§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) 57,500 Men and Boys, including 12,400 Marines.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
In placing the Navy Estimates before the Committee at this hour of the night (11.40) I must ask for the indulgence of the Committee, and I shall endeavour to observe both clearness and brevity. There is a course into which the Member of the Government charged with that duty naturally falls, and which I propose to pursue tonight—that of dealing with matters affecting the personnel of the Navy first, and laying them altogether aside before coming to the Financial Statement. Those questions of pay and rank have an interest of their own, and an import- 1086 ance of their own, which requires that they should have a full and respectful consideration; and this is more than ever necessary when the time has come round for re-considering and re-arranging the pay, position, and prospects of any important class of our men or officers who are paid under Navy Votes. During the past year the Board of Admiralty has found itself able to do something on a large and comprehensive scale for the advantage of a distinguished Corps to which the country owes a great debt, which, in times past, it has been rather slow to acknowledge. There have been long periods in the history of the Royal Marines which were little more than one large story of great services repaid by neglect, and something very like ingratitude. Things have been mending for some time past, and we are far from the day when a single brevet majority was considered an adequate recompense for the gallantry displayed by the Marine officers who fought in such numbers at the Nile and at Trafalgar; but it is only since last July that Marine officers could be expected to acknowledge that, in matters of pay and promotion, they had been but fairly on a level with their deserts. The position of a lieutenant in the Royal Marines may have been said to be deplorable. While a lieutenant in the Artillery obtained his promotion within 10 years, in the Engineers within 12 years, and in a Line regiment on an average within 11 years, a Marine officer did not become a captain until he had served full 16 years as a subaltern. But, much as the Admiralty felt for the grievance, they would have been unwilling to remedy it, if, in order to do so, they had been obliged to force into retirement from the Service officers of the rank of captain who still were in the prime of life and anxious to devote their vigour and energy to the service of the country. It is with great satisfaction that they found themselves able to devise a scheme which would give every lieutenant of the Royal Marines his promotion after 12 years' service, at latest, without forcing any officer out of the Service while in the rank of captain. The number of majors has been increased by six in the Royal Marine Artillery and by 18 in the Light Infantry. Compulsory retirement is not to begin until an officer is a major and 48 years of age; and the certainty that a lieu- 1087 tenant would obtain his captaincy in 12 years, if not before, and that a captain would betimes obtain his majority, has been secured by a considerable reduction in the establishment of captains and lieutenants. The Royal Marines, like other branches of the Navy up to recent days, had come to be largely over-officered; and the staff of 356 officers, as against 391, which the Admiralty has now laid down, will fully suffice for all the duties of the Corps at home and abroad, and will enable that flow of promotion to be kept up, without which no Service can be efficient or contented. And, while attending to the interests of the officers, the Admiralty have not neglected the private men. The non-commissioned officers of all ranks have been raised in pay and rank in exactly the same proportion as the Secretary of State for War has recently raised the non-commissioned officers of the Army. An allowance of a penny a-day has been allotted to noncommissioned officers and privates to perfect themselves in gunnery. The lodging allowance given to married men has been improved in such a manner as greatly to add to their ability to keep their families in comfort; and a vexatious stoppage of pay for a minor purpose has been remitted. I trust that hon. and gallant Members who advocated the cause of the Marines with so much force in the early part of the evening, will remember the amount of advantage which has been conferred upon that Corps. The full amount of advantage conferred on the Marines amounts to upwards of £24,000 a-year, and this additional benefit has been conferred on the Corps without any additional burden whatever on the public. The method by which it has been secured has been by a reduction in the number of officers and men. On the reduction in the number of Marines, I should be glad to say one word. Some little while ago discussion of rather a trenchant sort went on with regard to the Corps of Royal Marines, and proposals were made with reference to that Force, which in some cases amounted to little less than its abolition as an historical Service. These proposals the Board of Admiralty cannot entertain. They regard the Corps of Royal Marines, organized as it is at present, as a Corps of the highest value in times past. It appears to me that, for very good reasons, the changes in the condition of our 1088 Naval Service have detracted nothing from the importance of the Marines. In the first place, it is of priceless worth as a Reserve—not to the Army, that I would never allow—but to the Royal Navy. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance, in time of emergency, of having 6,000 trained men on shore, with military habits and with nautical aptitudes, who could be put on board our rapidly-filled ships, and among our newly - gathered crews of Naval Reserve men, there to act as a nucleus of discipline and martial skill. In the second place, it is a very convenient thing to have another mode of recruiting our Navy than through the training-ships for boys. However excellent may be our system of providing our continuous-service seamen, it is always well to have two strings to your bow, and the Corps of the Marines is a very popular channel by which we can secure grown men to recruit our Navy. How popular is the service, how high the class of men we thus obtain, may be judged by the fact that while only 38 per cent of the recruits were rejected by the Army surgeons in 1879 and 1880, in the same years no less than 62 per cent were medically rejected by the Marines. Since the new territorial system has come into vogue for the Army, it must be allowed that the Army competition is much more serious; but as long as we share the pick of the market among men of 20 and 21 with the War Office, for that reason, if for no other, the Corps of Marines well deserves to be continued. But there likewise remains what seems to me the strongest reason of any, and which, I am sure, will at once go home to the minds of hon. and gallant Members who have advocated the cause of the Royal Marines. In these days of complicated vessels and highly-trained mechanicians for so large a part of their crew, you cannot detach a strong force from a ship's company to serve on land without weakening and crippling your men-of-war for their legitimate purpose of fighting at sea. When a naval brigade is landed it is the Marines who ought to be told off first to go on shore. That was the opinion of the greatest sailor whom England or the world ever possessed—Lord Nelson—and, if it was true in his day, it is far more essential to observe that policy in ours. For these three great reasons—exactly the reasons 1089 that existed in the days of Nelson—the Marine Corps should continue to be maintained on its present footing; but those same reasons govern likewise