§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £2,041,152, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expense of Wages, &c, to Seamen and Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1881.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he did not propose to detain the Committee at 1384 any great length upon the question of the present Estimates, because it would be recollected that they had already been explained by the late First Lord in the short Session before Easter. The Estimates which were then before the Committee were practically identical with those submitted by the right hon. Gentleman, with one small exception. The Government had taken the Estimates of the late Board as they found them, and the Committee by voting the number of men before Easter had, in fact, determined the expenditure in many of the Votes before them at that moment. The Government had also found, on coming into Office, that the programme of work in the Dockyards had been carefully laid down, with a view to building ships for the relief of our squadrons, and that the stores for the Dockyards had already been contracted for. That was necessarily the case, because it was important that the supplies for the various works of the Navy should be contracted for at an early period of the financial year. The total of the Navy Estimates for the year amounted to £10,492,000. That amount was much less than the average for the last few years, and it was £93,000 less than the Estimates for the last year; £368,000 less than the Estimates for 1878–9, and no less than £500,000 less than the average expenditure for the last six years, irrespective of Votes of Credit, which amounted to £2,000,000. Comparing the Estimate for the present year with that of the year 1874–5, the last year for which the previous Liberal Administration were responsible, when the Estimates were prepared by Mr. Goschen and himself, and subsequently taken up by Mr. Ward Hunt, he found they amounted to £10,179,000, while the present Estimates were, as he had said, £10,492,000, showing a difference of £313,000. But in the interval there had been a continuous growth in the cost of the Non-Effective Services, due almost entirely to the increase of pensions for seamen, marines, and artificers, to which his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff had called attention. That increase amounted to no less than £268,000. The difference, therefore, between the amount for the year 1874 and that for the present year was only £45,000. He was not prepared to say that the work of the present year could be carried out for any less sum than that 1385 which had been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty before Easter. The Government had, therefore, adopted the Estimates as they stood, with one exception, which he would now explain. It would be recollected probably by hon. Members who were present when the Estimates were discussed before Easter that there had been a general expression of opinion from all parts of the Committee that it would have been better if some greater progress could be made with the ironclads already laid down in the Dockyards. Some hon. Members had gone so far as to say that no ironclads ought to be commenced before those in hand had been finished. He had been unable entirely to agree with that view; but he had stated his opinion that it would be well if we could hasten somewhat more rapidly the completion of vessels already in hand. On taking Office, therefore, his first task had been to lay that view before the present First Lord of the Admiralty and his Colleagues, and to endeavour to make arrangements for carrying it into effect. The case of the ironclads was this: There were seven ironclads in course of construction, and it was proposed in the Estimates laid before the Committee by the late First Lord to lay down three new ones, and to build of these various ironclads in the course of the year 7,200 tons. The Inflexible would be finished in the course of the year. She had been commenced in 1873, and would therefore have been nearly eight years in course of construction. The next two vessels in course of construction, the Ajax and Agamemnon, which might be described as smaller In-flexibles, had been commenced in 1873; and so far as he understood the programme, as prepared by the late Government, they could not be completed before the beginning of 1883. The Agamemnon was building at Chatham, and the Ajax at Pembroke; but in the course of the present year it was intended that the Ajax should be so far advanced as to be launched, and then sent round to Chatham for completion. The Conqueror and the Polythemus were also in course of construction at Chatham, and it was proposed in the programme to commence there another new iron-clad. It would appear that if any great advance were made in the construction of those vessels, the progress of the Ajax and the 1386 Agamemnon must be even more retarded He understood that the Agamemnon could not be completed before the 3rd of August, 1882, and that the Ajax could not be completed before the 1st of April, 1883. Now, if that were correct, the Agamemnon would have taken 7½ and the Ajax 8 years in course of completion. He thought it would be agreed that those were very long periods of time to be consumed in the construction of ironclads of that class. In introducing the Estimates the right hon. Gentleman had given an explanation of the cause of the delay which had occurred in building these two vessels. He told the Committee that it was necessary, in the course of their construction, to make experiments with regard to guns, and he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) believed also with regard to steel plates. He need hardly point out that those experiments had now been concluded, and that all questions with respect to the construction of those vessels had been brought to an end, and that nothing remained but to complete them according to the designs which had already been thoroughly agreed upon. It therefore appeared to him that there was no longer any reason why there should be any delay in the completion of those vessels, which he thought should be completed as fast as possible, and tried at sea, in order that the Admiralty might have the benefit of the experience to be derived from them, and that they should be added without delay to the material force of the Navy. He therefore proposed to ask the Committee, with a view to hastening the completion of those two vessels, to vote the sum of £20,000 additional, to be expended in Dockyard labour for that purpose. The effect of that expenditure, if it were continued through next year, would be to enable them to complete the Ajax and the Agamemnon by the end of the next financial year. He believed the Agamemnon would be complete on the lst of December, 1881, and the Ajax by the 1st of March, 1882. The Committee would understand that this arrangement would accelerate the completion of these vessels by nearly a year. That acceleration would involve the non-commencement of new iron-clad which it had been proposed to build at Chatham during the present year. Next year, if his programme were carried out, it would be possible to lay 1387 down two new ironclads to take the place of the Ajax and the Agamemnon. That acceleration, as he had said, involved the expenditure of £20,000 in addition to the Dockyard Vote No. 6; but it would not involve an increase of expenditure during the present year for materials, because they had already been provided for. It would, therefore, not be necessary to ask the Committee for a larger sum for materials for these two vessels, and the increased expenditure which he proposed would be provided for by savings upon another Vote namely—that for ships, machinery, and building by contract. He found that the tenders given in for three cruisers which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had proposed to build by contract had been at a so much lower rate than was expected, that the expenditure would be considerably less than was at first thought and the result would be that they could spare £20,000 from Vote 10, Section 2, to supplement Vote 6, without in any way neglecting the work contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. In other words, they would have the ships which the right hon. Gentleman had proposed to build out of that Vote, and would, at the same time, have the money for the acceleration of the Ajax and the Agamemnon. He ventured to submit those changes of programme to the Committee; and he thought that the right hon. Gentleman opposite would be of opinion, upon the whole, that the course which he proposed was a wise one, even although it was an amendment of his original plan. With respect to the Colossus and the Majestic, they had not thought it advisable to make any change in the programme for hastening on those vessels; but if they found in the course of the year that any labour could be spared from other work it should be diverted for that purpose. The object which they had in view would be to complete the vessels already in hand as soon as they possibly could; but of course he need hardly point out to the Committee that there was a limit to the possibility of applying labour for that purpose. It was impossible, for example, to apply to a large iron-clad such as the Colossus more than a certain amount of labour, having regard to economy, and the very shortest time in which a vessel of that class could be completed would be four 1388 years from the date of its commencement. An hon. Member said three years and a-half. He would not dispute with him as to half a year; but it was impossible to complete vessels of that size except in a long extended period. They must be very fortunate indeed, in the case of vessels of a novel type, if there were no delay in the course of its construction, due to the necessity of making experiments with regard to guns, plates, turrets, and other matters, such as had in the experience of the right hon. Gentleman opposite retarded the progress of the Inflexible, the Ajax, and the Agamemnon. But even without those experiments, the time occupied in building large ironclads of that kind must in any case be a long one. The consideration of that circumstance brought to their mind the fact that they could not hope to improvise such vessels in time of war. It was impossible in time of war to build in our Dockyards large iron-clads which could take part in the war. It would seem, therefore, hardly worth while, when war was impending, to lay down iron-clads which would take at least three or four years to build. They might be fortunate enough at such a period to be able to buy iron-clads which had been constructed in private dockyards as was done in 1878, or it might be well to expend money in buying fast vessels from the Merchant Service, to be fitted out in order to assist the Navy as cruisers for the defence of our commerce; or to expend money in building gun-boats, torpedo vessels, or small craft of that kind which could be turned out very rapidly. But in time of war they could not wisely vote money to commence large iron-clads. The converse of that proposition was equally true, that just as they could anticipate a period of peace and had no fear of disturbances, so it would be wise to expend as much as possible of the resources available for the Navy on that work of the most permanent character which could not be improvised in the time of war. Therefore, at the present moment, when he hoped there was no fear of immediate disturbances, such as had alarmed the country during the last three or four years, he ventured to say it was all the more important that they should devote as large a portion of their resources in the Dockyards as they could to the com- 1389 pletion of iron-clads which would be available in time of war. For that reason, the policy of the present Board of Admiralty would be, as far as possible, to hasten on the building of the iron-clads which were already in hand, and also when they did in future lay down vessels of that type to advance their completion as quickly as they could. Looking to the state of the ironclads which were likely to come into the Dockyards for repairs in the course of the next two or three years, and looking also to the large amount of work which, he freely acknowledged, had been done by the late Board in the way of repairing iron-clads and other vessels, he hoped that there would not be so much pressure on the Dockyards for repairs daring the next two or three years as there had been in the past; and he trusted, therefore, that they would be able to devote a larger portion of labour to the completion of such vessels as were in hand. Turning to another subject, he ventured to point out to the Committee that since the right hon. Gentleman opposite had made his introductory statement upon the Estimates the Report of the Committee on boilers had been completed. In 1874, the late Mr. Ward Hunt, immediately on becoming First Lord of the Admiralty, had appointed a Committee to investigate the causes of the very rapid deterioration which had taken place in some of the boilers in the Navy, especially as compared with the boilers of merchant ships. That Committee had sat for nearly four years, collecting a very large amount of evidence, and had also conducted a series of most careful inquiries. But, two years ago, as it appeared it was not likely soon to report, he understood that the right hon. Gentleman opposite dissolved it and appointed another, composed entirely of Departmental officers of the Admiralty, presided over by the able Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. Wright. That Committee had brought the inquiries and experiments to a conclusion, and had, he was glad to say, made its final Report, which would shortly be in the hands of hon. Members, and would, in his opinion, be of great use both to the Navy and the Merchant Service. It had thoroughly investigated the subject of the corrosion of boilers, and the causes of their rapid deterioration. The decay of boilers had 1390 been attributed formerly, among other causes, to galvanic action, and to the water in them being used over and over again, and the old practice had been to empty the boilers as often as possible and to change the water; and it had also been the practice when the boilers were not in use to leave them as long as possible dry. He thought it would be interesting to the Committee to know that the investigations had resulted in conclusive proof that none of those causes to which he had alluded had anything whatever to do with the rapid deterioration of boilers in the Navy, which it had been found was solely due to the entrance of air charged with moisture. That had been conclusively proved by the experiments which had been made, and the result would be that in future the practice would be exactly the reverse of what it was formerly—namely, that instead of emptying the boilers often the same water would be kept as long as possible, and the practice would be to keep them filled with water, with a view of protecting the interior surfaces of the boilers when they were not in use. He was glad to see that instructions, founded on the Report of the Committee, had been issued to the Service; and he ventured to hope that they would have the effect of preventing rapid deterioration of the boilers in the Navy in future. It was also satisfactory to know that the boilers of two Indian troopships, experimented upon under the superintendence of these two Committees for six years, showed no sensible deterioration, and that, therefore, it was quite possible to preserve boilers to a very much greater extent than had hitherto been supposed to be possible. It might have been supposed that this would have been discovered at at earlier date; and he could not but express great surprise that it had taken six years to discover what appeared to be so elementary a proposition. In the meantime, he was sorry to say that the rapid deterioration, which had been complained of in the past, had continued, and even during the few days he had been at the Admiralty there had been