steps to provide a number of fast cruisers—unarmoured ships with heavy guns—for the protection of British commerce?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I certainly cannot complain of the criticisms that have been made on the Votes which I have 1450 had the honour to submit to the Committee. Hon. Gentlemen on both sides who have addressed the Committee have done so with very great consideration, for which I desire to return personally my warm thanks. I will now proceed, as carefully as I can, to notice the observations which have fallen from them. In the first place, I must refer to the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda). My hon. Friend referred to the amount of tonnage which was built during the past year; but I think he scarcely stated it correctly. The actual tonnage weight of hull expected to be built in the year 1877–8, under the programme which was presented to the House in June last, is, in the Dockyards, 15,598 tons, and by contract 4,060 tons, making a total, in round numbers, of 15,598 tons.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said he might be wrong; but he certainly had noted down that the tonnage proposed to be built in the Dockyards was 14,240 tons.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I believe my hon. Friend is right. I quoted the tonnage which had been built as distinguished from the tonnage expected by the programme of 1877–78 to be built. The total number of tons which it was intended to build was 18,648 tons, and out of that number it is hoped there will be built 15,598 tons. So there is a deficiency of about 3,000 tons; but this consists almost wholly of deficiency on the Inflexible, the Ajax, the Agamemnon, and the new Agamemnon. The real truth is that the pressure in the Dockyards has been very great, and that the hands which would otherwise have been employed in building those 3,000 tons have been engaged in pushing forward repairs, a course which I think the Admiralty was well advised in adopting in order to bring our ships into a condition in which they will be available in case of need. As to the corvettes to which my hon. Friend referred, they will be completed during the coming financial year. We expect, indeed, that two of them will be completed early in the year. My hon. Friend urged, with a considerable amount of force, the expediency of employing contract work. I need hardly say that I am fully aware of the value of contract work. I know that very often it secures the completion of a ship 1451 within the time contemplated; but not always, for, as I have already stated to the Committee, there is a deficiency as regards the amount of tonnage built, which is due to the strike on the Clyde, whore the work on the six corvettes was suspended for some time. There is, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) has pointed out, an absolute necessity for maintaining our Dockyards in a state of efficiency. If contract work is good, so likewise is Dockyard work, and it is desirable that the two systems should go on side by side, so that the country may be able to compare the economy and completeness of the work turned out under the two systems. I will not renew the controversy with regard to the shell to which my hon. Friend has referred; but I am assured that the shell actually exploded in the Huascar, and that although, unfortunately, a great deal of mischief was done, it was not caused by the direct impact of a shot. I come next to the speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay), who asked whether the entry of boys into the Navy was sufficient to supply the demand, for them. I am glad to say that I believe it is fully sufficient. It was found necessary to raise the standard a short time ago, because a greater number of boys were offering themselves for the Service than the Admiralty thought it well to accept, we deeming that to be the right policy to adopt in order to secure the best possible boys that could be had. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stamford also asked me to make a statement respecting the expenditure of the Vote of Credit. Now, I think the Committee will feel that until the appropriation of that fund is complete, it will be undesirable that I should make a statement as to its practical application. As to the corvettes, eight will be building in the course of the present year. My right hon. and gallant Friend also referred to the necessity of an ample supply of torpedo boats. I do not wish to enter too largely into that system of defence, and therefore I will only say that the Admiralty are fully conscious of the importance of protecting our ships in every way against the consequences of torpedo warfare, and also of availing ourselves of the advantages of 1452 torpedo warfare. With reference to the torpedo boats to be constructed specially for that Service, and which are included in the Estimates which I now submit to the Committee, I may mention that it is intended to build steam pinnaces to be carried by first-class ships, in addition to their present number of steam pinnaces, so as to enable them to protect themselves against attack, and to use them for attack. The hon. Member for Heading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) has spoken of the designs for the four new ironclads which it is proposed to build. I am well aware of the extreme importance of affording the Admiralty ample assistance to enable them to decide on the steps they should take in dealing with any new designs which they may request to be submitted to their notice, or which the Constructor may submit to their notice from time to time; but I venture to think that the whole responsibility ought to be left to the Board of Admiralty for the time being, and that it is undesirable that the House of Commons should lay down any rule on which the Board should be required to act. That would be likely to relieve some weak Board of Admiralty from the responsibility which ought to belong to it. I cannot myself believe that a Board of Admiralty, listening to suggestions which are novel in their character, and which are, to some extent, speculative, would sanction the application of those novel principles without having thoroughly assured themselves, in the first instance, that there was probable safety in the course they were asked to adopt. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the delay which has taken place in the proceedings of the Boiler Committee; and I concur with him in thinking that that delay has certainly been excessive. My Predecessor did everything in his power, short of physical force, to induce the Committee to conclude its operations and present a final Report. I have thought it necessary to put an end to the Committee altogether, and in that way I hope to receive its Report at last. But observations of any value, which may have been initiated by that Committee, will be continued by officers in the Engineer Department of the Navy, in correspondence also with the principal Steamship Companies in the Kingdom, so that the greatest possible care will be taken to record anything which is really valuable 1453 in relation to the corrosion of boilers. It is, no doubt, a most important question. The decay of boilers involves much more than the mere cost of repairing or replacing them; it involves the laying-up of the ship and the pulling her to pieces, and this leads not only to considerable expense, but to the presence of a certain number of absolutely unusable ships at all times in Her Majesty's Dockyards. Therefore, the question is one which is not lost sight of at the Admiralty. But it is only fair to say that the circumstances and conditions under which Her Majesty's ships keep the sea are not quite the same as those to which merchant ships are subject. A merchant steamer starts upon its voyage and goes right through, while Her Majesty's ship has constantly to hang about a port or a coast with fire banked, at one time going full speed, at another time going at half-speed, or not going at all; and I am informed that that