the reduced strength at which the Board of Admiralty have fixed it. If Marines are now, as heretofore, to form a certain known proportion of the complements of our ships the strength of the Corps must depend on the strength of our complements. Now, I have taken the complements of specimen ships 20 years ago and at the present date. A first rate man-of-war in 1862 carried four Marine officers and 156 men. The Thunderer and the Devastation, in 1882, carry one Marine officer and 39 men; while the largest of our vessels, and those very few indeed, carry three officers and 130 men. A second-rate, in 1862, carried 150 Marines, and a third-rate 122. There is not a second-rate now in the Navy that carries 100 Marines. But perhaps the best comparison is afforded by taking a 40-gun frigate and a modern corvette. The 40-gun frigate of 1862 carried 59Marines, men and officers. The Comus and her consorts, in 1882, carry only some 35. In 1862 the total force of Marines afloat was 8,500 men. In 1882 the force afloat has fallen, by the force of circumstances which cannot be controlled, to 6,200 men; and, as the Admiralty is fully persuaded that, in order to preserve the efficiency of the Corps as a sea-going force, there should be at least one man afloat for every man on shore, they feel themselves bound to place the establishment of the Corps at the figure at which it appears on the present Estimates—about 12,400 men. To name a higher figure, for the sake of swelling the apparent numbers of the Fleet, would be to increase the number, not of Marines, but of bandsmen. And the Board considers itself most fortunate that a reduction of numbers, which was more a matter of necessity than policy, has enabled them, without asking for a penny from the taxpayer, to put on a footing satisfactory, as we have reason to think, to all its friends, including its warm friend, the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston), a corps about which that great naval officer, Lord St. Vincent, used this memorable expression—If ever the hour of real danger should come to England the Marines will be found the country's sheet-anchor.And now, Sir, I pass to the considera- 1090 tion of a very important branch of our Naval Service, with regard to which I gave a pledge last year—a pledge which I have done my very best to redeem. The words of that pledge I must, in justice to the Admiralty, recall. On the 19th of May, in reply to the hon. Member for Plymouth, I used these words—The Engineering Department is the only naval service of importance which has recently sprung into existence, and its organization has not yet been arranged on a final and satisfactory basis. When the Estimates are introduced next year, I shall be prepared, if I still hold the Office which I now have the honour to fill, to submit to the House a scheme which I hope will meet with approval."—[3 Hansard, cclxi. 815.]Now, Sir, the more this matter is looked into the more strongly does the first part of that statement come into relief. All the embarrassments in which we have found ourselves with regard to the engineers arise from the fact that that service was not formed, but grew up under conditions which made it impossible that the shape which it assumed should be satisfactory as a final arrangement. When steam was introduced into the Navy, it was necessary, of course, to find men to conduct the working of it. The Government had to go where such men alone could be found, and to go for them in large numbers. Our earlier engineers were admirable, practical men of their craft, of the same quality and very much the same class as the engineers of steam vessels in the Merchant Navy. Up to 1847 they were not officers at all in the Navy, but ranked with the boatswain and carpenter. But the inconvenience and impropriety of having no commissioned officers acquainted with the working of the motive power of the Navy became so evident that the Admiralty went too far in the other direction—turned all their engineers into commissioned officers, and by the year 1863 had no less than 1,414 commissioned naval engineers—that is to say, about as many as our present establishment of captains, commanders, and lieutenants together. And this great multitude of officers were employed on the most multifarious and ill-assorted duties, because, to speak plainly, there was not officers' work for half the number. There were actually three engineer officers on board a small gunboat with engines of 400 or 500 horse power, which certainly 1091 did not want more than one man of the rank and education of an officer. The Admiralty, seeing their mistake, from that time forward began to correct it, and introduced a class of naval mechanics for the practical work of the engines—the class of engine room artificers. The growth of this new class and the diminution of the commissioned engineer officers went on with rapid steps. In 1868, there were 1,247 engineers and 90 engine room artificers; in 1874, 950 engineers and 282 artificers; in 1877,845 engineers and 493 artificers; and in 1880 there were 775 engineers actually borne and 643 artificers. In this change of system the Admiralty were guided by the principle that the Navy required one class to work the engines and another to do the duties of scientific supervision and be responsible for the military discipline of the engine room. But the Admiralty did not find that by going into the open market they could obtain with certainty the qualities they looked for in a commissioned engineer officer; and they accordingly instituted a system of special training, lasting over a period of six years, which now is carried on in the College at Keyham and on board the Marlborough at Portsmouth, and a very fine set of young men that system produces. The present Board are thoroughly satisfied with the sort of young men who come from these establishments. They are determined to make them in all respects commissioned officers, messing from the first with the other executive officers, and doing duties of a nature, and only of a nature, such as shall repay the country for the great cost to which it has been put in training them. The number of engineer officers will for the future be fixed at 650, instead of their present establishment of 832 as now authorized. The duties for which officers, with their long and expensive training and commissioned rank, are not needed will be transferred more and more to the class of chief engine room artificers, who will be increased up to the number of 150 as the existing staff of engineer officers diminishes; and if the Admiralty sees fit, the operation may be continued by increasing the chief engine room artificers and decreasing the engineers as long as their united number does not exceed 800. When I was in the Mediterranean last year I made careful inquiries of the 1092 commanding officers of our small ships; and all to whom I spoke were of opinion that, if they had a good chief engine room artificer on board, one engineer officer would suffice for the duties of the ship. In every new ship that is now building arrangements are made for the engineers to mess in the ward-room and gun rooms, and in existing ships the process of amalgamating the messing is being carried out with all possible rapidity. One question on which I was frequently pressed last Session related to the pay of the engineers, and on this subject I have made full and careful inquiries, the result of which I will state to the Committee. I have compared them first with the executive officers of the Navy. No executive officer, except the captain, receives a higher rate of pay than the maximum of a chief engineer. A commander receives the same pay as a chief engineer after 21 years' service. An engineer of only three years' service gets the same pay as a lieutenant. A sub-lieutenant actually gets