two cases of that kind in respect of vessels employed in the Eastern seas. In one case, that of the Diamond, which was built in 1874, and was only in commission three years and 1391 a-half and had been more than half her mileage under sail, came into the Dockyard, where it was found that her boilers were corroded to an extent that rendered them useless, and that new boilers would have to be supplied. In the case of another vessel which had only been four years in the Service, when she came into the Dockyard it turned out that her boilers were useless through corrosion, and new ones had to be put in at great expense. He had ventured to deal with these cases at some length, because this was not merely a question of economy, but of efficiency in the very highest degree. If they could only secure that the boilers of their larger iron-clads should last a longer period than in the past, it was quite clear that the efficiency of those vessels would be enormously increased. The expense and delay caused by sending one of these vessels into the Dockyard for the purpose of being ripped up that new boilers might be put in was so great that it was a matter of very considerable importance indeed to the Navy. Certainly it would be most unsatisfactory in time of war if any boilers were to give way and vessels were to be compelled to put into the Dockyards for the purpose of undergoing repairs at vast expense and taking a very considerable period of time. He believed it was correct to say that it took more than a year to put boilers into one of these larger iron-clads. Therefore, if by any means we could preserve those boilers for a long period, very much would be added to the efficiency of these larger vessels, and in a proportionate degree they would add to the strength of the Navy. In the course of the debate which had already occurred several subjects had been touched upon. The hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) had produced his usual arguments upon the subject of the Navy. He had no complaint to make of what the hon. Member had said, for he had no doubt those arguments would equally apply to the late First Lord as to the present one. The hon. Member complained, in the first place, of the utter indifference of the Committee to naval subjects; and he attempted to support that opinion by alluding to the small attendance in the House at that particular period. He ventured to differ from the hon. Member in regard to that assertion. He himself 1392 did not believe that there was any indifference in the House of Commons on naval affairs; but what he did think was that the House generally was of opinion that these naval matters would not be dealt with in a partial spirit, and in consequence of that belief there was not that large attendance that there was upon some other subjects when they were discussed. He ventured also to think that what the hon. Member considered as the indifference of the House to naval questions was merely an absence caused by the feeling that hon. Members did not share generally with the hon. Member the alarms and fears which he had expressed. The hon. Member next complained of the want of sufficient reserve of iron-clads, and in reply to that he would say that at no time in his recollection had the reserve of iron-clads been greater than it now was. The hon. Member had declared that there were absolutely no reserves at all, and that there were no more vessels at present ready than were required for the purposes of the Navy. He would call attention to the fact that the Coastguard vessels were intended as reserves of the Navy, and that besides those vessels there were at present in the Dockyards a larger number of the iron-clads of the first reserve ready for sea than he had ever himself recollected at any previous period. They had also vessels nearly complete, such as the Inflexible, the Neptune, and the Orion, and new vessels like the Ajax and Agamemnon, which would be complete next year, and which of themselves, when finished, would form a very powerful fleet. The hon. Member next went on to complain of the want of fast cruisers, and on that point he was bound to say that he thought there was more reason for complaint. He himself thought there was a want of fast cruisers, and he observed that there had not been much addition to that class during the last three or four years. He was glad to observe, however, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite the late First Lord of the Admiralty, in the programme which he laid down in the beginning of the year, and which had been adopted by the Government, had provided for the building of three first-class cruisers by contract. Those vessels would be of a very first-class character, calculated to steam at least 16 knots an 1393 hour, and with very great capacity for coals, carrying in their bunks something like 1,000 tons. These would, no doubt, be very useful vessels, and he should hope from time to time to be able to add to their number. It must also be remembered that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, during his administration, made arrangements in expectation of war, for taking up a very considerable number of fast merchant vessels, and in considering the want of vessels of this kind it must be remembered that at a time of emergency we could look to the commercial marine and obtain from it vessels of very great speed, which, without much difficulty, could be converted into cruisers for the protection of our commerce. At the same time, he was bound to admit that at the present moment there was a certain want of vessels of this type in the Navy, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite had already made steps towards supplying that want, and he hoped the Government would be able to move further in that direction. The noble Lord the Member for Chichester had adverted to the suggestion for converting the less valuable iron-clads of the Achilles, Black Prince, and Minotaur, into fast cruisers of this kind. That was a plan well worthy of consideration. These vessels had ceased to be of any great value as iron-clads, because the thickness of their plating was not such as to enable them to resist artillery of any power; but they were, on the other hand, vessels of a good form, and if fitted with compound engines would be of great speed and great coal carrying capacity. Thus, as powerful cruisers, they might be of much value for the protection of our commerce. He was unable to say, however, whether the present Board would undertake to convert one of these vessels; and he could only assure the Committee that the matter was considered by them to be well worthy of consideration, and should have his best attention. His hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Mr. E. J. Reed) made some remarks about the state of our iron-clad Fleet compared with that of France, and very properly observed that in comparing the two Fleets we should take into account that for many years past the French built only wooden vessels plated with iron, whereas in this country, from a very much earlier time, 1394 the whole resources of the English Dockyards were employed in simply building iron vessels. In that respect we had a very great advantage over the French; but the hon. Member also truly pointed out that the French had now been compelled to give up building wooden armour-plated vessels, and for three or four years past had been entirely devoting themselves to the construction of iron-clads. The hon. Member was, no doubt, quite correct in saying that that fact should make us more careful in our comparison; but, at the same time, we should recollect that the French vessels often compared with ours were the wooden type to which the hon. Member had alluded. For himself, he knew nothing more difficult than to make accurate comparisons between our own Navy and that of France. It was a problem almost impossible of solution, because they had to take into account the build of each particular vessel, the period at which it was constructed, and the fact that a greater number of the French vessels were wooden, which, all experience showed, could not stand the wear and tear to the same extent that the iron-clads could, and must, therefore, become deteriorated and rotten earlier than iron-clads. It was impossible to form a true comparison between our own Navy and that of France without taking all these points into consideration. The noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) had called attention to the condition of the Inconstant, and had stated in the course of his remarks that the vessel was in some respects rotten. As, however, the hull was constructed entirely of iron it could not be in a bad state, and he was informed by the contractors that there was no grounds whatever for the observation, and that the Inconstant was a thoroughly sound vessel, quite fit to go to sea. With reference to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Cardiff as to the state of the Invincible, that was a matter of very considerable importance, which had been discussed at great length on various occasions in the House, and it was one which also had been dealt with very fully by a Committee which sat on the subject. He would, however, prefer to ask the House to wait until the Invincible was tried. She would be finished in the course of the present year, and 1395 would then go to sea, and he ventured to think that a better and truer opinion could be formed of her capabilities then than at the present time. He believed he had now dealt with all the topics touched upon in the previous debate. He knew he should have to claim the indulgence of the House in respect of many details of the Votes which would come before the Committee in the course of the ensuing discussion; for although he had some experience in naval matters, having held this Office on a previous occasion, and although he had taken an active part as a critic of naval matters during the last three years, yet there were many matters of detail connected with the Votes which required time to master. He remembered, however, that there was not now very much difference amongst them on the question of detail of Naval Votes, although, of course, there might be a difference of opinion on some of the broader questions of naval policy. He knew they all had but one desire to maintain the efficiency of the Naval Service.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
congratulated the hon. Gentleman on the spirit in which he had made his first speech in introducing the Estimates for the Navy. He had no objection to urge to the programme which the hon. Gentleman had just explained; but he was exceedingly glad to find that he was in a position to hasten forward the completion of the Ajax and the Agamemnon. Had he been in the hon. Gentleman's position, he should gladly have availed himself of the opportunity which a reduction in the price of cruisers afforded. He was very glad, also, to observe that the hon. Gentleman had not hesitated to increase the strength of the establishment at Chatham in order to push forward the work. Reference had been made in the earlier part of the evening to that subject, and some hon. Members had spoken as though he himself had been in favour of slow shipbuilding. He had never been in favour of that. If a design could be regarded as settled and perfected, as one from which they could not depart in any way, it was more easy, and it was far more desirable, that it should be pressed forward with all the energy and decision of which a Public Department was capable. He was glad to find, therefore, that considerable addition was to be made to the strength of 1396 Chatham Dockyard. He believed he was not misrepresenting the Government when he said that the hon. Gentleman had also accepted a canon much insisted upon by some of his hon. Friends in the House—that there should be as little variation as possible in the employment of labour in these Dockyards, and that the Government, when they had acquired the skilled labour of a very large number of men for various work, should keep a settled amount of work in view in order to obtain the most economical and profitable results. He, therefore, quite agreed in the view of the, hon. Gentleman that they should not reduce the strength of the Dockyards, but rather that they should maintain them at the point at which it was fixed by the late Administration. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the Contract Votes, and observed that the late Administration had deliberately omitted to approve the design for the new Comus. That was quite so. He intended to leave to his successors to decide what the character of that ship should be. He did not in any way complain of the delay in approving that design, and he gladly accepted the three cruisers in place of two which had been originally proposed, because he believed the cruiser to be of far greater importance than the Comus. His hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk had insisted on the advantage of building armoured ships which could keep the sea. He noticed that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, who was very skilled in these matters, had not satisfied the expectations which he had raised that he would present the Committee with the design for an armoured line-of-battle ships which should keep the sea under sail, without the use of steam power; and he was very much afraid, from the knowledge which he had obtained of first-class battle-ships, that the day was very far distant when a ship should be presented with those qualifications, even considering the skill of the hon. Member. He knew of no ship which could fulfil those conditions, and he was afraid that they must be content for the present to accept the motive power of steam for the most formidable class of battle-ships. The Secretary to the Admiralty had explained why the present Board had not laid down a new ship at Chatham in this year. The object con- 1397 templated in the programme of the late Board was to provide work both at Chatham and other Dockyards, so that there should be full employment, and economical employment, for the Staff. He regretted that the hon. Gentleman had not seen his way to approve of the design for a ship either at Chatham or at Portsmouth, although it was most desirable that certain experiments should be carried out, which, he believed, were progressing under the orders of the present Board. He would urge, however, that they should be carried through as speedily as possible, as he was strongly of opinion that the Board should be in a position to approve the designs of at least two new iron-clads in the coming-year. These designs certainly should be in the possession of the Dockyards not later than January or February next, in order that they might be referred to the proper officers, and steps be taken to make a full use of the Staff. With regard to the labours of the Boiler Committee, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman that it did seem somewhat remarkable, after their long experience of steam boilers and their use at sea, that they should not have obtained the apparently elementary knowledge at which they had now arrived. As the hon. Gentleman knew, the condition of our ships in the year 1872, from the deterioration of their boilers, was a serious one, the condition resulting almost solely and entirely from the decay of the boilers; but the knowledge which they had now obtained was very valuable, and would be of very great use in the future. Nothing could be more true than that the necessity of renewing the boiler was the cause of a very large portion of the cost of repairing these steamships. If a ship was not in an efficient condition as far as her boilers were concerned, she was utterly unfit to go to sea, or to be used for warlike purposes. There could be no doubt, therefore, that any defect in the boiler arrangements, or, on the other hand, any improvement which could be made in dealing with the boilers, was a very important matter, for their great object was to keep ships in a thoroughly efficient condition. His object always had been, and he