species of work is really in itself more destructive to boilers than the steady work of starting on a voyage and going right through and then returning. At all events, the circumstances which have been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman have not escaped the attention of the present Board of Admiralty, and they will continue to receive our careful consideration. There is one thing I have omitted to notice in my speech in introducing the Estimates, and that is, that an effort has this year been made to secure a general training and a higher class of officers for the engineers by establishing a school for their education on board the Marlborough at Portsmouth. That school has been started under the most favourable auspices. Already a large number of applications to undergo the examination for apprentices in June next have been received—nearly 300, I believe, for 55 vacancies. The hon. Member for North East Lancashire (Mr. Holt) has referred to the proposal which I have made respecting the reasonable demands of the officers and sailors of the Roman Catholic faith. I do not think it will be necessary that I should introduce any Supplementary Estimate for that purpose; but I will, in perfect good faith, state to the House what provision I am able to make at a later period of the Session, when hon. Gentlemen, who are interested in the question, will have ample opportunity 1454 for discussing the point. My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Brassey) has expressed a strong desire that engineers of the Royal Navy should first have practical experience in merchant vessels. For my own part, I should be exceedingly glad, if it were possible to make a provision of that kind; but, at the present time, we have not a sufficient supply of young assistant-engineers to enable us to pass them through this additional course; and possibly there might be some objection on the part of the owners of merchant steamers to receive these gentlemen in their ships. I do not know how that may be; but any practical suggestion which will afford these officers greater facilities for acquiring really practical information I should be glad to endeavour to carry out. My hon. Friend has also referred to the injurious effect on seamen, and especially on young seamen, of a long stay in port. In the earlier part of the evening I referred to what I considered to be the great advantages of the training ships which are sent to sea with these young seamen; but I omitted to state that there is an old sailing frigate now in course of being re-fitted at Pembroke which is intended to go to sea at Easter with her complement of young sailors for the purpose of training them efficiently. I confess I have myself doubts whether attaching training ships to the Coastguard and the Naval Reserves for Channel service would be quite so useful as sending them out to the West Indies, or to cruise elsewhere on a long voyage. My own belief is that it would be much better to send these youngsters away to sea than to keep them knocking about the home waters. My hon. Friend next referred to the number of ironclads in commission, and said there were too many; but I think the other evening his advice was that an iron-clad should be sent to the Pacific, and another to China, and he further suggested that it would be expedient that a light ironclad should be stationed in the River Plate. The truth is that we have no more ironclads in commission at the present time than we can well avoid having for the services which they have to undertake. But I cordially agree with him that in time of peace it is expedient that the number of ironclads in commission should be as few as possible, and that the number of efficient 1455 sea-cruising ships should be as large as possible. I can say no more than that. I repeat, that I agree with him. in the principle which he lays down; and so far as it is possible to do so, consistently with my duties in various respects, I will endeavour to give effect to it.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I will bear the suggestion in mind; but my hon. Friend will understand that it takes a little time to make an iron-clad effective, and that it would be very undesirable that the first reserve ships, on which we should fall back for the particular reserves which my hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) desires to see so effective, should not be ready to take the seas in case of emergency. My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. E. Hubbard)' has referred to the case of the old lieutenants. I admit, with very great regret, that there are a number of old lieutenants on the List who have done good service, and whose pay has not been progressive. I cannot make any promise to improve their position, though I feel that their case, like that of many other officers in the Navy and also in the Army, is certainly a hard one. I wish it were possible to provide that promotion should take place more rapidly than it does at the present time; but, under existing circumstances, that cannot be done. Passing over the remarks which fell from the hon. Member for Penryn (Mr. D. Jenkins), I come to those of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Devonport (Captain Price), who has addressed rather a warm appeal to the Admiralty and the Government on behalf of warrant officers in harbour ships. Now, it does happen that their position has been improved within the last few months. Sea pay is now granted to all warrant officers in the First Reserve, and in gunboats attached to that Reserve, and is refused only to those who are in what are really bonâ fide harbour ships, where, of course, the work to be done is very much less than in ships of the First Reserve. He also thought that there should be some provision respecting the granting of commissions to these officers. Provision is now made that, in case of any gallant action under exceptional circumstances, 1456 it should be in the power of the Admiralty to give them commissions; and undoubtedly that power would be exercised by the Department where the circumstances were such as to call for its exercise. I am not able to follow my hon. and gallant Friend into the question of the carpenters and engineers. It is our desire, as far as possible, to appoint efficient officers who should become accustomed to the duties they would have to discharge in ships which are about to be commissioned, and with that view engineers are appointed, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, a long time before the ship can possibly be in commission. But, of course, there must be a limit to that practice. It would, if carried too far, come to this— that every ship in the Navy would have a complement of officers which would not be very much less than that of a ship in actual commission. All I can say is that, so far as the interests of the Navy itself are concerned, there shall be no lack of attention or care paid to the points which my hon. and gallant Friend has raised. Reference has been made by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) to the condition of certain workmen in the Dockyards. We have thought it right to propose an increase of pay to the Constructors in the Dockyards. We are fully aware of the value of the work which these gentlemen do for us; and we also approve highly of the zeal of the foremen who have to carry out the instructions which they receive. They also will receive some slight advantage under these Estimates. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kincardine (Sir George Balfour) has referred to the charge which is imposed upon the Army Estimates in providing armaments for Her Majesty's ships; and has complained that the whole cost of the Navy is not shown under the present system. I fully admit it, and I go along with him in the principle which he desires to lay down. It would be most desirable that the whole cost of a Service should, if possible, be shown on the Votes for that Service. It is true that the Army provide the armaments for Her Majesty's ships. But, on the other hand, the Navy provide the transport for the Army; and the principle was laid down some years ago that the Department which incurred the expense—no matter 1457 for what other Department it was incurred—should bear that expense upon its Votes. That principle is capable of modification, and I have no doubt that the Committee on Public Accounts, which will have this question under their consideration, may be able to suggest a mode by which proper control over public money may be had, and that the entire cost of the Service may be charged upon that Service alone which nominally incurs it. I have no objection to the Navy bearing the costs of its own armaments and its powder and shot; but we are in the hands of the Army for that purpose. The War Department supply us with the armament and the ammunition, and, in present circumstances, it is impossible for me to state to the Committee the true cost of that service which they do for us. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) has discovered a new grievance. Probably my hon. and learned Friend would be very wretched if he had not got one or two grievances to carry about with him; but I really hope that this new grievance, which he has stated for my consideration, will turn out not to be one after all. The position of the Marines was some time ago very carefully considered, and we found that, taking the whole round of service on shore and afloat, the marine was, on the whole, better off than the soldier, even under the present regulations of increased reserve pay in the Army. I am alive to the importance of securing good engineers for Her Majesty's Service, and nothing which, in my judgment, will really tend to that result shall be wanting on my part. But it must be understood that a great deal has been done in this matter; and I am sometimes tempted to say that, when there is a real desire—as there is in this instance— to deal most favourably and equitably, and to pay a fair price for good service, it is well occasionally to leave the case of a class which has often been advocated in this House alone for a little time. I venture, therefore, to appeal to hon. Gentlemen, who have the interests of the engineers at heart, to leave their case alone for a little time. Let us exercise our own judgment upon it, and see what is really necessary to be done. I shall not shrink from doing what I consider to be my duty after proper consideration and attention have been paid 1458 to the subject. My hon. Friend also referred, as did likewise the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), to the arrangements as to the admission of naval cadets. Now, early in the evening, I stated that I had been only a short time in office, and I am not prepared, after four or five months' experience, to come down here and say that all that my Predecessor has done is wrong, and that I know a great deal more than he about the constitution of the Navy and the training of its officers. I go a long way with my hon. Friend in the view he expressed in favour of competition. A really good competition between persons and things which can properly be put in competition with each other is a healthy thing for the public service. But there is a great deal to be said on this question of naval cadets, and of the -training to which they are to be subjected; and I am not prepared off-hand to say what is the best system under which young officers in the Navy can be trained, or when and in what circumstances they should be put on board ship. Therefore, I must ask hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House for a little delay, and to pardon me if I refrain from expressing any opinion on the question at the present moment. The time may come when I shall feel it my duty to do so. With respect to the question which has been put to me by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gorst) about the Ajax and the Agamemnon, I have to say that, as at present advised, the Admiralty do not intend to alter the designs of those ships. We will adopt and carry out, as far as we are able to do so, the views of the Committee on the Inflexible; but we do not think it would be desirable to increase the beam of the Ajax and the Agamemnon. My hon. and learned Friend next referred to the deficiency of machine sheds at Chatham. It is true that many of the basins are without machine sheds immediately adjacent to them; but I am not prepared rashly to incur any large expenditure in providing such sheds. We shall proceed very gradually in that matter, and in the interval very useful and good work may be done in what are called the repairing sheds at Chatham. We fitted the Alexandra; the Belleisle, the Rupert, the Monarch, and other large ships are there at the present time, and very good ser- 1459 vice has been done. Additional machinery is being supplied, and the necessary working sheds will be added from time to time at moderate cost; but I am myself averse to incurring any very large and magnificent expenditure on costly machinery, which might turn out afterwards not, on the whole, to have been the best thing to have done. The hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend (Captain Pim) has spoken of the necessity for more gunboats. I agree with him that they are most useful and necessary, and we are building them not probably to the extent which he would desire; but, in the programme for this year, there are two composite gunboats, seven iron-clad gunboats for river service, and there are other gunboats which will be taken in hand if circumstances permit. [Captain PIM: Are they seagoing?] There are four sea-going gunboats. I must refrain from from following my hon. and gallant Friend in his estimate of the consequences of a combat between either four or 12 gunboats and the Devastation. I do not think it is necessary that I should pit my knowledge of naval warfare against that of my hon. and gallant Friend; but I have a strong impression that the Devastation would steam away from the gunboats very quickly. I admit the great importance of an ample Naval Reserve, and no steps which I believe to be necessary to secure such a reserve will be wanting on my part; but I am unable to follow my hon. and gallant Friend in the view which he takes at the present moment, and I must refrain from expressing any opinion until I hear the more complete statement which it seems to be his intention to make at a later period of the Session. My hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) is a little severe upon me, because I did not answer the Question which he put to me on the previous night about the reserve of ironclads. I am not able now to answer the Question which he has put. There are ships in reserve, but I do not think it is necessary or desirable that I should state —nor am I in a position accurately to state—to the Committee what that reserve is. If my hon. Friend were to demonstrate—as he probably would do to his own satisfaction and that of many other hon. Gentlemen in this House— that the reserve is insufficient, the only result of that would be that he would 1460 show that we did not possess ships which it would take three or four years to build. If there be such a deficiency of ships, it cannot be remedied except in the manner in which it has been done in the last few weeks—namely, by purchasing ships. But, Sir, the naval force of this country has been in the course of re-construction. My hon. Friend has spoken of the old times when if 60 sail of the line left our shores, there were 300 or 400 other ships ready to take their place. But all the old vessels are gone, because the circumstances in which they were used have gone. Wooden sailing ships were superseded by wooden steamers, which again have been superseded by iron-armoured ships, and iron-armoured vessels are being superseded by still stronger armoured ships. It is impossible to obtain such a reserve, even in a country like England, as that which we possessed many years ago; and had such a thing been attempted some years ago, the consequence would have been that we should