§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
In moving that 57,250 Men and Boys he employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services, including 12,400 Royal Marines, in the next financial year, I believe I shall be taking the course most convenient to the Committee if, before dealing with any question that may arise out of the individual Vote, I make a few remarks explanatory of the Estimates as a whole, and of the administrative policy which they embody and disclose. The net demand which in these Estimates we propose to make upon the public purse amounts to £10,757,000, as compared with £10,483,901, voted for the current year. But this comparison is not quite exact, for these Estimates comprise certain items connected with the Egyptian Expedition, amounting to £25,500, and are further swelled by transfers from Army Votes to the extent of £118,032; so that the amount which should properly be compared with the Estimates of 1882–3 was £10,613,468, showing a net actual increase on those Services which were provided for in the normal Estimates of the present year of £129,567. Now, perhaps I may be allowed to refer to a Paper which I have caused to be prepared and circulated with the Estimates, containing an explanation of the causes of the various differences in these Votes. A similar Paper-has for many years accompanied the Army Estimates, and I trust that those who watch with interest the course of Naval Expenditure may find its publication of some use.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
It was delivered to the right hon. and gallant Admiral a few days ago with his other Parliamentary Papers. If hon. Members will turn to the Abstract given on pages 4 and 5 of the Estimates they will find that, excluding for the moment the two Shipbuilding Votes and the Votes for Victuals and for Naval Stores, there are on the remaining Votes increases and de- 600 creases which result in a balance of decrease of £2,799. But if we wish to deal with normal expenditure only, we must deduct from these Votes the charges connected with Egypt which fall upon them, and we thus arrive at a decrease of £28,299. I do not know that any of these Votes call for particular remark from my present point of view, beyond this, that I cannot even see the figures on the Paper without contemplating with some satisfaction, and inviting others to view with the same feeling, the Vote for Retired Pay—that is Vote 15—in which for the first time we find a welcome abatement, due to the lapse of the first of the Terminable Annuities, created in connection with the commutation of retired pay. Year after year we have had nothing but constant additions to the charge under that head; but now at last this 10th year brings us an instalment of relief. We have thus, as I have said, already a net decrease of £28,299, and this is swelled by the Victualling and Store Votes, which give us a further decrease of £118,691, almost equally shared between them. For the former Vote we are able to ask for a diminished sum, chiefly because of the fact that the requirements of the Service during the year have not been so great as was expected, and because we have been able to commence the year 1883–4 with stocks somewhat better replenished than usual. With regard to the Vote for Naval Stores, for which a sum less by £60,000 than last year's Vote will be proposed to the Committee, it is so largely affected by the New Rule as to Appropriations in Aid, that it seems to deserve special remark. This is not the time, nor am I the person, to defend—if it needs defence—the new system, prescribed, as it has been, by the Treasury, with the approval, or, I may even say, at the instigation, of the Committee of Public Accounts. What I wish to say of it, from the point of view of the Executive Departments, is that it has, what I believe to be, a most wholesome and economical effect in encouraging those who administer them to turn useless stores and obsolete property into money, strictly under the control and sanction of the Treasury and of Parliament, and to employ the proceeds in providing for the Public Service. So long as the proceeds of the sales of old stores went to swell, without credit or acknowledg- 601 ment, the balances of the Exchequer, not only was there a temptation to those in charge of a Department to hoard useless property, which generally deteriorated in value, and which even sometimes cost something in the keeping, but also, if any old stores were disposed of, they had no direct inducement, in the interest of their own Department at least, to secure that the disposal should be effected on the most advantageous terms. But now all that is at an end. If now we are called upon to give new lamps for old, we are at least allowed to set the value of the old lamps against the cost of the new; and I believe the Committee will be of opinion that this arrangement is both right and reasonable. Now, these considerations apply with the most direct force to the Vote to which I am now inviting the attention of hon. Members. Some of our Dockyards have their creeks filled with old and worn out vessels—wooden ships of obsolete type—which are not only useless, but on which money is annually spent to watch them, and frequently to patch them, and pump water out of them, in order to keep them afloat. It would be hardly possible to conceive a less profitable application of public money. Now, it is by the sale of an additional number of these ships—a transaction, the details of which when we come to the Vote I shall be fully prepared to explain and justify—that we have been able to secure a diminution of the public charge under this