Is. a-day less than an assistant engineer. And it must be remembered that whereas executive officers pass most of their time on half-pay, the engineer is always on full pay, except by his own default, and a chief engineer has less time on half-pay than a captain or commander. When we come to the navigating officers, a special service like that of the engineers, it will be found that all through his service the navigating officer gets 1s. a-day less than the engineer. And when we turn to the Merchant Service, and see what the higher class of naval engineers command in the open market, we find that a chief engineer in our largest men-of-war gets as much as from £400 to £470 a-year, including his charge pay, while the first engineer in the largest packet ships is paid at the rate of from £18 to £22 per month; and the engineer in the Royal Navy has a pension to look forward to, a prospect for which a first engineer in the Cunard or the Inman Line would give a great deal of his less considerable pay. And that the advantages of the position of a Royal Naval engineer are thoroughly appreciated among the class from whom we are desirous of drawing those officers is proved by the fact that during the last four years we have had 774 candidates for 209 posts; and as to the quality of those candidates, I can rely upon the 1093 testimony of the hon. Member for South. Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), who, both as a Lord of the Admiralty and a neighbour of Plymouth, is well able to speak upon the subject, and who said emphatically that our present engineer students are just the kind of men we want to get. As regards pay taken without reference to promotion, I cannot draw from these comparisons any conclusion but one—that the engineers are not an underpaid service. But it must not be denied that promotion, which, dining the earlier history of the Service, was abnormally quick, has of late years been abnormally slow. The older engineers—those who have qualified for the post of chief engineer, but who cannot obtain a vacancy—have reason to complain of their position. Now, as regards the officers of the future, the Admiralty have completely remedied this grievance. Since January, 1877, they have reduced the lower ranks of assistant engineer and engineer from 726 to 418, and they have increased the higher ranks of inspectors of machinery and chief engineers from 180 to 232, and by this process they have very considerably more than doubled the rate of promotion. The only effectual and legitimate method of placing and keeping a body of officers in a satisfactory position is by strictly limiting the entries to what the Public Service actually requires, and so preserving a due proportion between the higher and the lower ranks. A Government which is willing to restrict the number of first appointments will always have cheerful and contented services. As regards the engineers now at the top of the list, the Admiralty propose to recognize their exceptional slowness of promotion by giving them an extra Is. a-day after nine years. As regards the chief engineers, the Admiralty would not be justified in increasing their emoluments; and I think any hon. Member who heard the comparison of pay with other ranks in the Royal Navy and with the Merchant Service will endorse that decision. But the officers who are at the top of all—the chief inspectors and inspectors of machinery—in the opinion of the Admiralty, are not in quite as good a position as should be held by men who are in possession of the prizes of a Service. The chief inspectors will therefore receive 3s. a-day more than at present, and the inspectors a somewhat smaller increase. The principal diffi- 1094 culty of carrying out these changes is the small number of engine room artificers who are qualified to take the part of chief. At present an artificer must have served 10 years before he can get his promotion; and as the Service was only instituted in 1868, and as there were only 150 to 200 members of it during the few first years, it may well be believed that qualified men are not easily found. The Admiralty have determined to reduce the probationary period from 10 years to six, a space of time quite long enough to ascertain whether a man has the character and the knowledge which would fit him for a post of responsibility. A chief artificer of over six years' service will henceforward get 7s. 6d. a-day. With these posts of trust improved somewhat in value, and eventually nearly doubled in number, the naval engineers will be supplemented to a greater extent than hitherto by these non-commissioned officers of the engine room. A service cannot be re-organized in a day, and the scheme which I have now described in its leading details is the crown and outcome of the action of several Boards of Admiralty over the space of 14 years; but I am satisfied that if we could look forward 14 years more, the condition of the Naval Engineer Service will then be such as will conduce both to the efficiency of our Fleet and the individual interests of our officers. The Admiralty has likewise been able to confer an advantage upon a class of officers who are, perhaps, and that is saying a good deal, the class which has taken the strongest hold, almost timeout of mind, upon the popular imagination. Anything which can be done in justice to the taxpayer to reward the invaluable services of our gunners, boatswains, and carpenters will meet with general approval. At present a warrant officer who serves on board our harbour ships, with some exceptions, is at a pecuniary disadvantage as compared with one serving on a seagoing ship—a disadvantage which increases with his length of service; until after 15 years' service he gets 1s. a-day less in harbour than at sea. This difference in pay has been defended on the ground that it affords an inducement to warrant officers not to shrink from foreign service; but the Admiralty hold that if a roster is properly kept, and each man has to go to sea in his turn, this reason 1095 does not exist. They accordingly have decided to place every warrant officer holding an actual appointment in a harbour ship on the seagoing scale; though the warrant officers borne for disposal in the Home Reserves, and not employed, will remain, as at present, on what may be considered as a very advantageous scale of half-pay. The amount of this concession reaches something over £2,000 per annum, and here I may be allowed to address a word to the economists of the House as to the principle on which the Admiralty endeavours to act. The Board holds that a great spending Department is in this respect like a private business, that constant and innumerable sources of fresh expenditure are for ever arising, and must be met by constant and equivalent reductions of old forms of expenditure which have now become obsolete. I have explained how the Board has met the increase to the marines and the engineers by changes which make those increases a positive alleviation of the burdens of the country. The same process has been accomplished with regard to the warrant officers. While boatswains are as much needed as ever, and gunners more needed than ever, the change from wood to iron in our ships has brought about a decreasing demand for the services of the third class of our warrant officers—the carpenters. Much of the carpenter's most important work is done by the engineer and engine room artificer. Much of his less important work can be done by an artificer of the rank of petty, and not of warrant officer, and accordingly we propose to make a reduction of 20 in the list of carpenters. Sir, I think I have dealt with the most important matters in Vote 1, and it only remains to ask hon. Members to observe that we propose to vote exactly the same number of men and officers as for 1881–2, allowing for the