have had a reserve of ships which would, in a large degree, have become obsolete, and which would now require to be entirely replaced by ships of a still stronger and more powerful character. I do not know that I can pursue the subject with any practical result, or that I can state more than that I am as conscious as my hon. Friend can be of the necessity of maintaining the defences of this country up to the full amount of strength which the nation can afford, and which its productive power can supply. My hon. Friend has referred to the necessity of having ships which can be handled under canvas. I entirely agree with him except in this— that I would not put a ship under canvas that would be less efficient and less useful for the purpose for which she is intended — that is to say, to fight — by reason of her canvas. We must have fighting ships, possibly of the Dreadnought, the Thunderer, and the Devastation type; because we require them for those, great occasion of battle when our ships would have to meet other ships of the strongest character. But we also want cruising ships, in which young and hardy sailors can be trained, and in which all the skill of English seamanship can be developed. Therefore, while I admit that cruising vessels are necessary, I am bound to say frankly to my hon. Friend that as at present advised 1461 —and my Colleagues agree with me in the course I propose to take—I do not propose to put masts and yards fully rigged into ships which are not suitable for them, and where they would impair the fighting qualities of the ships. Many of the most powerful ironclads are of that type. I hope I have answered all the Questions that have been put to me. If I have failed to do so in any respect, it has been quite unintentionally. I trust the Committee will now permit the Vote to be taken, and proceed to the consideration of the other Votes before them.
§ MR. BENTINCK
wished to correct a misapprehension on the part of the First Lord of the Admiralty, who seemed to think he had suggested that masts and yards should be put into ironclads which were not adapted for handling under canvas. He had made no such suggestion, being fully alive to the absurdity of such a proposal. What he had suggested was a description of vessel which, while retaining the properties of a fighting ship, should be independent of her steam machinery, and capable of being handled under canvas.
§ MR. SAMUDA
also wished to make an explanation. It appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman and he were partly agreed as to the amount of tonnage under construction. So far as he (Mr. Samuda) could make out, there was a deficiency of 4,400 tons in the building of ships in the Dockyards during the past year as compared, with the number of tons which, according to the speech of the late First Lord of the Admiralty in March last, were intended to be built during the past year; and in the case of ships built by contract there was a deficiency of about 2,500 tons— that was to say, there was a deficiency altogether of 7,000 tons. He should be very much obliged if, when they came to the Vote bearing on this matter, the right hon. Gentleman would correct him if he was wrong in his estimate.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that he had, in his opening statement, explained how it was there was an increase in the contract liability. With regard to the question of tonnage, the fact was that 14,240 tons of hull were to have been built in the Dockyards, and 11,538 tons were actually built. 4,408 tons were to have been built by contract, and 4,060 tons were actually built. The total number of 1462 tons to be built was 18,648, and the total actually built was 15,598; so that the deficiency in building was 3,050 tons altogether.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Mr. Raikcs, the opening of this Committee was preceded by the appearance on the Paper of Business of a number of Notices relating to the appointment of 18 Roman Catholic chaplains to the Fleet. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty has, I am glad to hear, not accepted these proposals in full; but has, which I regret, given a pledge that something of the sort contemplated by those Notices shall be done. I was not fortunate enough to be in my place when the right hon. Gentleman alluded to this subject; but I have asked several hon. Friends of mine who were present, what it is, specifically, that the right hon. Gentleman has engaged to do, and not one of them could tell me. I have known many strange things done in this House. I have known the balances on various Votes used so that money voted for one purpose has been applied to another; I have known appointments made, and payments undertaken, before the House had any information on the subject; no de-tails being furnished until the Appropriation Bill had been placed in our hands, or rather left in the Library. I have so much confidence, however, in the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty, that I do not believe he would resort to any of those devices in order to escape from submitting to the House a proposal, which is certainly one of considerable importance. Still, Sir, I think it my duty to ask the right hon. Gentleman in what manner this new item of expenditure, which seems to be an afterthought, is to be submitted to the House, and when?—because the Notices that appear to have led Her Majesty's Government to pledge themselves to this new undertaking are very singular. There are upwards of 40 Notices in all, and the great part of them are in such direct violation of the Constitutional rule by which this House is governed, that they could not have been put from the Chair. But they have been for several days on the Notice Paper of this House. They have been published in the newspapers, and have attracted a great deal of public attention; and no wonder, for it appears that 13 hon. Members belonging to one section—the 1463 Home Rule section of the House—have undertaken to propose to frame Estimates, which is the sole function of Her Majesty's Ministers. They have proposed to burden the taxpayers of this country with an additional charge upon the revenue, which they have no right to propose. ["No!"] I dare say that hon. Members who cry "No" think to escape from that conclusion by the very clever device which is to be found in these 40 irregular Notices. They propose to increase the staff of the Navy by the addition of 18 Roman Catholic chaplains; and then they propose to reduce certain other Votes, making a slow economy in one direction whilst they propose extravagance in another. That kind of set-off will not do, and, least of all, in Notices so grossly irregular as those to which I refer. ["Oh, oh!"] I repeat that they are grossly irregular. I have taken the trouble of ascertaining from the highest authority in this House whether my opinion was not correct; I never remember any previous attempt on the part of any section of this House to supersede Her Majesty's Ministers in that which is their exclusive function. This is the first instance in which I have seen such a deliberate attempt by any considerable section of the House. I find that the following hon. Members are chiefly responsible for this irregular attempt:—The hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry), the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy), the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon), the other hon. Member for Galway (Major Nolan), the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Major O'Gorman), the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), the hon. Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna), the hon. Member for Athlone (Mr. B. Power), the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. M. Brooks), the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. O'Clery), the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Owen Lewis), and the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell). These are the hon. Members who are responsible for these irregular Notices.