was quite sure the object of his successors would be, to secure that all ships retained on The Navy List, and regarded as fit for cruising, should 1398 be maintained in thorough efficiency. With regard to another subject, he hoped the Board would see their way to take the course which he had suggested of turning into cruisers certain lightly armoured ships which were not capable of keeping the sea with their present engines for a very considerable time. There were at present in the Dockyards a large quantity of fittings which would be ready to put on board the merchant ships, to which reference had been made, in case of emergency; and they would thus be able, by a very small expenditure of public money, to turn some 30 of the most efficient and fast merchant steamers into good cruisers, and capable of dealing with many of the smaller and less powerful war ships in foreign Navies. These fittings could be put on board the vessels in, at the most, three or four weeks' time, and we could thus obtain a very considerable and important addition to our Navy in case of need. He was very glad that the hon. Gentleman had referred to the cruisers which it was intended to build by contract, and that the present Board had come to such a decision on the subject, for he believed these vessels would turn out to be very valuable ships. They would be capable of steaming 4,000 knots at an average of 12 to 14 knots an hour, a speed which would be increased to a much higher rate if occasion should suddenly arise, such as meeting with the enemy in much stronger force. They would then be able to run away at great speed, a thing which was quite as essential, especially in regard to the smaller vessels, as the power of attack might be. He would not trouble the Committee at any great length by replying to the observations of other Members who had addressed them. His hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff had renewed his complaints with regard to the Inflexible; but he would merely follow the course taken by the hon. Gentleman opposite, of asking the Committee to wait until that vessel had been fully tried at sea. Without going fully into the topic, a Committee, for the appointment of which the hon. Gentleman was mainly responsible, looked fully into this matter. Under the directions of his right hon. Friend the late Mr. Ward Hunt, they thoroughly and fully investigated the whole subject; and he should be disposed, as they were men of great 1399 authority, to refer the Committee to the result of their decisions. He certainly was of opinion that the Inflexible would prove to be a very powerful addition to our offensive forces. It was perfectly true that certain experiments had not been made; and he was very much afraid, if they had made experiments in the way suggested, the delay would have been even greater than that of which there was already so much complaint. Of the 19 months lost in the building of the Inflexible nearly a whole year was caused by the delay of these experiments; and he did not believe that the opinion of the Committee, the judgment of the Constructors, and the scientific officers of the Admiralty, might be fairly set against the gloomy anticipations which the hon. Member for Cardiff had from time to time expressed with regard to this ship and her sister ships. Reference had been made to the large amount of the "Non-Effective" Vote, and certainly £2,000,000 did seem to be a large sum to take from the amount which the country was able to afford for its protection. While he was in Office he endeavoured, while beeping perfect faith with all the various branches of the Service, to bring about, as far as possible, a reduction in that Vote; and almost the last act of the Board of Admiralty under his superintendence was to take steps to induce men who, after 20 years' service, were leaving the Navy as petty officers to re-engage themselves on terms which would be very favourable to themselves, and yet would result in a large economy to the Public Service. He had no knowledge whether the invitation to these men had been successful or not; but he hoped it was, for it had been as much to the interest of the men themselves as of the country. Another step which had been taken was in the direction of the reduction of officers. A very considerable portion of this charge of which complaint was made was due to the fact that it had become necessary from time to time to induce officers to leave the Service, as they were in excess of the number for whom sufficient employment could be found. A man had a fair claim to promotion after serving a certain number of years; and it was not right to keep a man 10, 12, 15, or 20 years in the lower grades of the Service without promotion. That promotion could only be effected by in- 1400 ducing the senior officers to retire. Complaints were persistently made in the House as to the large sums spent upon these schemes of retirement. In his opinion, the great increase in these Votes was due in a very great degree to these schemes of retirement. He trusted that his successor would be strong enough, and that the present Government would be strong enough, to resist the pressure put upon them to allow gentlemen to enter the Service to whom no proper prospects of promotion could be held out. A reference had been made at some length to the relative strength of our Navy and those of other countries. He had always deprecated, and he always should deprecate, any attempt to compare in the House of Commons the relative state of this country with that of foreign countries; though, no doubt, it was the duty of the Minister in charge of a particular Service to consider what the proper strength of the country ought to be, and to provide accordingly in the Estimates. He admitted that it was desirable that some further progress and some further advance should be made in the matter of iron-clad ships, for he thought that they were not so strong as they ought to be under all the circumstances of the case. He agreed with the remarks that had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty that our Navy was stronger than it had been within living memory. It was true that they had more ships and more reserve than they had had at any previous period. But, although they had more iron-clads, still he was ready to admit that, looking at the circumstances at which they were placed, and looking at the possibilities of the next 10 or 15 years, it would be well that they should have even a stronger Fleet than they now possessed. He, however, did not wish it to be supposed that he desired to urge the Government to any extravagant course; but he believed that they had now reached a point in the development of iron-clad vessels at which they had only until that time been arriving. They had been conducting various experiments, and had well considered the whole subject. He did not regret that they had not hitherto laid down more ships or done more shipbuilding. If five, six, or seven years ago, or even within the last two or three years, they 1401 had committed themselves to a type of ship and had built many vessels, then with in five or six years probably those iron-clads would have become obsolete, and he thought that was a sufficient argument against their not having done so. But within the next six or nine, or, perhaps, 12 months, they would have acquired such information by experiment and by scientific inquiry as would enable the Board of Admiralty to look forward for some years, and to make all the provision in iron-clads that might be necessary. In the meantime he congratulated the hon. Gentleman on the statement which he had made to the House, and felt sure that on the present occasion they were not behindhand in their naval resources.
§ MR. E. J. REED
said, that he was glad to hear his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty state the change which was proposed to be made in the shipbuilding programme. His hon. Friend had, in the course of his observations, instituted a comparison between the French Navy and our own,. His hon. Friend was quite correct when he pointed out to the Committee that in future, in drawing comparisons between our own Navy and those of foreign countries, we should have to keep in view the proportion of vessels like our own, and not like some of the vessels formerly built in France. It was a striking circumstance, and one which must have attracted the attention of the Committee, that the present programme of shipbuilding in France was in excess of our own. It must also be remembered that the German Government was building a large Navy, upon a fixed and determined purpose, formed some years ago. He must trouble the Committee with a word or two with regard to the Inflexible. The Committee had reported very much as he had predicted it would. They said that the worst circumstances which he had predicted would occur provided he (Mr. Reed) was correct in supposing that the unarmoured portion of these iron-clads would be liable to great injury in action, but that they did not think he was correct in forming that opinion. But so important a question ought not to be left to the conflicting opinions of individuals—it was a question which ought to be settled by experiment. His contention was, that with regard to this class of vessels they had gone entirely 1402 in the dark. So far from thinking that the decision of the Committee was entirely in their favour, he considered that no more of that class of vessels ought to be built. He hoped that his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty would allow him to appeal to the Committee on this subject, because he thought that they ought not to be fixed in their opinions after a single trial of the Inflexible at sea. Because the Inflexible had behaved well at sea in time of peace, it did not follow that it would be found as serviceable in time of war. He thought there was much to be apprehended from building vessels which were doubtful in their fighting capabilities. The public should not be led away with the idea that a vessel which could go to sea, and was reported as behaving itself well, was necessarily an excellent fighting ship. There was no reason in the world why, in a mere sea trial, the Inflexible should not have made an excellent performance. The whole question lay between her supposed fighting capabilities and her actual fighting capabilities, and he looked to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty to explain to him what on earth the sea trial of a ship had to do with her destructibility under the fire of an enemy. He knew perfectly well that it was altogether impossible for any individual Member of the Committee to influence the action of the Government; he knew that, and had not the slightest expectation of inducing the Government to alter its decision; but he felt himself bound to say that no mere trial of the Inflexible at sea in time of peace would give him confidence in her fighting powers. During the war between Austria and Italy, the disastrous consequences of putting naval officers into vessels concerning which they had no accurate knowledge were made very manifest. The Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Navy found himself in a most unfortunate position, and he was tried for his life in consequence of being placed in command of a vessel with the powers of which he was imperfectly acquainted. He should be sorry to find that an admiral or a captain of this country was sent to sea in a ship of a similar character, for he would be liable, in the presence of an enemy, to disasters which might have been foreseen, and which nothing but official obstinacy had 1403 prevented from being remedied. He knew very well that the Report of the Committee was to the effect that these ships were not liable to rapid destruction; but he knew also that if these vessels were liable to that destruction the worst consequences would ensue. It was not his intention, and it would not be desirable for him to go further than to express his opinion, and having done so, to leave the responsibility with those upon whom it properly rested. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty had omitted to indicate to them, no doubt by oversight, the nature of the new vessel which was to be constructed. He was not complaining of that; but he could not help thinking it a pity that two or three new vessels should be commenced about which the Committee knew nothing whatever. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman would give them some little information with regard to those vessels, so that the Committee was not left entirely in the dark. In his former remarks, he adverted to the question raised by the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck)—namely, the possibility of improving the sailing powers of iron-clads. He thought the hon. Gentleman had always underestimated the sailing powers of existing iron-clads. It was true that if they could not go so well under sail as the old sailing ships they could, nevertheless, do a great deal. An iron-clad on the western station recently became disabled, and was compelled to proceed to Portsmouth under canvas; she did so, and cast her anchor there just as if she were no ironclad at all. He could assure his hon. Friend that a great deal of sailing was done by some of the iron-clads. He was bound to say that there were no more determined opponents of the attempt to make iron-clads efficient sailing ships than naval officers who had served the greater portion of their lives in sailing ships. But they had at length realized the fact that in first-class ships of war they must depend mainly upon steam; but the fact should be recognized that there was another class of vessels that might be built, and that ought to be built, and ought to have been built many years ago—namely, a much smaller class of iron-clads which might have efficient sailing power and be able to keep at sea for a long time without using engine power at all. For distant 1404 stations such a class of vessels would be invaluable to the country. Reference had been made to Her Majesty's ship Northumberland; but it should be remembered that that vessel was a very different ship from those with which she was originally classed. With regard to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), he fully concurred with him with respect to the non-efficient Services. At the present time, about £2,000,000 sterling were paid for the non-efficient Naval Service, and that amount was increasing. Thus the country was getting into the position of having to spend one-fifth of it whole Naval Expenditure upon the Non-Effective Services. By that course naval economy was made absolutely hopeless, and something worse was done, for our naval efficiency was placed in very serious peril. When they found this amount for the Non-Effective Services constantly increasing, it actually imperilled the efficiency of the Navy. It was a most serious question whether something should not be done to reduce that enormous non-effective expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster, in his opinion, touched upon the right chord, when he said it was a very large Vote, and Parliament ought to set its face against it, and that, at the present time, that Vote was mainly caused by the various schemes we had had for retiring officers in order to make way for others. They had now frequently to get rid of most valuable officers at 30 years of age or much below 40. At 40 men were paid a bonus to leave the Service, and they were taken off the active list when they were capable of rendering most valuable service, and placed upon the retired list, where they could be of no use whatever. He did not know whether that was the sort of system that would be endured in any private concern; but he hardly thought it was. He was satisfied the position of the Navy would be imperilled if something was not done. All that his hon. Friend had been able to do was to increase the outlay on the Ajax and the Agamemnon. The increase was in each ease judicious. In looking down the programme he did not see any items in which reduction could well have been made.