reduction in the Marines. And now I would ask hon. Gentlemen to turn to their copy of the Estimates, and I will point out what the sum is for which the Admiralty propose this year to ask Parliament. In the present year of 1881-2, including the Supplementary Estimates, £10,945,919 has been voted for the Navy, of which £303,000 is due to the war in the Transvaal. Exclude this £303,000, and the normal Naval Estimates of the current year amount to £10,642,919. But since these Estimates 1096 were presented to Parliament a great change has been sanctioned by the Treasury. The Navy has always been allowed to take in aid of its Votes the lion's share of the extra receipts; but certain extra receipts of the Classes shown on page 238 of these Estimates used to be paid into the Exchequer. The sum in question amounted in 1881–2 to about £162,370. This Christmas the Treasury agreed with the Admiralty that extra receipts of all sort whatsoever should go to the credit of the Navy Votes; and those extra receipts, which this year amount to £160,000, will in the coming year reach the figure of £240,000, owing chiefly to the intended sale of old ships, which are now past their work. Well, now we have this sum. In 1881–2 the Navy Estimates—minus the extraordinary expenditure—came to £10,642,919. Deduct from that £162,370 for extra Naval receipts, and the net burden on the Exchequer for 1881–2 was £10,480,549. For the year 1882–3, we ask the country for £10,483,901. That is to say, the burden on the Exchequer will be, within a trifle, exactly the same as last year. But as we shall obtain £80,000 more by extra receipts than last year, the spending power of the Department will be increased by that amount. In other words—for at a time when a considerable change is made in the method of presenting the accounts it is right that the state of affairs should be clearly made known—we propose to spend on the service of the Navy £80,000 more than last year, the extraordinary service for the Transvaal being omitted from the account. But this £80,000 will be covered by an increase in the sale of old ships, which now the Department have an interest in not giving too freely away on the one hand, and in not keeping longer than they are useful on the other. We propose annually to sell these ships—of which there is a considerable number, maintained at some expense to the public, but long ago condemned for service—carefully and gradually as there is a market for them. In order that the new method of presenting the Estimates may not tend to confuse, two statements have been prepared. On page 5 the gross sums have been shown with the entire extra receipts taken into account; but on page 6 hon. Members will find a table which 1097 accurately gives the Votes of next year as compared with the Votes of this year. The figures there shown I cannot but regard as satisfactory. All, or almost all, the Votes, the size of which depend upon careful administration, show no tendency whatever to rise. The Victualling Vote is swelled by a transfer of £17,000 from the Transport Vote; but there is a real reduction on it of £6,000. The statesmanlike manner in which General Pasley handles his not inconsiderable budget has enabled the Works Vote to be reduced by £64,000. There is a very satisfactory decrease in Civil Pensions, and the only increase on other than the Shipbuilding Votes is the usual automatic increase of £19,000 for Military Pensions, which advances over our Estimates with the unrelenting and desolating certitude of a sort of financial car of Juggernaut. But the general feature of these Estimates is that, by unremitting diligence and public spirit, the Naval Lords of the Admiralty, and the permanent Heads of Departments, have kept down those sources of expenditure which can be kept down only by patient, minute, and judicious industry, and have presented the country with a large sum to spend upon those shipbuilding enterprises which the safety of the country demands. On Vote 6, the Labour Vote of the Dockyards, there appears to be no increase; but last year the 53rd week fell due, and absorbed £20,000, so that this year there is an actual increase of that amount. The Naval Store Vote and the Vote for Building by Contract are larger between them by £160,000; so that the general effect of the Estimates is that, with only £80,000 to draw on, we have been able to devote no less than £180,000 more to the all-important task of increasing our Fleet. With this money we have been able to raise the prospective construction of 1882–3 to the amount of 15,502 tons to be built in the public, and 4,640 tons in private yards—that is to say, to 20,142 tons in all, of which 11,466 tons are in armoured ships; and the improved and improving proportion between the Estimate and the execution which is visible in our Dockyard accounts leads us to hope that what has been promised we may reasonably expect to perform. And now, Sir, it will not be necessary for me long to detain the Committee over the destination of the money which we pro- 1098 pose to devote to increasing our ironclad Fleet. Towards the close of last Session, with, I think, the concurrence of everyone who takes interest in these matters, I announced that the Board of Admiralty had come to the conclusion not to build ships of very great size and very great cost, or in any great variety. I argued on the importance, when we had once got hold of a good type, of reproducing that type in sufficient number. For economy and rapidity of construction, for facilitating the manœuvring ships in fleets, and for familiarizing our men and officers with the vessels in which they are to live and fight, this policy appeared to hon. Members to be the right one. There was another conclusion to which the Board arrived, and which I had the honour of stating and defending, and that was the firm determination to press on the ships we have in hand and get them afloat as soon as possible. Those are the two leading features of the Admiralty programme of the coming year, and which I foreshadowed last year. The Agamemnon, the Ajax, the Conqueror, and the Polyphemus will be actually finished in the course of the year. The Collingwood, the Colossus, the Imperieuse, and the Warspite will be pushed vigorously on, and the Majestic at Pembroke will be finished to the point at which she can be brought round to Portsmouth for completion. The Rodney and the Howe, the two ships which belong to what may now be called the British Admiral class, will be put forward at Chatham and Pembroke respectively, and a fourth ship of the same type will be commenced by contract, which will give me the pleasure of fulfilling a pledge I made to the right hon. and gallant Member for the Wigton Burghs (Sir John Hay), and commemorating his favourite old naval worthy, Admiral Benbow; and I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will admit Admiral Benbow might wisely yield place to Rodney. These three vessels will be Collingwoods, modified to carry four 60-ton guns, instead of the 43-ton guns which will be carried by the Collingwood, the Conqueror, the Majestic, and the Colossus. An addition of 400 tons to their displacement, and some £25,000 to £30,000 to their expense, will not take them out of the class of comparatively moderate-sized and moderate-priced ships, while it will enable 1099 them to carry a gun which will do all that a gun needs to do. [Lord HENRY LENNOX: What is the size of the guns?] The Collingwood, Conqueror, Majestic, and the Colossus will carry 43-ton guns; the Rodney and the Howe, which have been recently designed, are intended to carry 60-ton guns; and three ships, which we must at present call paper ships, will likewise carry that gun. I will speak a little more specifically. Before the year is out, at Portsmouth and at Pembroke two new iron-clads will be