§ MR. PARNELL
I rise to Order. ["Order!" "Chair!"] I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. ["Chair!" "Order!"]
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman the Member for 1464 North Warwickshire is at present in possession of the Committee. The hon. Member for Meath will have an opportunity of addressing the Committee in his turn.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
These are the 13 hon. Members whose names appear on the Order Book as responsible for the Notices in the sense of the first Notice, which is given by the hon. and learned Member for Louth, and in these terms—MR. Sullivan.—On Navy Estimates, Vote 1, Sub-head A, Item No. 1, leave out 'one hundred and forty-eight in number,' and insert 'one hundred and thirty in number, and for eighteen Catholic chaplains to serve with flagships.'These Notices have been skilfully drawn, and some of them propose an addition, not in the same terms, because when once a Notice has been put from the Chair and negatived it cannot be repeated; and it appears to me that the variation in the terms of those Notices indicates an intention to obstruct Supply, for they have been so varied that, though pointing to the same object, they might— if not held to be totally inadmissible by the House—be put seriatim to the Committee. I have, Sir, now endeavoured to explain to the House this very exceptional announcement. I have seen it affirmed in Roman Catholic newspapers that the announcements of these Notices have been eminently successful; for, whereas Her Majesty's Government had no intention of increasing the number of Roman Catholic chaplains in the Navy, in consequence of the announcement of these Notices, which was made several days ago, the Cabinet had taken the subject into consideration, and that a large measure of this demand is now to be conceded. I cannot help looking, therefore, upon the intimation, which I hear has been given by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, as an announcement that the Government have, upon second thoughts, and as declared in these newspapers, under political pressure, varied their Estimates, for the purpose of increasing the number of Roman Catholic chaplains in the Navy. My desire and object in rising on this occasion is that this Committee should have these second thoughts of Her Majesty's Ministers distinctly and specifically submitted to the House under the Order for Supply, or in some form which shall prevent the 1465 House from finding itself committed, when the Appropriation Bill is presented to us, to the employment, it may be, of a large number of officials whom they might not deem necessary to the Service, and of a character that they might not consider calculated to improve the morale or discipline of the Navy. It happens that there is an analogous case to this. Last year the House was pleased to pass a Prisons' Act, the movement for which originated in 1862, in an attempt to introduce Roman Catholic chaplains into all the prisons of this country; that was a proposal made by the section of the House from which these present Notices have emanated, and it was analogous to what is now contemplated by these Notices, and I fear sanctioned, to some extent, by the First Lord of the Admiralty. We now know from the proposed rules for the prisons recently submitted to us by the Secretary for the Home Department, under the Act of last Session, that he proposes to collect all the Roman Catholic prisoners into some few prisons, in order to avoid inflicting upon the managers of the county prisons generally the cost of maintaining and the trouble of controlling a Roman Catholic chaplain in each prison.
The hon. Member for North Warwickshire is not in Order in digressing from the present Vote to the discussions on the Prisons Bill.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I should be sorry to say anything that is not strictly in accordance with the rules of debate; but as the Rules and Regulations under the Prisons Act have very recently been submitted to the House, I did not think that my allusion to that document would be held irrelevant; for the position of a Roman Catholic chaplain in a prison must be somewhat analogous to the appointment of a Roman Catholic chaplain in a ship, since the crew of a ship are virtually imprisoned when the ship is at sea. The attempt to avoid the difficulty to be apprehended from Roman Catholic chaplains in prisons suggests the good sense of the reason that Roman Catholic chaplains have not hitherto been appointed to the Navy; for it has always been understood that such appointments were likely to interfere with the discipline of Her Majesty's ships of war, and very recently an hon. Gentleman opposite, alluding, in the course of this debate, to the suggestion that the number of Roman 1466 Catholic chaplains should be increased, said that he saw great difficulty in having two chaplains on board each ship; and it occurred to me that the difficulties which have notoriously arisen in the management of the Roman Catholic chaplains in the gaols would probably find a parallel on board a ship of war, the crew of which are as completely confined as if they were in a prison during the period that the ship is at sea. [Admiral Sir WILLIAM EDMON-STONE: No.] And if difficulties have been experienced in the prisons, I think it may fairly be anticipated that the like will arise on board the ship. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: NO.] These interruptions have been repeated, until they appear to have become customary, when any attempt is made to oppose any proposal favourable to the progress of the Roman Catholic Church. The hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Wexford, when he has no other answer to give, is apt to interrupt, whoever is speaking. He has some very peculiar habits.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
I rise to Order, Sir. I ask whether this reference to the hon. and learned Member for Wexford is applicable to the question under discussion? The hon. Member for North Warwickshire seems anxious to discuss the habits of the hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Wexford.