said, he wished, first of all, to make one or two remarks with 1405 regard to something that had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down. In both his speeches the hon. Member had dwelt at considerable length on the magnitude of what he called the "Non-Effective" Votes in the Navy Estimates. Exception must be taken to the name "Non-Effective." He (Captain Price) did not think the Votes were to be called by any means "Non-Effective." In fact, he looked through the Navy Estimates, and he did not see that they were so called there. It was true that the first 14 Votes on the list were stated to be for the "Effective Services;" but the Votes for pensions and half-pay were nowhere called "Non-Effective" Votes; and he considered that if they were so called it would cause a wrong impression in the minds of hon. Members and the public at large. The fact was, they were no more "Non-Effective" Votes than the Votes they were called on to pass for salaries and wages of men and officers in the Navy. His hon. Friend thought these Votes—these"Non-Effective"Votes—should be cut down, as he said, "very largely." Well, what did they consist of? The Votes for Military Pensions were over £800,000, the civil pensions over £320,000, which, with the half pay of naval officers, made altogether £1,500,000 out of the £2,000,000 which the hon. Member had told them the "Non-Effective" Votes amounted to. What were these pensions? No more than payments to the Navy, and if they were to be done away with the wages and salaries of the men must be increased. They must give the men something like what seamen got in the Merchant Service. It must be remembered that in Her Majesty's Service the seamen were a superior article, and that they had greater hardships to undergo, so that if they reduced the "Non-Effective" Votes, as the hon. Member suggested, they must increase the Effective Votes, which would have the effect of largely increasing the Navy Estimates. The same argument largely applied to half-pay for naval officers, which amounted to £108,000. He did not think anyone would deny that naval officers were about the worst paid class of men in the world, and not only were they badly paid when actually serving afloat, but they were subject to the disadvantage that when their ships came home they were sent away on half-pay. 1406 When they were "waiting for orders"—as was said in the American Navy—they were only receiving half-pay. If the Government were going to abolish half-pay, he thought the Navy would be delighted if all the officers were to be put on full pay; but he warned his hon. Friend and the Committee that if that. were done the effect would be to largely increase the Navy Estimates. The whole gist of his hon. Friend's remarks was that the Vote for shipbuilding and for increasing the efficiency of the Navy, was small as compared with what he called the "Non-Effective" Votes. He fully agreed with him there, but thought his remarks pointed to this—that instead of reducing the amount of the "Non-Effective" Votes, they should increase the Votes for shipbuilding and for repairing. Then his hon. Friend made some remarks—some lengthy remarks—with regard to the Inflexible. He had said that before we went on building these ships we should have certain experiments made to test their seaworthiness. He fully agreed with what his hon. Friend had said—not to test what he might call their seaworthiness in time of peace, but to test whether, in time of war, they were safe ships to carry our guns at sea. He fully agreed with his hon. Friend in that. But the hon. Gentleman had not told them what kind of experiment he would wish to see carried out. Did he mean that experiments should be carried out to test the stability and seaworthiness of the Inflexible and ships of her class as they were? For he took it that these experiments had already been carried out; but if he meant that experiments should he essayed to show whether the unarmoured ends of these vessels could be destroyed by artillery fire or by any other means, then—though he entirely differed from the conclusions his hon. Friend arrived at—he thought the experiments suggested would be very useful. He thought they should be carried out, and he did not consider that they would necessarily be expensive. He had stated before in that House that, in his opinion, such destructibility as the hon. Member supposed was impossible. He should be quite willing to argue the point with his hon. Friend again; but he thought the suggestion, coming from such a quarter, was well worth of being accepted, and he hoped the present 1407 Admiralty would cause these experiments to be carried out. He hoped the Committee would not think from what he had said, and from the action he had taken in the House with regard to the Inflexible, that he was at all in favour of multiplying that class of vessel. He was not in favour of it. He considered that they were a great deal too large and unwieldy, and he thought that what the Secretary to the Admiralty had said tonight was very sound. They should rather look to multiplying the number of small ships. An hon. Member had asked them to compare the size of our Fleets with the size of Fleets of foreign countries; but this was a practice which was always deprecated on the Treasury Bench. They were told that it was unwise to make these comparisons—to compare our Fleets with those of foreign Powers. But the Secretary to the Admiralty had gone further than that. He had said to-night that it was impossible to make these comparisons, and with this he could not agree at all. He did not think it was at all impossible to make them. It might be unwise to go into all these matters in the House; but there was no difficulty in making most accurate and minute comparisons between our Fleets and those of Germany or France or any other Power. He could go further than this and say that these comparisons had been made and that they were perfectly well known at the Admiralty. The comparisons had been made, he would be bound to say, to the perfect satisfaction of the right hon. Gentleman who sat below him (Mr. W. H. Smith), and every First Lord of the Admiralty or Secretary to the Admiralty who sat in that House—he would not say to the political satisfaction, but to the professional satisfaction, of these right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. The Secretary to the Admiralty had made a most interesting statement to them that night, and had concluded by moving Vote 1, which was the Vote for Wages and Salaries for Seamen and Officers in the Service. It was customary on this Vote to go into all matters connected with the Navy; and he hoped the hon. Member would allow him to call his attention to just two matters in this particular Vote which was now under discussion; and, first of all, he would ask him whether he could tell the Committee what was going to be done with the Corps of 1408 Royal Marines. It was within the knowledge of most Members of the Committee that a Departmental Committee had been sitting upon the whole question of the future of the Corps of Royal Marines. That Committee had reported. He had asked a Question in the House the other day as to whether the Report of that Committee could be laid upon the Table of the House, and he was informed—and he believed the noble Lord the Member for Chichester also asked the same Question and received the same answer-—that the Report was confidential, and that the House could not be told at present whether the result of it could be made known. But it was to be hoped that the Secretary to the Admiralty was not going to shelve that question very much longer, because he could assure him that the question was an important and burning one in the Corps. The Corps was by no means a small one. It amounted to 13,000 men—13,000 of the finest men in the British Army. They had been suffering for many years under great disabilities. This Committee had been appointed, and had taken a great amount of evidence on the matter, and had it now reported, why could not they have that Report laid on the Table? Was it that the Report was to the effect that certain improvements were desirable, which improvements would cost money, and that the Secretary to the Admiralty or the Government did not like this fact to be known, because they were not in a position to come and ask for more money? He could quite understand that that might be the case; but he did not think it would be a generous way to deal with the Corps. Would the Secretary to the Admiralty tell them to-night whether the Committee had reported that the pay of the Royal Marines as compared with that of the Army was not what it should be? He had asked the Question in the House when the right hon. Gentleman below him was responsible for the Admiralty, and the answer he had always received was, that it was not fair to compare the position of the Royal Marines with that of the Army. Well, of course, it could always be said that there was not an exact analogy between any two circumstances; but he was bound to say the Report of this Committee he was speaking about would show that the Marines did not compare favourably in this respect with the Army. He should be told, 1409 of course, that the Marines had some advantages which the Army had not; but he was certain of this, that for every advantage which could be pointed out that the Marines had over the Army, he could bring forward two advantages which the Army had over the Marines. He was also told that there was no intention of increasing the pay of the Royal Marines, for the reason that we can get as many Marines as we want. He doubted this very much. From all he had been able to gather it was not at all the case. The Royal Marines had been reduced within the last year or two from 14,000 to less than 13,000 men. Why was that done? It was made a virtue of necessity because the men could not be obtained. He believed the strength of the Royal Marines at the present time was little over 12,500men, and that was because the men that were wanted could not be procured. He would not go at greater length into this question, because he hoped that at some future time he would have an opportunity of doing so. But he trusted the Board of Admiralty would treat the matter in a generous and straightforward manner, and that they would let hon. Members know before long what it was the Committee had reported and what was intended to be done. There was one other topic he wished to touch upon—namely, that of providing ponsions for widows of seamen and marines, although he should only say a few words about it. He was not going to bring forward an annual Motion about the matter; but the Board of Admiralty was a new one and the subject, of course, would come before them. This Board had the full particulars of the various schemes that had been suggested; and though he did not ask the hon Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) to give any decided answer upon the question, he did appeal to him to go thoroughly into it and to tell them to-night, if he could do so, that he would consider it and that he would endeavour to do something. Seamen were very much interested in this matter, and he thought the House was agreed that it was an important subject and one that should not be lightly dropped. He would briefly tell those hon. Members who were not in the last Parliament what were the facts of the case. The seamen expressed a wish that there should be subscrip- 1410 tions from their pay to form a fund from which pensions should be given to their widows. They hoped that by a very small subscription—1s. 6d. or 2s. a-month—they would be able to provide a pension of £20 a-year for their widows. The late Admiralty went fully into the matter, and found, after careful investigation, that the sum proposed was a great deal too small. In fact, the Government Actuaries reported that it would require a subscription of at least 10s. per month to provide the necessary pension of £20. Of course, it was entirely out of the question that such a large sum could be subscribed by the seamen and Marines out of their pay; but he thought he was correct in saying that the late Government were prepared to subscribe half that amount. It was never stated that they would subscribe 5s. per month on behalf of the men; but this they did, they sent round for information to the different ships of the Fleet and to the different naval stations, and endeavoured to get at the number of married men who would be inclined to subscribe 5s. a-month to provide a pension to their widows—of course, implying that they would be willing in that event to subscribe the other 5s. themselves. He was sorry to have to confess that the answers returned to the inquiries made were very unsatisfactory. Not more than about 3 per cent of the married seamen and Marines expressed their willingness to subscribe so large a sum as 5s. a-month. Whether it was that they believed that by refusing they would get the Government to subscribe more he could not say; but he thought the present Board of Admiralty might go into the matter, and if they found the seamen were not willing to subscribe so large an amount, then let it be proposed that a smaller sum should be subscribed, and that instead of a pension of £20 being given to a widow a pension of £15 should be allowed. He did not wish to go more fully into the matter; but he was sure hon. Members would see that the question was one which ought not to be dropped. What had occurred showed that the seamen of to-day were of provident habits, and that they wished to make some provision for their widows instead of leaving them to appeal to the public for assistance—as the widows of seamen had had to do 1411 frequently of late. He joined with his right hon. Friend (Mr.W. H. Smith) in congratulating the Secretary to the Admiralty on his speech on the Navy Estimates. He could assure him that, standing there in the unfortunate position of the only naval officer on the Opposition side of the House, he should do all he could to back him up, and to assist him in insuring the efficiency of the Navy and in maintaining the finest Fleet in the world.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he would join the hon. and gallant Member in urging upon the Secretary to the Admiralty the advisability of doing something to make known the recommendations of the Departmental Committee with reference to the Royal Marines. There ought to be no secrecy as to what were the views of the Committee, for he had never found any good result from concealment in matters of this kind. The sooner the results of the Inquiry that had been going on for some time were made known the better it would be for the Public Service. He had heard rumours that the Marines were to be taken away entirely from the Admiralty, and he should like to know whether those rumours were well founded? This corps was one of the finest military bodies in the world, and ought to be maintained in efficiency. There was another point in the Estimates on which he wished to make a remark. They were called upon to vote £3,000,000 sterling in Vote 1. He objected strongly to the Vote being so large, and comprising so many different kinds of Services. After the recent decision the Treasury had come to—which he considered unfortunate—portions of the sums voted were allowed to be transferred from one item to another of the same Vote, the money being thus lumped together as if it were intended for one Service, and, notwithstanding that it was for different purposes, it stood as one large item and might, by the Treasury decision, be employed by the Department as they saw fit, without the Auditor General having the power or right to challenge the misapplication of funds. It was only a few years since No. 10 Vote was divided into Parts 1 and 2, in order to prevent the misappropriation that had been going on for some time in regard to making transfers from item to item of the same Vote. He hoped the Government would 1412 give attention to the matter and would come back to the old practice of diminishing the Votes as much as possible, and thereby keeping the sums voted for each item within the particular purpose for which it was voted. There could be no objection to this sub-division of the large sums under Vote 1, because Vote 9 of the Navy Estimates amounted to the small sum of £21,000, and Vote 13 to the smaller amount of £9,000. Nevertheless, here they had one Vote containing the large amount of £3,000,000, containing Services of a most diverse character, portions of which might, under the Treasury Order, be misapplied. It would be wise if they were to transfer the whole of the money they voted under Vote 1 for the pay and allowances of the Marines, to Vote 9, which was for the same purpose—namely, for the Marine divisions. He should take every opportunity of calling attention to this decision which the Treasury had lately come to, of permitting funds voted for one purpose being misused for other and different Services merely because the House of Commons were forced to vote in one Vote a large sum, and because the Treasury permitted the Army and Naval Departments to collect, under Vote 1, the enormous sums of respectively £5,000,000 and £3,000,000.