laid down, the details of which, following the example of last year, I will specify at a later period of the Session. While spending money on fresh construction, the Admiralty have not been neglectful of the condition of our existing ironclads. The Bellerophon will be finished and made fit for service. The Rupert will have her boilers renewed, and will be re-armed with the 18-ton breechloaders of the new type. The Audacious will have new boilers. The Shannon, which has come off foreign service in exceptionally good condition, will be thoroughly overhauled and made ready for the Coastguard. A novelty, and, I hope, an acceptable novelty, has been introduced into these Estimates by Malta being placed among the naval yards, which are thought worthy of having a programme, and the Thunderer and the Invincible will be made ready for re-commission in that cheap and very workmanlike establishment. The question of guns, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is only too painfully aware, does not touch the Naval Votes; but in a general review of the condition of our Fleet it would be pedantry not to refer to so important a matter. [Mr. W. H. SMITH: There is the Monarch.] The Monarch was repaired at Chatham in 1878 at a cost of £46,000, and paid off and re-commissioned at Malta in January, 1882. The present occasion is one of statement and not of controversy, so that I will leave aside all disputed topics and confine myself to specifying what has been done and what is designed to be done; and I do not think that I am exceeding the limits of a statement when I claim for the present Government that from the first moment they entered Office they have been pressing on the substitution of the new gun for the old with all the celerity which the caution necessary in 1100 such a critical undertaking demands. The Conqueror, within this calendar year, as we confidently hope, will be actually armed with the new 43-ton gun, and that date may be looked upon as the inauguration of the new system, for the Majestic and Colossus, which come on next for armament, will carry the same weapon; and no large gun of the old type will thenceforward be freshly supplied to any of Her Majesty's ships. The 43-ton gun, by the aid of that chilled shot which we owe to the inventive genius of our lamented Colleague the late Member for Taunton (Sir William Palliser), will really pierce anything that floats, except a narrow belt on the water line of a very few ships, which it is 50 to 1 a shot would never hit in battle. At 1,000 yards the projectile goes through 22 inches of iron and 19 inches of compound steel; and, looking to the material impossibility of armour beyond a certain thickness being carried in any quantity on a ship that can float at all, it is doubtful whether a much more powerful gun is required, and whether increased power in our weapons would not be dearly bought by the loss in number. The belief of the Admiralty is that a 60-ton gun of the new type would probably give as high a power as it is necessary to obtain under the rapidly improving conditions of gunnery construction; and there is reason to believe that the French Government have been led to the same conclusion by the same reasoning, and have fixed on a 59-ton gun as their heaviest weapon in the future. There are five ships in the list of English vessels in the Estimates which will carry this gun. Of lighter armour-piercing guns, if an 18-ton gun, piercing 17 inches of iron, such as that which this year the Hercules will carry a broadside, can be included among light guns, we shall have 174 of all sizes of the new type by the end of the next financial year; and the War Office has engaged to supply us with a large quantity of these machine guns, which will play a part in modern naval warfare certainly great, and, perhaps, quite preponderating. Of the Nordenfelt gun, which, during the two minutes that a torpedo boat would be within range, could discharge at it nearly 500 balls, each of which could penetrate its deck and sides, we shall, by the 31st of March, possess no less than 504, while 200 ad- 1101 ditional Gardner mitrailleuses will be provided during the coming year; and of torpedoes we have 300 afloat, and by the end of this year shall have 250 in store. It may interest the Committee to know that the Admiralty have determined to renew, in a somewhat different shape, a most important experiment. If anything can ever diminish the ruinous expense of naval preparation, it would be the substitution for armoured ships of cheaper and swifter ships formidable for offence. This country, as of right, was the first to devise an auxiliary ship which should assist the iron-clads in battle, and that was the origin of the Polyphemus, which was designed to do great things with ram and torpedo, and to look for security in her high speed, in her protection from machine guns, and in the smoke and confusion of conflict, when alone she would venture to approach an armoured enemy. But the Polyphemus had her drawbacks. In the first place, she, if we may apply a feminine term to such a monster, was, for a so-called cheap ship, very dear. In the next place, she was not habitable; she could carry a crew only to fight and not to live, according to the ordinary conditions which make human existence endurable. In the next place, she had small coal endurance, and would have been reduced, after a comparatively short spurt, to get her supplies from her consorts. The Chief Constructor, at the personal request and suggestion of Sir Cooper Key, has designed a vessel which will serve as an auxiliary in the combat of iron-clad fleets without losing all the qualities of a cruiser. She will be armed with a ram and torpedoes, under water, fore and aft. She will have water tight compartments and an underwater deck, two to three inches thick, protecting her engines and her torpedoes. She will have two conning towers, with armour 10 inches thick, from which the gear for fixing the torpedoes will be worked and the ship navigated. She will thus be, for the purpose of fighting with ram and torpedo, an iron-clad. Then, she will carry four 6-inch guns and 10 machine guns in turrets, or rather bastions, proof against a mitrailleuse; but, otherwise, she can be searched by machine gun fire through all her upper works, so that she will presumably only use her guns when engaging as a cruiser. For service as a 1102 cruiser she will be very reasonably fit, for she will carry coal sufficient to take her a month at from 8 to 10 knots, while at an emergency she will steam up to 16 knots. She will comfortably house a crew of 200 men, and will cost, if all goes well, £110,000 for hull and engines, as against the estimated £150,000, and actual £200,000, of the Polyphemus. Of cruisers proper, the Leander, the Arethusa, and the Phœton will pass out of the hands of the contractors, and will come to our own Yards to be completed and fitted with the new 6-inch breech-loader; and the Amphion, at Pembroke, will be pushed forward in the intervals of the iron-clad building. Hon. Members will observe that the Admiralty does not propose to construct or buy any sailing ships for training seamen. For many reasons—and, not least, for that of the safety of the crews—our men and officers should be trained in the same class of ships as those in which they are to work and fight. The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. D. Jenkins), if I understand his views, holds that it is questionable policy to take a large body of men and officers who are accustomed, during the rest of their career, to have steam power to fall back upon in time of danger, and place them for a single twelvemonth, for purposes of practice, in a sailing vessel—a class of which we should never dream of sending to sea in case of war. And therefore it is that the Admiralty