The Question is hardly one of Order. I did not understand the hon. Member for North Warwickshire to allude in an offensive sense to the hon. and learned Member for Wexford.
MR. J. COWEN
Would not this discussion be more appropriate if it took place when a distinct Vote is proposed to the Committee? At present, as it seems to me, the question is not before us.
The hon. Member for Newcastle asks whether this discussion would not be more in Order when a substantive proposal is made to the House; but I do not know that it is for me to say whether it will be more in Order at that time. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, having touched upon this subject in moving the Vote for the number of men for the service of the Navy, I have not felt justified in stopping the hon. Member for North Warwickshire in the observations which he has made. It is 1467 for him to consider whether in his discretion he should make them.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I am anxious to prevent a proceeding which I have seen adopted in this House on some previous occasions—the engagement or employment of officers and men, without the names or character or the number of those officers being submitted to the House, which all must admit would be an evasion of the Rules of the House. As for these interruptions, they are but too characteristic of the manner in which any opposition to such proposals as these are habitually treated by the Home Rule section of the House. I was not about to utter anything unfairly discourteous to the hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Wexford. What I intended to say was this—I have known that hon. and learned Baronet in debate to contradict statements of mine which I have made from personal know-lodge of the facts; and when the hon. and learned Baronet found that those contradictions were not accepted by the House, what was his excuse? He said that his Bishop had told him so.
The hon. Member for North Warwickshire is now adverting to matter which does not refer to the question before the Committee.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I bow to your decision, Sir; but it is rather difficult to deal with these systematic interruptions. My object in addressing the Committee has been this. Proposals are on our Notice Paper which are totally irregular, have been there for days, and stand there now; but those on whose responsibility these Notices stand avoid putting them to the Committee. I have no right to put a hypothetical case to you, Sir; but debating this matter has shown that if any one of these Notices had been proposed, you could not have put it from the Chair. These irregular Notices are well understood out-of-doors to be a mode of bringing pressure to bear upon Her Majesty's Ministers for the purpose of attaining an object which, I regret to hoar, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty has felt himself compelled, in a very considerable degree, to concede. And yet, if these additional appointments of Soman Catholic chaplains be made, nothing is more clear than that these appointments will not be the result of the original judgment of the Cabinet, or of the right hon. Gentleman at 1468 the head of the Admiralty; but will be made in deference to the suggestion of a section of this House who are peculiarly interested in obtaining Government employment for ministers of their own denomination. ["No, no!"] It appears to me that there can be no other interpretation put upon what is understood to have occurred; for not one of those hon. Gentlemen who have given these Notices has risen in his place and attempted to justify the course he has pursued, by showing that there is any necessity whatever for the appointment of these 18 Roman Catholic chaplains— not one. I think, therefore, that we are proceeding under circumstances which require that this Committee should have specific information submitted to it, whilst the House is yet in a position to pronounce an effective judgment on the subject of a proposal that cannot be regarded in the light of being the original proposal of Her Majesty's Government, and which must stand as a concession to a section of religionists who have banded themselves into a well-known Party in this House.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I trust this will not be the commencement of a debate on this subject, because if the hon. Gentleman had been in his place when I made my statement, I am perfectly certain he would not have delivered the remarks which he has done. It is a pity that hon. Members should come down to the House, not having listened to Ministerial statements, and raise questions which, I venture to say, they are not justified in raising. I stated — and I am sure the House will not wish me to repeat it—what the Government were prepared to undertake in this matter, and in what mode they proposed to fulfil their engagement, and I undertook to give the House an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. I am exceedingly anxious to get on with the Estimates, because the public service requires that they should be agreed to; and I therefore hope no further debate will be thought necessary on this subject. I think I may say it will not be found that I have taken any step in this matter which is not in accordance with the promise I have made.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
A pledge has now been given to the House by the right hon. Gentleman which I failed to understand had been given before— 1469 that this scheme for additional Roman Catholic chaplains will be submitted to the House, in such form and under such circumstances, as will ensure an opportunity for the House to express an opinion thereupon.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £2,702,240, Wages, &c, to Seamen and Marines.
inquired what was the total cost of the Island of Ascension, and whether the right hon. Gentleman would consent to make a Return showing the different items of expenditure? The question was, whether the benefit derived from the Island of Ascension was commensurate with its cost?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he should be perfectly ready to give the Return the hon. Member asked for, provided he would move for it.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (3.) £1,146,192, Victuals and Clothing for Seamen and Marines.
wished to know whether there was any profit or loss upon the item of seamen's clothing? About £300,000 was voted for the supply of clothing to the Seamen and Marines, and the credits for clothing were put down at about £200,000. Were they to infer that the difference between these two amounts represented a loss to the Government?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, his own belief was that there was a considerable loss upon the item of seamen's clothing —certainly there was no profit.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (4.) £200,760, Admiralty Office, agreed to.
§ (5.) £207,510, Coast Guard Service and Royal Naval Reserves, &c.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
said, he wished that this Vote might be postponed, and he begged his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty to do so. He was prepared to show that in reality we had no Naval Reserve. Not one sailor of this so-called Reserve could be spared in time of war from our merchant ships, which were at present mostly manned by foreigners.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
hoped the hon. and gallant Gentleman would allow the Vote to be taken to-night. There would be full opportunity hereafter to raise any 1470 discussion which might be desired. It was understood that, with one or two exceptions, he was to be allowed to take all the Votes to-night.