Vote, which actually provides for an amount of stores for the service of the Navy virtually the same as the provision made under it in the current year. It may be interesting to trace for a moment the history of this Vote in recent years. From the gross amount of the Vote in these Estimates, and for the previous three years, we must deduct the amount expended on repayment on behalf of other Departments of the Government, which is now included in the gross Vote, a credit of the same amount being set against it. The amount available for purchase of stores for Naval Service for the coming year is thus £1,265,500. In 1882–3 it was £1,250,000, the apparent increase being accounted for by the fact that the liability for certain electrical and torpedo stores has now been transferred from the War Office to the Admiralty, who now provide for all such stores with the exception of explosives. In 1881–2, 602 the amount was £1,172,700; in 1880–1, it was £1,011,000; and in 1879–80, it was £1,030,000. The average of these four years, therefore, was £1,115,925; whereas, as I have said, the amount now proposed for the strictly Naval Service of next year is, after deducting the £16,500 taken over from the War Department, £1,249,000. These figures, I venture to think, sufficiently prove that this Vote has not been unduly weakened; and I have thought it right to dwell upon the subject in order to prevent any misapprehension. Now, resuming our review of the Votes, and adding the decrease on victuals and stores of £118,691 to the decrease already secured on the other Votes of £28,299, we have a total net diminution on all the Votes, save two, of £146,990. There remain the two Shipbuilding Votes, which I have kept to the last, and the net expenditure under these we estimate at an increased amount over this year of £394,589. This leaves a net increase on the whole of the Estimates of £247,599; and if we deduct from this the sum of £118,032, which I have already quoted as the result of the transfers between the Army and the Navy Votes, we are brought round again to the net actual increase of £129,567, which I have already stated to the Committee. Now, to those who have kindly followed the figures I have quoted, I have said enough to show what the main principle of policy which underlies these Estimates is—namely, that by thrifty administration we should be able to concentrate as much money as possible upon the Shipbuilding Votes; not by starving the other Votes, not have shown that this is not done, but by keeping a firm hand upon the expenditure under them, we have endeavoured to render available for the strengthening of Her Majesty's Fleet a larger proportion of the money which we ask for from Parliament than has, for many years at least, been devoted to that purpose. We propose, indeed, a certain addition, to the extent I have named—£129,567—to the burden of Naval Expenditure. I assure the Committee that it is with regret, and after much deliberation, that we do so. But we are responsible to the country for maintaining the Navy of England in a state worthy of her maritime position, and capable of undertaking 603 the manifold duties imposed upon it; and we believe that with this addition—I think I may call it a moderate addition—to the sum at our disposal, which the experiences of recent years and our knowledge of the requirements of the Service convince us is necessary, we shall be able to fulfil our task. Our programme is not of a startling or ambitious character. We have been invited by writers of great authority in the public Press to take another course, to open up a new era of great Naval Expenditure, and to launch forth upon a sea of new projects and unknown expense in shipbuilding. I have to thank hon. Members who entertain those views for their consideration and courtesy in not interposing Amendments on this occasion; but we are not disposed to follow that advice. In the first place, we believe that we are quietly and steadily making and preparing such additions to the Navy as fully to maintain our position. In the second place, I would ask the Committee what would be the effect in Europe if England were suddenly to embark on a now career of Naval Expenditure, and possibly set the example of a fresh international rivalry on the sea, which could in the end but add to the miseries which the system of portentous Military establishments on land already inflict upon the world? And, in the third place, we are of opinion that if ever there was a time when it would be the height of un wisdom to make a sudden and fresh start in Naval construction it is now, for it is hardly too much to say that at the present moment everything is unsettled. The gun and its mountings, the torpedo and its discharge, the degree and extent of a ship's protection, the character and position and distribution of her armament—these and many other questions are subjects of experiment and controversy; and the inventions of science and the versatile development of the art of war may at any moment dictate some new change. Surely, then, we are bound now more than ever to proceed carefully and tentatively, following closely upon known experience, and confining our operations to that which is absolutely necessary. This is the policy of Lord Northbrook and his Colleagues in the present Naval Administration, and it is the only one that the Government are prepared to recommend to Parliament and the country. 