have adopted another policy, and have issued an order that the Commander-in-Chief for each station shall collect his ships every season for a combined cruise, in which officers and men may be trained in sailing and in manœuvres performed in company; and anyone who reads the most interesting despatch of Admiral Willes will acknowledge the success which has attended this order. That despatch is accompanied by a Return of each ship, stating the number of days she has been under sail, the number of times she has tacked and wore, and the number of times she has gone in and out of harbour under sail alone. The last words of the despatch run thus—The result to the crows has been an improved physique and knowledge of their profession, which cannot be measured in figures, but which, I hope, may be manifested hereafter. If this combination of ships for cruising is carried out every year, the China Station may 1103 be reckoned one of our best training grounds for young seamen.With such a training ground in every foreign station, with the Channel Fleet, the Mediterranean Fleet, the Coastguard Meet, the Detached Squadron, it may safely be said that it is many years since there has been such an amount of practical training of our men and officers as in the last 12 months. And now, Sir, I must conclude, having reserved to the end the mention of a circumstance most nearly concerning us at the Board of Admiralty, and not, I hope, unacceptable to the Committee. In view of the rapid, and ever more rapid, march of science, and its increased bearing on naval matters, the Earl of North brook and his Colleagues, as I stated in answer to a recent Question, have determined to call into their councils scientific assistance from both inside and outside the Navy. The Controller—Admiral Brandreth—who has succeeded so admirably at Chatham, has been invited to join the Board; and a new office has been created, to be held by a practical man of science, who shall unite special mechanical and engineering knowledge to wide administrative experience. If such a man can be found, he should not be lightly lost; and, by making the non-acceptance of a seat in either House a condition of the office, we have enabled successive Boards of Admiralty to avail themselves, if they choose, of the experience of the same adviser. Such a man has been found in Mr. George Rendel, who, as a member of Sir William Armstrong's firm, has been a pioneer in the successful application of the principle of hydraulic machinery to the working of heavy guns, and who was the first to devise, for the defence of our coasts, those useful little gunboats, that are nothing more than a floating carriage for a huge gun. His experience as a member of a first-class firm will enable him to apply to the organization of the labour of our Dockyards that knowledge for the want of which men trained within these walls—I speak for myself, and I speak feelingly—cannot always successfully make up by any amount of industry. His experience as a mechanician will enable us with confidence to refer to him in those questions which are growing on us daily, and almost hourly. Hydraulic machinery for turning the turrets, air-compressing machinery for 1104 feeding the torpedoes, electrical apparatus for internal communication, for firing broadsides, for illuminating the sea during a nocturnal action—everything is more complicated, everything more special in its nature, everything, above all, the more cruelly expensive. With armour costing £90 a-ton, where, 10 years ago, it cost £40; with the gear for mounting a single pair of guns standing the nation at£l2,000,£15,000, £18,000; with torpedoes for offence, and torpedo-netting for defence, required for every vessel of size; defending our coasts; holding our own in the Mediterranean; providing for the protection of our commerce over the globe; surveying and mapping out the sea for the benefit of the entire civilized world; alone among nations making a serious and burdensome effort for the suppression of the Slave Trade, the British Navy cannot fail, under any Administration, to be a heavy call upon the resources even of such a nation as ours, and difficult indeed, and never-ending, is the task of those whose duty it is to see that in security and fighting power the country gets its worth for its money.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am sure the House will feel that the very admirable and very clear and very satisfactory Statement, on the whole, which my hon. Friend has made, deserves more consideration than it is possible to give at this time of night. I therefore wish to ask, before entering upon any question to which my hon. Friend has referred, whether, in the event of a Vote being given to-night, the Government will name an early day upon which the discussion of the Estimates can be taken? I should be very far from doing justice to the speech of my hon. Friend, or to the great questions which are involved, and which require careful consideration from this House, if I were to venture upon commencing a debate at a quarter to 1 o'clock; and there is no desire whatever to embarrass the Government. If they feel and state that money must be had, money must be given; but, at the same time, an opportunity must be afforded for the full and complete consideration of these very important questions. I may, perhaps, be allowed to make one remark, because it seems to me to be a necessary one, with regard to the appointment of Mr. Rendel. I had the great satisfaction of entering 1105 into communication with Mr. Rendel before I ceased to be First Lord, with a view to bringing him to the Admiralty, and I am satisfied that no more experienced and no more capable man could be found to strengthen the Board of Admiralty in a Department in which it was certainly weak, and which needed reinforcement; and, therefore, without in the slightest degree committing myself to the way in which the appointment has been made—because that is not necessary, and the Board have carefully reserved to their successors full power to act as they think fit—I think there is no doubt that the appointment of an engineer possessing the great knowledge and capacity for the Public Service which Mr. Rendel possesses is a great addition to the strength of the Department, and a great security for the welfare of the country.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he wished to join in the entreaty of the right hon. Gentleman to the Government to fix an early day for the serious discussion of the Navy Estimates. Some years ago it was an understood thing that these Estimates, upon which he was sure the existence and safety of this country depended, should be debated, night after night, with care and the most utter thoroughness; but last year the Secretary to the Admiralty made his Statement in March, and nothing more was heard of the Estimates until August, when in one Morning Sitting millions of the country's money were disposed of. He hoped there would be an end to this system this Session, and that the Government would promise a night on an early date for the discussion of these important Estimates. He was sure the Secretary to the Admiralty wished to give that opportunity, and had sufficient influence with the Government to procure one day on which Members might speak out.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