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
trusted the House would have the Report of the Admiral Superintendent of the Naval Reserves in its possession before entering into a detailed discussion of the subject.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
consented to accede to the suggestion that the Vote should be now agreed to, leaving the discussion till a future period.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (6.) £106,041, Scientific Departments.
drew attention to the contribution made by the Admiralty to the Greenwich Hospital funds for the use of the buildings appropriated to the Naval College. This College was a very extensive affair, and all the Admiralty paid for the use of the buildings at Greenwich Hospital was the paltry sum of £100, which was totally inadequate to represent anything like the value which these buildings were to the Admiralty.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (7.) £76,740, Victualling Yards at Home and Abroad.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
protested against the enormous amount of money spent in England as compared with the sister country. The only Vote fairly distributed amongst the three countries was the Coastguard. But of all the other Votes the overwhelming proportion was spent in England. This was specially noticeable in the case of the Victualling Vote. And both in respect to this and other Votes the greatest trouble seemed to be taken to localize in England the expenditure which might be diffused throughout the three countries. In Cork Harbour they had a harbour inferior to none in the country, and it ought to be utilized for Imperial purposes. Not only was this due as a matter of justice to Ireland, but it would have the hap- 1471 piest effect in exciting and maintaining the martial spirit of the country.
§ MR. A. F. EGERTON
said, it was necessary that these victualling establishments should be near the great shipbuilding yards, and the consequence was that there were large victualling establishments at Portsmouth and Plymouth. At present he did not think it was possible to do more for Ireland.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (8.) £66,400, Medical Establishments at Home and Abroad.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
was not aware that there was any deficiency of naval medical officers, and he could not speak too highly of their services.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (9.) £21,139, Marine Divisions.
§ (10.) £539,115, New Works, Buildings, Machinery, and Repairs.
§ (11.) £77,230, Medicines and Medical Stores, &c.
§ (12.) £7,994, Martial Law, &c.
§ (13.) £134,725, Miscellaneous Services.
§ (14.) £891,605, Half Pay, Reserved Half Pay, and Retired Pay to Officers of the Navy and Royal Marines.
§ MR. VANS AGNEW
said, he had a Notice on the Paper in reference to this Vote; but he had no wish to delay the Estimates on the present occasion, and therefore he should not bring the subject forward.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (15.) £790,297, Military Pensions and Allowances.
§ LORD ESLINGTON
said, the force of Pensioners was the most valuable part of their Reserves, and he was anxious to find out the number of effective Pensioners who would be fit for service if required. As the Estimates were now framed, it was difficult to ascertain this fact. There was also another matter to which he should wish to draw attention. He had seen a statement in the newspapers that a foreign ship had left the 1472 River Thames, the main portion of her crew consisting of Naval Pensioners. The ship was a Japanese one, and she was commanded by English officers. He understood that the Pensioners, after the Coastguard, formed the most valuable part of our Naval Reserve, and he should wish to know what was the number of Pensioners available for active service, and the age up to which they might be called upon in case of emergency? He should also like to have some explanation as to the item of £30,902, which constituted a large increase in the amount payable in the shape of pensions to Seamen and Marines; and as to the circumstances under which a Japanese iron-clad had recently left our shores manned chiefly by Naval Pensioners?
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
was glad the noble Lord had drawn attention to the Vote, because it had very seriously increased within the last few years; and because, from inquiries which he had some time ago made on the subject, he was led to the conclusion that it was likely to go on increasing for the next 20 years, although the number of seamen in the Navy remained the same. The fact was that those pensions were given to the men at the comparatively early age of 38 or 40, and that many of them continued to receive them for a great number of years, even though they might have obtained employment, as the noble Lord had pointed out, in the service of some foreign country. Naval Pensioners, too, were very frequently taken on as labourers in our Dockyards; and it seemed to him a matter for serious consideration that there should be men in the receipt of high pensions from the State while actually being employed and paid by the State in other capacities. He was also of opinion that the pensions bore too large a proportion to the rate of pay; and it would, he thought, be a wise and economical arrangement to increase the wages, especially of men who had been five or six years in the Service, with a view to the prospective reduction of the scale of pensions. He did not know any occupation in which a labouring man could get so good a pension at so early an age.
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
expressed his entire concurrence in the remarks which had been made by the last speaker. 1473 The rate of pension was, undoubtedly, excessive as compared with the scale of wages paid to our seamen, and was not, he believed, appreciated at its true value—at all events, by the younger men. Training was expensive. It cost the country not less than £300 to train a lad and to make him an able seaman; but after that expense had been incurred, and he was sent out in one of our ships to a foreign station, he was often tempted to desert. He had always been of opinion that to give such high pensions to men in the prime of life was a questionable policy, and he hoped it would receive the careful consideration of the Government. It was no uncommon occurrence, he believed, for a seaman, on getting his pension at the age of 38, to enter the Custom House Service, from which he might retire, at the end of 20 years, with a second pension. That was a state of things which ought not, he thought, to be allowed to continue.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, the Committee was greatly indebted to his noble Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Lord Eslington) for having called its attention to a question of great importance. The increase of the Vote, as hon. Members were probably aware, was due to the conditions under which our seamen were enlisted. The continuous-service system had, however, been of great advantage to the country; but it was only now that we were realizing one portion of its cost. It was a fact, as had been stated, that a seaman might retire from the Navy at the age of 38 with a very good pension and, if he pleased, take some other employment. Now, he should be glad if it were possible to induce some of those men to remain in Her Majesty's Service a little longer. They would be very useful, for some portion of the time, between the age of 38 and 55, and would make excellent petty officers; but he was, of course, aware that it would be necessary to increase their pay, in order to induce them to remain. His noble Friend asked how many Pensioners could be called upon for active service? There were, he believed, only 850 enrolled Pensioners who could be called upon to serve except in time of war, and then others also might be called upon; but he did not exactly know what was the number. The age up to which they were 1474 liable to serve was 65. The Pensioners, he might add, were no longer under the control of the Admiralty, and had a right to take their services wherever they might think fit. He had, therefore, no power to prevent them from manning a Japanese or any other foreign vessels.