said, he was gratified to find how pleasantly the Government accepted the Estimates of their Successors. They had heard so much out of the House of the monstrous extravagance of the late Government that it was extremely gratifying to find, on responsible authority in the House, that, at all events, on this great matter of Naval Expenditure they were not open to the charge of extravagance at all. The Secretary to the Treasury had pointed out that the only item in which there had been an increase since the happy days of the previous Liberal Administration had been the Non-effective Vote, and for that the Conservative Government wore not responsible. He agreed with the hon. Member who had said that the great part of that Vote was really for the deferred pay of officers and seamen of the Navy. But there was a considerable part of it that was not for deferred pay; he meant that sum of money paid to officers to induce them to retire. That had always seemed to him to be a great waste of money, because it 1413 was actually paying a man who was fit for service a considerable sum for allowing his name to be transferred from one list to another—from one in which he might be employed to another in which he might not. There were rather reckless engagements made with seamen of the Reserve which very well deserved the attention of the Government. This Vote which had so increased was one for which the Conservative Government, at all events, was not primarily responsible. Perhaps, he might take this opportunity of expressing—which, owing to the Forms of the House, he was unable to do whilst the Speaker was in the Chair—the extreme satisfaction with which he at last heard the announcement as to flogging in the Navy. He had cheered the statement when it was made, though the hon. Member had not noticed the cheer in his observations. He, at least, and he thought many others on his side of the House, heard with gratification the announcement that the hon. Member was able to make. There was only one drawback to that announcement, and that was, that the Royal Marines shared to only a limited extent in the benefit which was to be conferred on the Navy, because the Naval Discipline Act, which was to be amended by the entire abolition of flogging, applied to Marines only when they were afloat. When they were on shore they were under Army discipline, and he was sorry to say the statement made as to the Army Discipline Act was not quite so explicit or unconditional as that with reference to the Navy. He had listened with great attention to the language of the Secretary of State for War; but the right hon. Gentleman had entirely avoided saying positively and categorically that flogging under the Army Discipline Act would be abolished. With reference to the Royal Marines Corps, he should like to join in the pressure which had already been put upon the Government to induce them to consider carefully the future of this most valuable arm of the Service. There was no doubt whatever that at this moment the pay and pensions of privates and sergeants, in the Royal Marines, were inferior in value to the pay and pensions of corresponding ranks in the Army. The reason stated had been this, that when the man was afloat his pay and his position were somewhat better than those of 1414 a soldier on shore; and that, therefore, taking the time afloat and the time on shore together, the position of the Royal Marines was about equal to that of a soldier. This was not the case. Formerly the position of the Royal Marine on shore was made equal to that of the soldier, and the slight improvement in his position afloat was considered to be a compensation for additional hardships and services that he had to endure and render when he went afloat. Besides that, this point was worthy of consideration, that there were a considerable number of Royal Marines who never went afloat at all. The bandsmen at the stations of Royal Marines, and other members of the Corps who were connected with head-quarters at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Devonport, never went to sea, and therefore were in an inferior position as to their pay and pensions. With regard to these pay and pensions, if the Corps was to be kept up to its present standard of excellence, it would be necessary to revise the scale and endeavour to put it in the same state as that which applied to the Army. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Cardiff as to the debate which took place some years ago with regard to the Inflexible; but he could not think that either the present or the past Lords of the Admiralty quite appreciated what took place on the occasion of that debate. The statement made by the hon. Member for Cardiff was that if the Inflexible had her unarmoured ends destroyed by artillery fire, her stability would be compromised, and that the original Admiralty design had stated that she should be so constructed as not to have her stability quite independent of the unarmoured ends. That was the position of the hon. Member for Cardiff, and that position was amply borne out by the Report of the Committee. They admitted that if that happened which was in the contemplation of the hon. Member, the result he apprehended would follow. What they reported was, that in their opinion the conditions which the hon. Member contemplated were not such as were likely to occur in actual warfare. They certainly did admit that such damage as was likely to occur would very seriously diminish the stability of the vessel, and render her by no means a very safe ship in such a condition. It was also shown by experiments made by 1415 the Committee that another danger that had not been contemplated by the hon. Member for Cardiff might arise—which was, that if she was driven at any speed at all in this disabled condition she would go down headforemost, which was not a desirable thing for a ship of war to do. The opinion of this House might not much affect the Constructive Department of the Admiralty. They might, perhaps, take into consideration the statement made by such an authority as the hon. Member for Cardiff; but he could not think that the public were at all reassured by the result of that Committee or debate. He did not think the performances of the Inflexible at sea would throw the slightest light on the question under discussion. He should like, in conclusion, to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty a question about a change in the programme—not with reference to the effect it would have on ship-building in the Navy, but with regard to the men in the Dockyards at Chatham. He understood that the £20,000 transferred from the Contract Vote to the ship-building Vote would be spent in artificers' wages at Chatham. The Agamemnon was now building, and the Ajax was to be transferred there to be completed. As the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Westminster had said, it was important that there should not be great fluctuations in the number of men employed in these Dockyards, and the addition of this £20,000 to the amount spent in artificers in Chatham meant an addition of 10 per cent. He wanted to know whether that meant that the Admiralty were going to increase the average establishment at Chatham 10 per cent, because, if it did, he should receive such an announcement with the greatest satisfaction; but if it meant that for this one year only there was to be an increase of 10 per cent in the number of persons employed in the Dockyards, that would be causing at Chatham one of those fluctuations which the right hon. Gentlemen had so decidedly condemned. It would, no doubt, impair the efficiency of the Dockyards. A rapid progress of the Agamenmon and the Ajax might be effected at a cost of the tone and character of the Yard. He should be glad if, when the Secretary to the Admiralty spoke again, he would re-assure the minds of Members of the Committee on this subject.
§ MR OTWAY
said, it appeared that Europe was engaged in a wild, race as to who should build the most unmanageable class of vessels; but he did not wish to dwell on this matter. All he desired to point out to the Secretary to the Admiralty was the desirability of giving some information on the matter referred to by three or four Members—namely, the Corps of Royal Marines. The hon. and learned Member who had just spoken had referred to the pay and pensions of the Royal Marines; but he would point out to him that there was a matter of far more importance, and that was the existence of the Corps at all. What he wished to know was what was really intended to be done with this Corps? He was brought very much into contact with officers of the Corps, and very often had opportunities of seeing them, and he could only describe the state of feeling existing amongst them at present as being one of consternation. There was a feeling that was very general, that they were going to be done away with, and this feeling was shared by persons both in the House of Commons and out of it. He wished to say, that if his hon. Friend had determined in any way to get rid of the Corps of Royal Marines, he would be disposing of one of the most useful and, perhaps, the best corps of soldiers that had ever existed in this or any other country. He was told that it had already been determined to get rid of the Royal Marine Artillery. Well, he doubted whether there had ever been a body of men either afloat or ashore to compare with this, and when he was told that the Government were going to get rid of it he found it difficult to credit the report. A rather complicated scheme had been mentioned by him in the House some years ago on the authority of general naval officers—namely a scheme for utilizing the Corps by putting them on garrison duty in fortresses—in such a place as Malta. For instance, it had been complained of the Corps that it had not sufficient opportunity when serving afloat for exercising and drilling. If they garrisoned places like Malta, however, with Marines, that objection was at once done away with. He thought that the getting rid of a Corps so popular as the Royal Marines was not to be taken seriously into consideration. On several occasions during the last Parliament he had asked ques- 1417 tions with regard to the desirability of sending out the Royal Marines to Africa during the Zulu War, and he found that there existed objections to giving military command to Marine officers; and for that reason the Royal Marines were not sent out till it was too late for them to display their metal, or any of the good qualities which they possessed. That was a very unfortunate state of things; the officers felt they were being kept back from service which they were eminently qualified to perform, and they were now in a state of consternation. An officer said to him the other day—"Do something with us; get rid of us or anything, rather than keep us in the position we are in at present; the Corps is losing all those qualities which ought to distinguish it as a military force." He pressed this upon the Government, because he had seen in the newspapers that a number of officers of this Corps had been transferred from the Royal Marines to the Indian Staff. What the officers of Marines were to do when they got to India he did not know; and for that reason he pressed upon his hon. Friend to make some explicit statement on the point, inasmuch as it was absolutely necessary to remedy the uncertainty which existed.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that his hon. Friend the Member for Chatham seemed to have taken advantage of a remark made upon the Treasury Bench, to conclude that all which had been said for the last two or three years with regard to the expenditure of the late Government being excessive was entirelyun-justified. He wished to point out, however, that if hon. Members would take the trouble to sum up the total expenditure for the naval purposes of the country during the last six years and compare the result with the expenditure of the former Liberal Government, they would find that the excess of the former over the latter amounted to some millions. It was on that account that the expenditure of the late Government had been condemned; but, leaving out of view the Estimates for previous years and looking simply at the Estimate before the Committee, he thought they had a right to say, that when the Government came into power and found the Estimates on the Table, and also the arrangements made by the late First Lord, it would be very unreasonable to 1418 expect that they should at once make any substantial reduction in those Estimates. On the other hand, he should be sorry if it were supposed that that expenditure was approved by the present Government. If they looked back to the time when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract was First Lord—that was to say, in the year 1869–70—he thought it would be found that the charge for the Navy was considerably below the charge on the Estimates for the present year. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman at that time adopted measures which were not inconsistent with the necessities of the Service, and which were not inconsistent with what was necessary for the protection of the country. Nevertheless, they did secure a very considerable reduction in the naval expenditure. There was, however, something to be considered beyond the mere question of amount. He would wish to ask what would be done with the money voted? £10,000,000 sterling might be voted for the late Government or the present Government; but it did not follow that the money was properly applied, and, unless he was mistaken, there was a good deal of money spent under the late Administration in a manner by no means satisfactory. Indeed, he believed it would be found, when the present Government had been for some time in power, that they would be able to make a substantial impression, not only by reducing the amount of expenditure, but by applying the money in a way more beneficial to the Public Service. He entirely agreed that it was most undesirable to retain in the Dockyards a large number of men; but the number of men should be steadily kept up to a certain point. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract had laid down the rule that he would only have a certain number of men on the establishment; but that number had been very much increased under the late Administration. He was glad that the present Government had no intention of increasing the number of men.