There can be no doubt that what was said on Monday night with respect to the Army Estimates applies to the Navy Estimates. It will be the duty of the Government to give to the House the earliest possible opportunity for a full discussion, which is not possible at this time of night, of these Estimates. I am not able at this moment to say when it will be possible to resume the consideration of this question; but I think I may admit, on behalf of the Government, 1106 that a very early day and a convenient opportunity ought to be afforded for the discussion. I believe my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Childers) will take the Army Estimates on the first day after Easter, and we should wish to take the earliest opportunity after that for this discussion.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I should be very sorry to request that any exact engagement should be given, because I know the difficulty in which the noble Marquess is placed; but it does appear to me that we ought to have some indication of the time within which this discussion will take place. I do not ask that it shall follow on the next Government night after the discussion on the Army Estimates, because it may be necessary to reserve that for the Budget or some other purpose; but if the noble Marquess will say that within a fortnight after the Easter Recess we shall have a night for this discussion I shall be content, and I think my hon. Friends will be content to give the money which is necessary. But the discussion ought not to be delayed beyond that period; and in mentioning a fortnight I recognize the necessity the Government may be under of going on with measures relating to the Budget; but certainly a fortnight is the utmost limit beyond which we ought not to be delayed in entering upon this discussion.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he thought the Government might at least say that they would allow the Estimates to be discussed on one of the Government nights in April. They had promised that the Army Estimates should be taken on Monday, the 17th of April, and there would then remain Thursday, the 20th, Monday, the 24th, and Thursday, the 27th of April; and if these Votes were taken now, there ought to be an undertaking that one of those three Government nights should be given up for the discussion of the Navy Estimates. If such an undertaking was given, he should be willing to agree to this money being taken; but, if not, it would be for the Committee to decide what course they should take.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
also wished to press the Government to name an early day for this discussion. There was great inconvenience last Session through the discussion being taken on so late a date; and there were many 1107 points for discussion in the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan) which, though so admirable in itself, contained many flaws. In the first place, great eulogy had been passed upon the Board of Admiralty with respect to the engineer officers; but that subject could not pass without remark; and there were many other matters which those connected with the Navy in any way should be allowed to bring before the House as soon as possible. The Government would, therefore, be wise to name an early day for the discussion. He did not wish to interfere with the Public Service, or in any way to stop the necessary Supplies; but he thought the Government were bound by all their promises and by all precedents to give the House a very early day.
§ MR. PULESTON
said, he wished to remind the Committee that last year very similar promises were made to those of the noble Marquess now; but the exigencies of the Public Business, and so forth, interfered time after time, and the House was obliged to accept that as an excuse, and to be satisfied with taking the Estimates at inconvenient times, in snatches of days and parts of nights, and so there was no sort of opportunity of discussing in anything like a proper way these important subjects. When he and some other Members ventured to discuss the Navy Estimates, and the Government had kept a House with a few Members on the Government Benches, many of them were so impatient at the lateness of the Session that it was with difficulty that he and his Friends could be heard, and were constantly interrupted by hon. Members who had not paid much attention to the subject, and cared less about it than about going home at that late period of the Session. All he asked for was that this time there might be a definite arrangement, and it would be easier for the Government to get through their work by setting a day apart for this particular Business—and a day not too near those for the Army Estimates and the Budget. He would rather it were a week later, so that it might be beyond contingencies; but it should be in the month of April, and he hoped it would not be left to chance, notwithstanding the expressed wishes of the Government to afford an early opportunity for the discussion.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
said, he wished to ask the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan) a question with respect to the appointment of Mr. Rendel. There might be advantages to the Public Service in that appointment; but it could not be forgotten that Mr. Rendel was the embodiment of antagonism to armour in Her Majesty's ships. It would be in the recollection of hon. Members that on a recent occasion Mr. Rendel's partner (Sir William Armstrong) made a speech in which he not only spoke in the strongest possible manner against our armourclads, but, in unmistakable terms, indicated his desire to do away with armour altogether. He should be sorry if in this appointment the Government were giving the public an intimation of their intention to adopt those views, because the doing away with armour would be a step fraught with the greatest disadvantage when they came to cope with the vessels of other nations. Therefore, he would be glad if the Secretary to the Admiralty would state whether the appointment had any significance of that kind or not, or whether it was apart from Mr. Rendel's views touching the abandonment of armour, and was solely because of his great skill and eminence as a mechanical engineer?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
assured the hon. Member, as he himself had been assured, that Mr. Rendel did not hold the views which the hon. Member imagined he must have obtained from his connection with Sir William Armstrong; and, further, that on no point was the Board of Admiralty more convinced than that the safety of this country depended upon our having armoured vessels of great speed and size. It was a creed in naval warfare that unarmoured vessels could not stand against armoured vessels in battle.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he should not wish this discussion to close without some remarks from that side of the House endorsing the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) as to the admirable way in which these Estimates had been submitted. He scarcely knew which to admire most, the broad statesmanlike views underlying the hon. Gentleman's Statement, or the conspicuous lucidity with which the technical details of the subject had been explained. It appeared to him that the hon. Gentle- 1109 man's speech was worthy at once of his great literary fame and his constantly increasing administrative experience.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
With regard to the suggestions which have been made, they seem to me to have been conceived in a reasonable spirit; and, after such consultation as I have been able to take with my Colleagues, I may say that I think it will be possible, and most desirable, though I do not know precisely what the Business may be after the Easter Recess, that we should have an opportunity for discussing these Estimates before the end of April, or in the first week of May.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