604 We believe that in what we are proposing to-night we are doing all that is necessary, while we are not imposing on the taxpayers of the country greater burdens than the necessity of the case requires. Now, Sir, let me direct the attention of the Committee more particularly to Vote 6—the Dockyard Vote the net expenditure included in it amounts to £1,556,000; but a portion of this may be described as being, in some sense, of an unproductive nature, so far as the building and repairing of ships are concerned. Just as the Estimates are hampered with dead weight, so this Vote includes within its own limits a dead weight of its own, in the form of incidental expenses; and it is satisfactory to observe that this is gradually and steadily dwindling. The amounts appropriated to yard and other services, for the last five years, are as follows:—In 1878–9, £273,177; in 1879–80, £229,160; in 1880–1, £208,988; in 1881–2, £197,676; in 1882–3, £177,554. In 1883–4 it is £178,038. This steady decrease is duo to a better system of account-keeping, and to economies consequent on an Inquiry into the subject conducted in 1880 by Mr. Hamilton, to whom the Admiralty and the Public Service of the country owe so much. The amounts proposed to be spent on actual effective wages in next year are, for new construction £504,659, and for repairs £443,484, making a total of £948,143. This will be found to be a larger sum than has been spent for many years on this service; comparing it, for instance, with the average expenditure on wages for the previous five years, which is, for new construction £454,242, and for repairs £350,402, making a total of £804,704; there is shown an increase in favour of the coming year of £143,439. Or, if we compare it with the present year alone, it shows an increase of £126,291. But wages are not the only element in the building and repairing of our ships. Of the materials and stores to be worked up into them it is not easy to form a precise calculation; but, from such information as I can obtain, I would estimate their value at from £750,000 to £800,000; and if we add to these sums the amount to be paid to private undertakings for ships and machinery, under the Contract Vote—in which I include gun-mountings, but exclude the item 605 for experimental services—namely, £1,031,300 we arrive, at a total of nearly £2,750,000 directly, actually, and effectively devoted to the maintenance of the Fleet. But the Committee will ask, with this large amount for wages, materials, and contract work, what work do you propose to do? We expect, if the Committee furnish us with the means, to build of unarmoured ships 3,948 tons in the Dockyards, and 2,270 tons by contract, being 6,218 tons in all, or a somewhat smaller amount than this year. But of armoured tonnage we propose to build 1,982 tons by contract, and 11,224 tons in the Dockyards, or 13,206 tons in all, as against 11,466 tons this year. The Committee will, probably, think that this is a very satisfactory amount. I wish, however, frankly to say that I think a slight modification ought to be made in the figures I have just quoted, which, however, does not affect the substantial effect of the general result. In the armoured tonnage—11,224 tons—which I have said is to be built in the Dockyards, are included, as hon. Members will see if they turn to page 204 of the Estimates, two new protected vessels, the Mersey and the Severn, which are to be constructed at Chatham. These are the two vessels which I described to the Committee in August last, one of which it was then intended to build by contract, but which are now both to be built at Chatham. They are vessels of a typo to which the scientific advisers to the Admiralty attach great importance, and they may possibly prove to be the pioneers of a future class. They will possess high speed, with their machinery, magazines, and buoyancy protected by an armoured deck, but with their armament unprotected. Now, it may be questioned whether these vessels ought to be reckoned as armoured ships, although, with their horizontal protection, there are many who consider them quite as efficient and formidable as certain of the ships which, with perpendicular armour, bear the undisputed title of "iron-clads." The Polyphemus has always, for instance, been reckoned as armoured, and the new ships deserve the rank quite as well as she does. But we are disposed, on the whole, to think that a better arrangement would be to place them in a new and intermediate category of "protected ships;" and if this was done, the figures I have quoted would be 606 altered in this way. I should then say that we propose to build 19,424 tons in all, whereof 6,218 would be unarmoured, 925 protected, and 12,281 iron-clad. Now, let me go back over the last five years, and state to the Committee how they stand in this respect. In 1878–9, 8,430 tons of armoured ships were built; in 1879–80, 7,427 tons; in 1880–1, 9,235 tons; in 1881–2, 10,748 tons—and these figures, be it observed, include the Polyphemus—and in 1882–3, 11,466 tons by estimate; whereas in 1883–4, excluding the Severn and Mersey, it is proposed to build 12,281 tons. These figures prove that it has been Lord Northbrook's desire gradually and cautiously, but steadily, to increase the amount of armoured shipbuilding, and how successful he has been in carrying his desire into effect. I will not further occupy the Committee with the recital of tedious figures; but I hope that I have made good our claim to the credit of having been able in our proposals to combine, in a degree not always attainable, a large and substantial addition to the Naval strength of the country with the smallest proportionate addition to the burden of the taxpayer; and that, after all, in my opinion, is the great object of Naval Administration. With regard to the individual ships included in the programme, it is unnecessary to give an exhaustive