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, it would be seen that the Estimates submitted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite were £500,000 short of the average Estimates for the last six years. The right hon. Gentleman had, therefore, already brought down the Estimates by a very 1419 large amount, as he had stated at an earlier period of the evening. He was sorry he could not reply to the question with reference to the future position of the Royal Marines, and he must claim the indulgence of the Committee for the purpose of studying the Report, which had only just been laid before him, upon this important and difficult subject. He begged to assure hon. Members that the Admiralty were quite aware of the importance of coming to an early decision upon the question. In reply, however, to the hon. Member for Rochester, he would state that there was no intention on the part of the Admiralty to do away with that important and gallant body, the Royal Marines. There had been a question with reference to the re-organization of that Corps, and a Committee had been appointed to report whether it was expedient to amalgamate it with the Royal Marine Artillery, and as soon as a decision was arrived at he would communicate it to the House. His hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff had asked a question with regard to the designs of the two iron-clads which it was proposed to build, in reply to which he might supplement a statement of the late First Lord of the Admiralty, that the vessels to be laid down at Pembroke would be of the same size and type as the Colossus, with guns mounted in towers and upon revolving platforms, by saying that the weight saved in this respect as compared with the old-fashioned turret, would be utilized in increasing the engine-power of the ship, so as to give a speed of 15 knots per hour instead of 14, and that it would have a powerful broadside battery and a large capacity for carrying a supply of coal. The responsibility for the design of the vessel rested with the late Board of Admiralty. He did not wish to disclaim all responsibility with regard to the future, because, as far as he could form an opinion, he thought the vessel would prove to be very valuable to the Navy. It was necessary, before determining with regard to the other new vessel to be laid down at Portsmouth, that very careful experiments should be made, and Lord Northbrook had directed that they should take place as soon as possible at Shoeburyness. It would not be necessary to commence that vessel before December next. He hoped to be able to state to the House, before the Session 1420 was over, what the new type would be; but was at present unable to give any further answer. With regard to the third cruiser, alluded to in the programme of the late Government, he thought it right to say that, while the Government approved the principle of building cruisers, it was still doubted whether the third cruiser should be built on the same lines as the other two, or whether it might not be as well to have a vessel which might be described as an "improved Volage." The hon. and gallant Member for Devonport had remarked upon the wrong impression conveyed by describing certain portions of the Vote as for non-effective purposes. He agreed that the Non-effective Vote must not be looked upon as altogether a loss to the Navy, although the subject required very careful watching. In reply to the hon. Member for Chatham, the Government only proposed to increase the number of artificers by 100, and the money asked for in addition to the Vote would be spent in working overtime, which it was considered would be the most economical way of accelerating the iron-clads to which he had alluded. With regard to the question of pensions to widows of seamen and Marines, the subject should receive his consideration; although he ventured to think that the hon. Member for Devonport had answered the question himself, when he said that when the late Government had proposed to contribute one-half of the charge the men themselves had declined to contribute the remainder. That being the case, it would be extremely difficult for the Admiralty to go any further into the matter.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
wished to suggest to the Government that they should give up the improved Volage, and adhere to the third cruiser. That was a point on which the Navy was most weak, and the cruisers appeared to be of far more value than the Volages or Comuses, while the latter could not be constructed without much greater expense. With regard to overtime, he could not help saying that, taken as a rule, he regarded it as a very great mistake. The result attained was not equal to the expenditure, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not give way to the pressure which would be put upon him; for if he once opened the gate to overtime, he would never know where the system 1421 was to stop. His own opinion was that the results were always disappointing, and that such expenditure was always attended by great waste.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
trusted that the hon. Gentleman would not press on this Vote, and would be content with the very interesting discussion which had already been raised in the Committee. Nothing could be more gratifying than the pleasant manner in which the late First Lord and the present First Secretary congratulated each other over Estimates which the first had prepared and the second had accepted; but he must, nevertheless, think that the new Members of the House had some reason to complain of the conduct of the Government in regard to this matter. They did not get their Estimates until Friday, and nobody knew that they were to be taken that night until the Secretary of the Admiralty told him so at 3 o'clock on Saturday morning. It was, therefore, a little unreasonable to expect new Members, who could not be very conversant with the figures in that bulky volume, to master them, to any reasonable extent, in the short time that had been allowed. It would have been much fairer if the Government had taken in Committee that night the Civil Service Estimates, which had been before them for some time, instead of springing on them these Navy Estimates in the manner in which they had done. An important fact was, that this was the first year in which an extended audit of the Navy had been made by the Comptroller and Auditor General. For that reason, the House ought to be allowed rather more time to consider the reasonableness or unreasonableness of demands made upon them. In the next place, the Committee of Public Accounts had not yet been appointed, and they had not the advantage of the examination of the accounts by the Committee, which would have given them assistance in the work of dealing with these Estimates. He therefore thought they might reasonably ask the Government not to get ahead of the work of the Committee of Public Accounts, but to allow these Votes in Committee of Supply to be taken pari passû with the work of the Committee of Public Accounts. The points brought before the House by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) was not the only extra- 1422 ordinary instance of expenditure unearthed by the Comptroller and Auditor General. In some 30 or 60 closely printed pages, the Comptroller had drawn the attention of the House to matters deserving of its consideration, and the particular expenses to which he directed attention ought certainly to be examined by the Committee before the Estimates were submitted to a vote. On his part, he believed if the right hon. Gentleman would now consent to report Progress, he would really very much assist the progress of his work. Take his own case for instance. The Government had thought fit to postpone anything like practical legislation with regard to Ireland until next year. As an Irish Member, he should much prefer to be concerned with matters relating to his own people; but the Government did not give him an opportunity of using his time and energies on matters which only fell within his province. He therefore turned to matters which were of ordinary interest, because he did not intend to be idle. He had made the best of his time since he had had these Estimates in his hands, and he had made notes on every one of the Votes of points which he wished to have explained, or observations which he wished to submit to the Committee; but if the Government would consent to postpone these Votes until the Committee of Public Accounts had been able to investigate them, it would not be necessary for him to trouble the Committee with many questions which he wished to raise. He therefore hoped that the Government would consent to the Motion he then would make to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sitagain.—(Mr. Arthur 0' Connor.)
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
hoped the Motion would not be pressed. The Committee had now discussed these Estimates for two nights, once before Easter and again that night; and he believed every Member who wished to address the Committee had had an opportunity of doing so. He must point out, also, that the Committee on Public Accounts would only sit for the first time next day, and if these Estimates 1423 were to wait until they had dealt with them the Vote could not be taken for at least a month.
§ MR. BIGGAR
hoped the Government would agree to the Motion. It was true that, on general questions with regard to the Admiralty, most Members who wished to speak had spoken; but, on the other hand, in regard to the details, he knew that on the very first Vote some Members of the Irish Party wished to raise certain questions, and to have an opportunity of expressing their opinion. It might be the fact that some Members had a discussion on these Votes before Easter; but a very large portion of the Members of the House were not Members of the House at that time, and had not the advantage of hearing the discussions which then took place. His hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), who had just spoken, was an instance in point. It was also very desirable that the Committee on Public Accounts should have an opportunity of examining these Estimates, and of ascertaining whether there was anything in them which required revision. On this very first Vote, he was aware that large payments were made to certain persons, in reference to which payments it was intended to have a discussion, and, therefore, it was very desirable to postpone the Vote.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. FINIGAN
said, he wished to offer some remarks with regard to the position of Prince Leiningen. He found that he occupied the post of one of the Rear Admirals; but he was not aware, nor could he find from any source of information supplied to him, what Prince Leiningen did for his salary as Rear Admiral. He was aware that for the last 18 years or thereabouts he had encountered the dangers of the sea between Cowes and Portsmouth, and that he had occasionally braved the severity of the Solent. He had also heard it said that he was responsible for a very serious accident which occurred some time ago. He did not understand, however, why a gentleman capable of taking a yacht into those troubled waters was thereby entitled to the position of Rear Admiral, and to the very handsome pay attached to that post. He could not let this Vote pass, therefore, without entering—
§ MR. FINIGAN
Sir, this is a Vote for the pay of seamen, and I had always thought that a Rear Admiral was a seaman.
The Question is—That a sum, not exceeding £2,041,152, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expenses of Wages, &c. to Seamen and Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1881."'
§ Original Question put, and agreed, to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £760,143, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expenses of Victuals and Clothing for Seamen and Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1881.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he must beg leave to move to report Progress. He was of opinion that the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman was rather quick in the decision in the last Vote. His hon. Friend the Member for Ennis (Mr. Finigan) was raising a question. Whether that point was or was not out of the Vote under consideration he did not know; but he thought it would only have been courteous of the right hon. Gentleman as Chairman of the Committee, to have given an opportunity to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ennis to have pointed out to him in what respect he was mistaken. He should like to know whether a Rear Admiral was a flag officer or not? He did not know enough of the Navy to say; but, at any rate, the mistake was a very natural one to fall into. If, however, his hon. Friend did not make that mistake, and a Rear Admiral was a flag officer, the right hon. Gentleman was clearly in the wrong.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Big gar.)
§ MR. PARNELL
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Ennis was, perhaps, he would not say unfairly stopped, but stopped under a misapprehension on the part of the Chairman, because the Vote for the pay of Rear Admirals did undoubtedly come under the heading of Vote 1. On referring to page 146, he 1425 found that this Vote included the pay of Admirals, Vice Admirals, Hear Admirals, Commanders, &c, &c. Therefore, he apprehended the hon. Member for Ennis was quite in Order. However, it was a misapprehension all round on the part of the Committee, except so far as his hon. Friend for Ennis was concerned, and he thought it would be better for his hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) to withdraw his Motion and allow the House to go on with the Business.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he was always disposed to act upon the advice of the Parliamentary Chairman of their Party, and he was exceedingly anxious to follow his advice and withdraw his Motion; but, at the same time, under other circumstances, he would be disposed to say that the right hon. Gentleman should make an apology to his hon. Friend the Member for Ennis.
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
asked if it was competent for a Member of the House to get up and ask the Chairman to apologize? He certainly expected somebody in a more prominent position in the House than himself to get up and put the question; but, nobody else having done so, as an old Member of the House he must ask whether it was right and proper, whether it was even decent, that their Chairman should thus be asked to apologize? He did not know the hon. Member for Ennis; but he knew that he was a young Member of that House, and, therefore, must be thoroughly unacquainted with the Forms of the House.