observed, that what had happened now was that the Committee were about to vote away £2,500,000 for the Navy, or one-fourth of the whole Estimate. They were going to vote £2,500,000 without any promise whatever. That amount would carry the Admiralty on for three months; and the exigencies of the House might interfere with the exigencies of Public Business, unless a more distinct promise was made than that given by the noble Marquess. It was a perfectly reasonable proposal that if one day in April was to be given to the discussion of the Army Estimates, one of the three remaining Government days in April should be given for discussing the Navy Estimates. There would then be a day for the Budget, and one left; and he could not see why the Navy, to which £11,000,000 were to be given, should not have a day for discussion. The Admiralty could carry on for three months with the £2,500,000, and, judging from the experience of last year, they might do so. The same sort of promise was given last year—that at an early convenient season the discussion should take place; but it did not take place until the latter part of August, and then on a Saturday afternoon when nobody cared much about it. Members would not do right to allow this, and the Government were bound to give them a more definite pledge than that given by the noble Marquess for a particular day. Why should a pledge be given for a day for the Army Estimates, and not for the Navy Estimates? He thought that perhaps it was because a Cabinet Minister represented the Army in this House, while the Secretary to the Admiralty was not a Cabinet Minister, and therefore was not able to compel 1110 the Government to do that which the House ought to compel them to do. If the Government did not give a more complete pledge, he should mark his sense of the matter by taking the opinion of the Committee upon it.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he thought the suggestion of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was hardly a reasonable one, for he knew, as a good many hon. Members on that side knew, that during the first few days after Easter there might be many necessities connected with the finances which would render it unadvisable for Government to say that one of those days should be given for this discussion. He was as anxious as possible that one good day should be devoted to the Navy Estimates as well as one to the Army Estimates. He knew how important it was that the proposals the Government were now making with respect to the Navy, and in particular with regard to naval guns, should be discussed on the earliest possible day. So far as he was personally concerned, he did not in the least care whether the Navy or the Army Estimates were taken first. He could assure the Committee that the fact of his being a Member of the Cabinet, and his hon. Friend who had charge of the Navy Estimates not having a seat in the Cabinet, had nothing whatever to do with the decision the Government had arrived at. It was-the wish of the Government, and they not only hoped, but expected, that they would be able to give a day for the discussion of the Navy Estimates, either in the last week of April or in the first week in May. Of course, that calculation might be upset by the occurrence of some unexpected event, which would render it inconvenient to take the discussion at that time. He stated this as the wish and intention of the Government unreservedly, only qualifying his promise by the reserver which Ministers were always bound to make in such matters.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that in the same manner as a day was promised for the Army Estimates—namely, the first day after the Easter Recess—so a day would be given for the Navy Estimates, either in the last week in April or the first week in May. If it was an agreement that a day was to be given, he would advise his Friends on 1111 that (the Opposition) side to accept the promise of the Government. The giving of a day, however, must not depend on what were the ordinary exigencies of Government Business. They knew that matters inevitable and urgent sometimes arose. If anything of that kind should occur to interfere with the undertaking given by the Government, an appeal could be made to the House, and it would, of course, be listened to. But the mere exigencies of Government Business should not be allowed to interfere with the carrying out of that engagement.
§ MR. PULESTON
said, the Secretary to the Admiralty had gone further than the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, because the former had made a distinct promise, whilst the latter had only given one of a qualified character. The discussion the Committee had had that night was to all intents and purposes the counterpart of a discussion they had last year, and the "exigencies" of the Government Business were such that the Government had to appeal to the House from time to time. At length the Secretary to the Admiralty was obliged to express regret that he was unable to keep the promise he had made for the Estimates to be taken at a certain period.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he should like to hear a distinct statement from the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) as to the day upon which the Navy Estimates would, if possible, be taken.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he wished to hear a distinct statement on this point. He had last year pointed out the inconvenience that arose through the Navy being represented in that House by an Under Secretary, and not by a Member of the Cabinet. The Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Trevelyan), who so well deserved the praise which had been accorded him for his able Statement, was unable to say one word as to when he would bring on the Estimates again. Last year they were put off from time to time. It was generally believed that the Government intended in a short time to bring in a new Coercion Bill, and that itself would have the effect of putting back almost every other discussion. There should be a 1112 most distinct understanding on this matter.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
said, there had been a distinct understanding come to with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith).
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he must have an answer from the noble Marquess. He would move to report Progress. Surely Parliament was not to be put off in this manner year after year. Last year the House was treated in a manner that he considered discreditable to the Government. As the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty was unable to fix a day for the discussion, and as the Leader of the House was not present, and the Deputy Leader did not seem to have power to act for him—["Oh, oh!"]—if the Committee would not listen to him, he should be obliged to take a course which he was loth to adopt—namely, move to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir H. Drummond Wolff.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I do not exactly know what kind of assurance the hon. Gentleman requires. It is not possible for me to name a day for the resumption of this debate; but, subject to the same reservation as that which applies in the case of the Army Estimates, the discussion will be continued in the last week of April or first week of May. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) says, as regards the Army Estimates, that, so far as he can judge, the first Government day after Easter will be devoted to the discussion of them, and that the Government will not allow any matter of legislation to interfere with this arrangement. I do not anticipate any impediment; but, should any arise, then the discussion will be taken on as early a day after the time fixed as circumstances will permit. The same reservation will apply in the case of the Navy Estimates.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £2,631,498, Wages, &c. to Seamen and Marines.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.