§ LORD ESLINGTON
hoped his right hon. Friend would not object to furnish the House with a Return giving information as to the conditions under which Pensioners could be called upon, in case of emergency, to serve with the flag. If they were to be looked upon as constituting a Reserve, it would be a very dangerous thing to allow them to take service in a foreign ship—it might be permanently. That would be, he imagined, a real violation of the conditions under which they enlisted in our Navy; and he saw no good reason why our Naval Pensioners should not form a body somewhat analogous to the Army Reserve.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that although there was, he supposed, an obligation imposed upon those men to serve if called upon, it would be impossible to enforce it if they could not be found, and there was no condition connected with the receipt of their pension by which they were bound to remain in the country. As to what had fallen from his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, with respect to retaining seamen in the Navy as petty officers for a considerable time longer, he thought there would be great difficulty in carrying out such a proposal. Under the present terms of engagement boys were obtained who were trained for the Navy from the age of 14 to 18. They then served up to the age of 28 their first 10 years as seamen. Now, no man was fit to fill the position of petty officer until he was 25, or perhaps a little older; and it was found, in practice, that few men were willing to take petty officers' rating at 26 or 27, when so short a time remained for the completion of their 10 years' service. If any man were to do so, he would be looked upon by his shipmates of the lower deck as having broken faith with them, and as standing in the way of some one else who might be in a position to draw a petty officer's pay for a somewhat longer time. The difficulty which he had pointed out to the Committee was very well known in the Service to exist; and 1475 he had therefore thought it right to bring it under his right hon. Friend's notice. He wished also to suggest to his right hon. Friend the expediency of increasing the pay of petty officers.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, a serious omission had unquestionably been made when many years ago the present system of training boys for the Navy was established, under which the men would all be pensioned at 38 years of age, in not providing for their going into a Naval Pensioners' Reserve. How that had happened he did not know; because the existing arrangement had been made long before any one now a Member of the House had been connected with the Admiralty. But be that as it might, there could be no doubt that while in connection with the Army there was a Reserve into which all Pensioners went from the outset, the creation of such a body in the Navy had, up to 1869, been almost entirely lost sight of. Before that year the Admiralty had no hold upon a seaman after he received his pension. He was under no legal obligation, even to give his address. Technically, he believed Naval Pensioners were liable to be called out for active service, not under the operation of statute law, but by the general right vested in the Crown to summon to its service those who happened to be in receipt of pensions from the State. That was a right, however, which it would be difficult and, under some circumstances, it might be dangerous to enforce. Now, what had been done by him (Mr. Childers) in 1870 was to provide that, as to future entries, every seaman, when he got a pension, might be legally and properly called out for active service whenever occasion arose, existing seamen having an advantage with respect to their Greenwich pension if they voluntarily did so. The matter had since not received that amount of attention which, in his opinion, its importance demanded; and he would venture to suggest to the First Lord of the Admiralty the expediency of proceeding, if not this year, as soon as possible, on the basis of the liability of Pensioners to serve when called upon, which was laid down in 1870, so that by that means as efficient a Reserve Force might be secured for the Navy as they now had for the Army. Practically, every well-behaved seaman obtained a pension at the age of 38, and there 1476 were, therefore, 15 good years of service left in him, which ought to be turned to account. He hoped, then, the right hon. Gentleman would take the question up as one which was of vital interest to the Navy; and if only 10 years from the present time he succeeded in having enrolled in the Seaman Pensioners' Reserve some 10,000 or 12,000, he would have rendered a service which would be appreciated by Parliament and the country.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
was strongly of opinion that if retiring allowances on a liberal scale were granted to officers, seamen, or soldiers, on the condition that they should be available for the service of the country, the money so laid out was well spent. If, however, they were not to be available for that service, to give extravagant pensions to men who had only reached the age of 38 was, he thought, a wasteful expenditure of the public resources.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (16.) £284,223, Civil Pensions and Allowances, agreed to.
§ (17.) £210,250, Freight, &c. on account of the Army Department.
§ MR. WHITWELL
asked whether the whole of the Vote was for the purpose of defraying the charges for the conveyance of troops to the Colonies; and whether the larger portion was not to meet expenses connected with the war now going on at the Cape of Good Hope?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that a very considerable portion of the Vote was to meet expenses incurred in sending out troops to the Cape, and bringing them home. There were also charges for reliefs sent to Hong Kong and Singapore; but there was, in reality, no very material increase in the Vote this year. There would be more voyages through the Suez Canal than there were last year, and generally it might be expected, as he was sorry to say that it would be necessary to send the troops in the same direction as the large number was sent last year.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ MR. CHILDERS
hoped his right hon. Friend would allow him to ask when he proposed to take the Supplementary 1477 Estimates, and when he proposed to take the Greenwich Estimate?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that the Supplementary Estimates would be taken on Monday. He was not able to say when his right hon. Friend would be able to give him a day for Votes 6 and 10; but he would give ample Notice.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next;
§ Committee to sit again upon Monday next.