I feel there is some truth in the observation of my hon. Friend opposite, and that I ought to have been more ready to take notice of this observation. At the same time, I always feel very great reluctance to interfere with the full liberty of Members of this House. It was certainly with great astonishment that I heard the demand addressed to you, Sir, to make an apology to a Member of this House. It would, under any circumstances, be a very extraordinary demand; but it was a demand which, in 1426 this case, almost surpassed all belief, for it was addressed to you without any reason, without any statement, and without any attempt on the part of the hon. Member to show that you had deviated one hair's breadth from your duty. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ennis had fallen into an error—[Mr. PARNELL: No, no !]—I am not speaking of the hon. Member for Cork—[Mr. PARNELL: Hear, hear !]—I am speaking of the Gentleman who brought on this discussion—[Mr. PARNELL: Hear, hear!]—who has fallen into an error—[Mr. PARNELL: No, no !]—and the hon. Member for Cork undertakes to contradict me. [Mr. PARNELL: Hear, hear !] It would be better for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork to reserve his contradiction, because his assertion, whether it be "Aye" or "No," is not of avail to re-constitute the Order of the Proceedings of this House. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ennis fell into an error in this respect—that when a Vote was before the House for the pay of those in the Navy who are on full pay, he raised a question with regard to a person who is not on full pay, but an officer on half-pay, who is provided for under another Vote. The hon. Gentleman, therefore, fell into an error; and, now, what has become of the contradiction of the hon. Member for Cork? But that is a small question. What is a serious question is, that any hon. Member of this House should take upon himself to make a demand for an apology from the Chairman of Committees, to be made not to himself, but to another Member of the House, that other Member having fallen into an error—the Chairman of Committees pointed out that error, and directed that we should proceed in the regular order of Business—not only that the hon. Gentleman should make this most untimely and unsuitable demand for an apology, but that he should address it, Sir, to you, without the slightest attempt on his part to show that there was any call for any apology whatever. Under these circumstances, I hope the hon. Gentleman will himself make an apology to the House for the unseasonable and highly unbecoming demand that he has addressed to you.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, there were one or two points in this matter which he wished to mention. He wished, first of 1427 all, to make some explanation. ["Withdraw, withdraw!"] He wished the hon. Chairman would tell him what it was that the House wished him to withdraw?
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that he must first ask leave to explain, and then to withdraw his Motion to report Progress. He was anxious to defer on all occasions to the authority of the Chair. What occurred was this, that the Chairman, as the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord to the Treasury had pointed out, had called the hon. Member for Clare to Order because he was in error in raising a question on a Vote before the House; but the Chairman did not point out to the hon. Member in what respect he was wrong. If he had used any expression, it was because he believed that the question raised by his hon. Friend did come under the Vote. The Chairman had very properly stopped his hon. Friend in the middle of his speech, and, although he (Mr. Biggar) then thought that the Chairman was wrong, it now turned out that he was justified in pointing out the error into which the hon. Member had fallen. That being so, he (Mr. Biggar) was wrong, and had no right to ask for any apology from anyone; but, at the same time, he would wish to point out that the hon. Baronet the Member for Truro was mistaken in his observations. The hon. Baronet said that he asked for an apology from the Chairman of Committees. He did not do so; he only contended that under certain conditions an apology ought to be given. If, however, he was guilty of what was imputed to him, he begged to apologize to the hon. Gentleman for what he had done. He begged to ask leave of the House to with draw his Motion and report Progress.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that he merely wished to explain, with reference to his contradiction of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister by saying "No," that he had consulted the Navy List, and, from the information contained in that, it was not surprising that he should take the view he had. He found in the list of Rear Admirals given in the Monthly Navy List of last month the name of Prince 1428 Leiningen as one of the Rear Admirals; he also found on page 146 that the Rear Admiral's pay was taken in Vote 1. He thought, therefore, he had some justification for the error into which he had fallen.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (3.) £134,614, to complete the sum for the Admiralty Office.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, that the Admiralty re-organization had resulted in the Admiralty Office being practically disorganized, and so much was this the case that the work at the Admiralty had fallen very much into arrear. According to the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General work which ought to have been done months and months ago was still incomplete. This was a point to which he had before referred; but, as it very properly came under consideration on the present Vote, he thought it would save time if he now drew attenton to it. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was anxious to get through the Estimates in order that a measure might be proceeded with, and he might assure the right hon. Gentleman that he was not the only one who was anxious that this discussion should close as soon as possible. To show the utter disturbance which this re-organization of the Admiralty had wrought in the Admiralty Office, it was only necessary to draw attention to paragraph 10 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General—I regret to have to state that the late period at which the accounts were delivered for audit has prevented a detailed examination of all the charges appearing in the quarter to the 31st of March, 1879. On the 12th of December, 1878, a letter was addressed to the Admiralty stating that the detail test examination of Navy accounts having been commenced, it was considered that it would tend greatly to the convenience of my Department, and probably also to the convenience of the Account branch of the Admiralty itself, if some definite arrangement could be arrived at as to the date on which the quarterly accounts of Her Majesty's ships and of several home and foreign Dockyards, Victualling Yards, Medical Establishments, and Marine Divisions should, as a rule, be submitted for examination to my officers. In the same letter the Admiralty were informed that my Department was prepared at once to commence the examination of the accounts for the quarter ending the 30th of June, 1878, and an inquiry was made as to whether the accounts in question could at once be furnished. In a reply dated the 3rd of January, 1879, it was stated—'That the final passing of 1429 accounts being dependent on many unforeseen circumstances, it is hardly practicable to fix a date on which they can, as a rule, be ready, but that every effort will be made to have them completed as soon as possible after the date of receipt. As regards the accounts for Midsummer, I am to inform you that, owing to many changes which have lately taken place in the re-organization of the Accountant General's Department, these accounts are in arrear, but that they are now being proceeded with as rapidly as possible.' Judging, however, from the fact that, at the commencement of the present year 1880, not a single account even for the first quarter of the year 1879–80 had been sent in for examination, and that only two ship accounts for the entire quarter and a few for broken periods had been received, the arrear in their delivery seems likely to continue. If this is the ease, it will, I fear, be impossible for any of the accounts for the last quarter of the financial year 1879–80 to be subjected to anything like a complete detailed examination.They had heard a good deal of the manner in which the War Office had resisted the demands of the Comptroller and Auditor General to investigate their accounts; but he thought that much the same could be said of the Navy. He wished to point out that a detailed examination of the Navy accounts by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which it was the intention of this House should be carried out, was practically rendered impossible by the delay of the Admiralty authorities, who had sought to shift the blame from themselves by alleging that it was due to the inevitable arrear arising from the re-organizing of the Department. With regard to this Admiralty re-organization, he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty some questions. He should like to know what the total expense connected with the re-organization, not only in the shape of present pay, but also in the case of pensions and gratuities was, and what was the present and also the prospective saving of the country?
§ MR. FINIGAN
said, that he felt very deeply interested in this matter. If he were in Order, he should like to ask upon what particular Vote the half-pay of Prince Leiningen was to be found?
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that the half-pay of Prince Leiningen would be found accounted for under Vote 14. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Queen's County as to the re-organization of the Admiralty, he might say that it was possible that, when the re-organization was proceeding, the Comptroller and Auditor General might have been kept some time waiting for 1430 the accounts. He was, however, able to inform the House that the re-organization was complete, and was working extremely well and smoothly, and that the accounts were furnished sooner now than formerly. A considerable reduction had been effected since last year in the cost of the Admiralty. The hon. Gentleman asked what was the actual financial result of the change. He could inform him that the ultimate saving to the country would be about £57,000 per annum, but at present there was a saving of some £15,000 a-year. About£13,000 had been given in gratuities, and pensions had been awarded to the amount of about £42,000 per annum, on the expiry of which the greatest saving would accrue.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (4.) £145,709, to complete the sum for the Coast Guard Service and Royal Naval Reserves, &c.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £84,831, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to pay the Expenses of the several Scientific Departments of the Navy, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1881.
said, that there were really certain important questions to discuss upon this Vote, and he thought it would be much better if the discussion were postponed at that hour. If the discussion were to proceed, he wished to draw attention to the sum paid by the Admiralty to the Greenwich Hospital Fund for the use of Greenwich Hospital as a Naval College. The buildings of Greenwich Hospital belonged to Greenwich Hospital Fund—a charitable fund, of which the Lords of the Admiralty were the trustees under the authority of an Act of Parliament. It was the duty of the Lords of the Admiralty, as such trustees, to administer the funds for the benefit of the persons entitled to them—namely, aged and disabled seamen and Marines. The buildings of Greenwich Hospital were, of course, of great value, and they were not now of the slightest use to the persons entitled to the funds. They were not now used by disabled seamen and Marines, and if the Hospital were sold, no doubt that it would fetch a very large sum, which would go a con- 1431 siderable way to increasing either the pensions or the number of the recipients. Instead of that, the Admiralty, in their capacity of the Board of Admiralty, rented from the Admiralty, as trustees of the Greenwich Hospital Fund, these expensive buildings for the use of the Naval College at a most inadequate rent. Of course, if they paid a fair rent, there would be no objection, and it would be a very satisfactory arrangement. But, instead of paying for the buildings such a rent as any other persons would be obliged to pay, the whole amount which the Admiralty paid was £100 a-year. That was an injustice to the Greenwich Hospital Fund, against which he protested in the former Parliament, and against which he still protested. He held that the Lords of the Admiralty were bound to do the best they could to increase the Greenwich Hospital Fund. They were really committing a breach of trust in permitting the building to be used for so inadequate a rent as £100 a-year. It was not open to him to move to increase the rent, and he did not know in what way he could bring the case before the notice of the House except upon this Vote. It was a subject which demanded the very serious attention of the House.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, they could not properly discuss this subject on the Vote which was brought forward after 12 o'clock at night. He must most vigorously protest against the Lords of the Admiralty in their capacity as trustees of the Greenwich Hospital Fund for doing so great an injustice towards those for whom they held a fund as letting these buildings at the paltry rent of £100 a-year. He might inform the Committee that this was considered to be a great grievance upon the part of the seamen and Marines who were entitled to the benefit of Greenwich Hospital. It was perfectly absurd that such a rent as £100 a-year should be paid for such buildings. The least thing which the Government could do would be to have a fair valuation of the property made and to apportion a fair rent. He, for one, would be very sorry to see the property sold; but even that would be fairer to the persons entitled to the benefit of the Fund than the continuance of the present system of paying £100 a-year for the rent of Greenwich Hospital buildings. He trusted that the 1432 Government would take this matter into its consideration, and perform an act of justice towards those entitled to the Fund.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that, as he was responsible for the Act under which Greenwich Hospital was now managed, perhaps he might say that the two hon. Gentlemen who had just spoken were quite mistaken in the views they took. In 1864 the first settlement of Greenwich Hospital took place, and in 1869 a second settlement was made. In the second settlement there was a set-off on the one hand of the advantages derived by the State from Greenwich Hospital, against, on the other, the advantages which the Greenwich Hospital Fund derived from the State. One of the parts of that bargain was expressed in the 7th clause of the Greenwich Hospital Act of 1869, which was to the effect that the Admiralty was from time to time to permit Greenwich Hospital to be used for the purposes of the Naval Service or for any other part of Her Majesty's Government, either without requiring a rent or upon such terms as to the Admiralty should see fit. Under this bargain, a portion of the Hospital was handed over for the use of the men of the Mercantile Marine requiring surgical or medical care who had formerly been accommodated upon the Dreadnought. A few years afterwards another large portion of the Hospital was given over for the purpose of a Naval College, and later, for some reason which he did not profess to understand, the Admiralty paid for this a rent of £100 a-year. He thought that the hon. Gentlemen were mistaken in supposing that the Admiralty had got full power and authority under the Statute which he had mentioned to act as they had done, and that is was really part of the bargain that they should have, if they required it, the use of the Greenwich Hospital buildings.
said, that he did not dispute that the Admiralty had power to make this arrangement; but the question was whether it was a proper exercise of the discretion given them as trustees? No doubt, they had power to grant a portion of the Hospital for the use of the service as a Naval College without requiring a rent, but it did not follow that it would be fair to the persons entitled to the trust. The Admiralty had granted a portion of the 1433 Greenwich Hospital buildings to the Mercantile seamen in place of the Dreadnought Hospital; and no one would dispute that that was a good exercise of their discretion. But they had gone further, and in their capacity as trustees had granted for their own advantage, as representing the Naval Service of the country, a large portion of the buildings at a most inadequate rent. Those buildings were to be used for persons who had not the slightest interest in the Fund, for it could not be said that seamen and Marines had any interest in the Naval College. Doubtless it was an advantage to the Naval Service of the country to have a Naval College, but the country ought to pay the seamen and the Marines for enjoying that advantage. Supposing that, instead of the Admiralty being the trustees of Greenwich Hospital, and having authority under the section of the Act of Parliament read by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, the Charity Commissioners were the trustees, was it likely that the Charity Commissioners would allow a portion of the Greenwich Hospital buildings to be used as a Naval College without demanding a fair rent? They would say—"It is true we have the power to let you the buildings without rent; but, in the interests we represent, we ask a fair rent, say, £1,500 a-year for the accommodation." That would be an exercise of the power under the Act for the benefit of the persons entitled to the Fund; and he thought that course ought to be pursued in the present case.
§ M. CHILDERS
said, that the Act of 1869 contained a number of provisions, some advantageous, some disadvantageous, to Greenwich Hospital. The State took over various burdens from the Greenwich Hospital Fund in the way of payment of pensions and other matters, and, among other concessions, in return the Greenwich Hospital buildings were given for the use of the State. The clause was drawn so as to enable the use of the buildings to be given to any Public Department with or without rent, and it was the intention that the Admiralty should be at liberty to use the building without rent. No doubt, the object of permitting the Admiralty to charge a rent was in the possible event of the buildings being used for the Military or Civil Services; 1434 but he could most distinctly state that there was no intention that the Naval Department should pay anything more than a nominal rent for the use of the building. The Act was a deliberate bargain made by the State with the Greenwich Hospital Fund. He thought it would be useless at that time going into the matter at greater length, and that it was only necessary to state that the intention of the Act was that concessions were made by the Hospital for distinct benefits conferred upon it.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, that there could be no question that the rent of £100 a-year paid for these buildings was most inadequate. This was a very important question, and it was deeply interesting to his constituents; and he did not think it could be properly discussed at that hour, when their deliberations could not be adequately reported. He had asked the Government to consent to a valuation of the property, in order that it might be found what it was worth and that a fair value might be paid for it. It seemed to him that the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War was extremely unsatisfactory. As he considered that the discussion on this subject ought to take place when the country could appreciate the value of the arguments brought forward, he begged to move that the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir H. Drummond Wolff.)
said, that they could hardly be expected to continue the discussion on the Estimates at that hour. He would suggest that the Motion for reporting Progress should be withdrawn, and that they should argue the question upon the Greenwich Hospital Vote. He would further ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he would report Progress after this Vote had been taken, and would postpone Votes 6 and 10?
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
said, that it would be seen, from page 210 of the Estimates, that Greenwich Hospital Fund derived £3,400 a-year from the State.
said, that, from the observations just made, it was clear that 1435 the Committee was disinclined to discuss a Vote of this amount at the present time. There were questions arising upon it in connection with the Britannia and the training of Naval cadets, and upon this point the hon. Member the Secretary to the Admiralty had in previous Parliaments raised questions. He had previously drawn attention to these matters, and he had lately intended to do so again; but it was absurd for him to attempt it at half-past 12 o'clock. He was sure that the Government would not wish to have a discussion on so important a matter stifled. There was a great deal to be said on both sides, and he hoped that, in consideration of the desire of many hon. Members, the Government would consent to report Progress.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that, during the late Parliament, unless there were some very great pressure, he invariably asked the Government to report Progress whenever an important discussion arose after half-past 12 o'clock. He was bound to say that he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite were making no unreasonable appeal to the Government in this matter. The questions which they wished to raise were very important ones, and required considerable discussion, and it was clear that at the present hour it was impossible to do full justice to the latter.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, that he thought the Committee had some reason to complain of the hon. Members who had brought this subject forward. If they had taken the pains to inform themselves of the facts of the matter from past debates in that House, they would have seen that the subject had been raised before, and that a perfectly satisfactory explanation had been given. It was then explained what the arrangement was, forming a complete answer to the observation that a fair rent was not paid for the buildings. He thought that hon. Members ought to inform themselves fully of the facts before raising questions in the manner they had done.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that he was perfectly willing to postpone Votes 6 and 10, if the Committee would proceed with the other Votes. There would be an opportunity for the hon. Member for Chatham to bring the question of Greenwich Hospital before the Com- 1436 mittee in connection with the Greenwich Hospital Vote. With regard to the question about the Britannia, he thought it would be admitted that it was one upon which he had taken very great interest. It seemed to him a matter which could not be dealt with then, and could be very well deferred to another occasion.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, this was far too serious a matter to be treated in this way, although the hon. Member for Bedford was so anxious that they should trust to his memory for their Parliamentary conduct. His hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. T. Brassey) had told them that the charge for ordinary repair and maintenance was £3,500. [An hon. MEMBER: £45,000.] He found the amount stated at£3,500. [An hon. MEMBER: £4,500.] He was speaking in reference to the item of £3,500. [An hon. MEMBER: £4,500.] The hon. Member who so persistently corrected him had better read the Estimate. [Mr. T. BRASSEY: The ordinary Vote is £4,500.] Then, he begged pardon for his mistake, but it was not so in his copy of the Estimates; but if the amount was really £4,500, that merely had the effect of strengthening his argument; for if these buildings cost £4,500 for repair, they were worth certainly more than £100 a-year for rent. He did hope that his hon. Friend the Secretary for the Admiralty would consent to report Progress.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 52; Noes 175: Majority 122.—(Div. List, No. 16.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, the Government must see that it was most unreasonable to expect the Committee, at that hour of the night, to go on with the discussion, involving matters of so much importance. He understood there was an important discussion coming on with reference to the Britannia, and he observed that the Auditor General had made some very strong remarks with regard to that particular item. He hoped his right hon. Friend would not be so unreasonable as to ask to go on. He begged to move that the Chairman do now leave the Chair,
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Lord Randolph Churchill.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 43; Noes 173: Majority 130.—(Div. List, No. 17.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
said, that he thought that his hon. Friend who had moved "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair," had done so with very good reason, for these were very important questions, and ones upon which they ought to have a fair debate. He had pointed out, also, that it was now nearly 1 o'clock, and that it was not reasonable on the part of Her Majesty's Government to ask them to go into these important matters at so late an hour. He did not think that it was a fact that they would have another opportunity of raising this question of the Britannia upon Report. He should, therefore, move "That the Chairman do now re-port Progress, and ask leave to sitagain."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Colonel Makins.)
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, that he wished to support the Motion for reporting Progress on no factious grounds, fie felt very strongly that this was a question upon which, without any desire to obstruct the Business of the House, but simply to get a fair discussion, they ought to adjourn the debate. He did not think it would prevent their making progress with the Votes if this particular one was postponed. He should be very happy to remain to discuss the other Votes, if that one were postponed. He wished that a fair discussion of this matter should take place, and that at an hour when their debates might be reported. He asked this in the interests of the seamen and Marines, who had the strongest possible feeling on the subject.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that if the House would agree to this one Vote, he should not object to reporting Progress. The hon. Member would have further opportunities of raising the question of the Greenwich Hospital Vote. With reference to the Britannia, that question could be raised on Report. As the hon. Member was aware, he en- 1438 tirely agreed with him upon that subject, and it must be admitted that it was a very large subject. He trusted that there would be no objection to his proposal.
said, he thought that they ought not to be put in the position of fighting in this way for an opportunity of discussing a most important matter which affected the interests of their constituents in so very large a degree, at the price of being taunted with factious opposition. They simply wished to do their best for their constituents in this matter, and, in doing so, they had received very little assistance from the natural Leaders of their Party. When this Vote was first proposed, he stated that there were two important questions raised upon it, one relating to the poor, and the other to the rich. The first was the question of the payment made for the Greenwich Hospital buildings, a question which was of the greatest interest to the persons he represented, and also to the constituents of his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth. They might be right, or they might be wrong, and their constituents might be wrong in their opinion; but it was an important question, and it ought to be discussed in that House at a time when the proceedings of the House could be reported. If they were wrong, that ought to be proved and their error pointed out. The hon. Member for Bedford lectured them just now for being factious in what they were doing. He was good enough to say that they had no right to discuss this question because, two Parliaments ago, someone or other had raised the question and had proved to be in the wrong. They really could not consent, in doing their duty to their constituents, to be put down, because the hon. Member for Bedford said that they were wrong. They had a right to have the question discussed in the present House, and it they were wrong it ought to be proved here. The other question to which he wished to refer was one in which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House must sympathize with them. The hon. Member for Burnley had frequently spoken on the extravagance of the Naval Estimates. About £40,000 in these Estimates was voted on account of the training of naval cadets. He wished to take the opinion of the Committee as to whether it was necessary that the country should spend 1439 £40,000 a-year in educating cadets for the Navy. They did not spend anything in educating cadets for the Military or for the Civil Services. In those cases immense numbers came forward to compete at the examinations, and they could readily supply their Navy with officers in the same manner. If the Admiralty would publish the qualifications they required for the naval cadets, 20 times as many as they required would come forward to compete, animated with the desire of serving their country. Was it justifiable for them to spend £40,000 a-year in doing what they could get done for nothing. That was one of the questions that he did not feel could be properly discussed at 1 o'clock in the morning. It was a perfectly fair question, and one which ought to be discussed by the Committee. So far as he was concerned, he should do his duty to his constituents by endeavouring to obtain a fair discussion of the matter.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, that no one could for one moment suspect the hon. and learned Member for Chatham of what he disclaimed—namely, a desire to obstruct the Business of the Committee. Anyone who remembered the Session before last, would never suspect any hon. Member upon the opposite side of the House of doing anything that could bear the complexion of preventing the Business of the country being carried on in the quickest possible manner. But he would, nevertheless, venture to tell the hon. Member a little story which a very wise old friend of his told him. His friend said—"There are a great many solemn facts, but the most solemn fact of all is that the life of man is three score years and ten.". The most solemn fact before them now was that the life of this Parliament had now scarcely two months to run, and he did not see how, consistently with this fact, they could discuss all those questions which the hon. Member now desired to raise, but which he might have discussed with advantage during the last Parliament. The Session had been so curtailed by what had occurred, and by the necessary incidents which it appeared had changed the minds as well as the scats of some hon. Gentlemen that, for his part, he should always to the end of this Session, give his Vote in favour of limiting discussions upon these questions, based upon the consideration that if they were to do the Business of the 1440 country at all, they must, during the next two months, not allow Business to be delayed even by considerations of £40,000, which seemed now to weigh so much upon the conscience of the hon. Member for Chatham, but which had weighed solittle upon it during the previous Session. Under these circumstances, he should vote against the Motion for reporting Progress, even when made by an hon. Gentleman who was a Member of the Conservative Party—a Party with which some of his Irish Friends seemed to have such sympathy.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that he thought that the question which the hon. Member for Chatham wished to raise was that with regard to the cadets of the Britannia. He had already told them that he was not prepared to discuss the matter at that time, but that he would give it his best consideration at another. The hon. Member had not said that he wished to raise the whole question of the expense of training naval cadets, which he said amounted to about £40,000. The hon. Member was, however, mistaken in that, for it was only £27,000. Nevertheless, the question which the hon. Member wished to raise was a serious one, and he was, therefore, willing to accede to the Motion that Progress should be reported.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.