account of them to the Committee. The history of an iron-clad's construction at the present time is too often a record of hindrances and delays, which disappoint our best expectations; and whatever be the energy, and care, and foresight of the officers of the Department—and it would be difficult for one who sees them daily at their work to exaggerate their high qualities—they could not altogether avoid or prevent these delays, which occur especially in the closing stages of the shipbuilding career of a vessel. It is not only the increasing complication of the ship herself that is the cause, though that has something to do with it. The re-armament of the Navy which is now in progress, and not a day too soon, involves not merely the guns and their carriages, and all the questions connected with them, but also the manner in which the ship is to be built up and prepared to receive the gun and its carriage; and the slightest change in any one point implies delay. Similarly, the preparations for 607 torpedo armament and machine guns, and conning stations to protect the officers from machine gun fire, are a fruitful source of delay. And delay often means unavoidable waste, apart from the mere cost of new fittings. Thus it is that the Ajax and Agamemnon are only now practically complete. The Conqueror also, for similar reasons, will not be finished in this year, as promised; and I am afraid that all promises must be taken subject to contingencies of this kind, which I have only cursorily hinted at. The delays in her case have been connected with her armament of 43-ton guns; her auxiliary armament with Vavasseur mountings; her torpedo armament; and also with the now system of closed stokeholes for forcing the fires on occasion, and getting higher speed with the same engines. Her speed, however, has fully justified what has been done to her, being 15½ knots. The Edinburgh and Colossus have been also much delayed waiting for a decision as to the gun they are to carry, which is to be the 43-ton gun. The Impérieuse and Warspite are advancing well. Turning to the Admiral class, I have to say that further consideration of the barbette system has satisfied us that it was a wise decision to adopt it in preference to the turret; that is, taking into account the very extended protection against machine gun five which has been obtained at the top of the barbettes. The two new ships, therefore, which were indicated last year, will be of this type, and, in fact, sister ships to the Benbow. They are the Camperdown, to be built at Portsmouth, and the Anson, at Pembroke The Benbow is being built on the Thames by contract. Although these six ships are all alike in type, we have endeavoured to make some improvement—the Benbow, Camperdown and Anson will be five feet longer than the others, with a displacement of 10,000 tons, as compared with 9,700 in the Howe and Rodney, and 9,200 in the Collingwood, and they will have stronger armour in their barbettes. As to their armament, the Collingwood will carry the 43-ton gun, while the others are prepared to carry the 63-ton gun. We have, however, determined to place in one of them, instead of four 63-ton guns, two of the 100-ton B.L. guns of Elswick pattern, considering that this gun has been subjected to a sufficient test of experiments on trial to justify us in 608 taking this course. It will thus be seen that while adhering to the type, we are not omitting any occasion of developing the power of this class of ships. As to the repairing of ships—a work to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) most properly attaches great importance—we have been able, during the present year, to complete the repairs of all iron-clads on hand, notwithstanding that the demands on account of the Egyptian service seriously interrupted the work of the Dockyards.
§ MR. CAMPBELL BANNERMAN
I am now talking of iron-clads. The only exception is the Bellerophon, which is being fitted as a seagoing gunnery ship, and the fittings of which take much time to complete. For next year we provide for repairs an increased sum of no less than £121,654 in wages, and included in the work so provided for are all the iron-clads ready for repair, except the Black Prince, and provision is made for the reliefs for the next year and a-half. The details of these matters will be more conveniently and appropriately gone into when we come to the consideration of Vote 6. With regard to the important question of the guns, it is generally agreed that any question as to their nature and design is better dealt with by the Representative of the War Office, who is responsible for their manufacture and supply. But I may say that, as far as the supply to the Navy is concerned, by the end of the financial year it is hoped to have the following number of new breech-loading guns completed:—11 12-inch, 8 9–2-inch, 4 8-inch, 127 6-inch, 20 5-inch, 53 4-inch, and 18 of another pattern of 4-inch, or 241 in all.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that these guns will be ready this year?
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Yes; before the end of March this year. That is the hope we entertain. It will be observed that in these Estimates we 609 take over the whole charge for gun mountings.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
No; we hope to have complete by the end of March the number of guns I have mentioned.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Yes; but I will ascertain the fact quite distinctly. From the information I have received I believe it will be so. I know that some of the guns have been already delivered; but I cannot answer for all. Hitherto, the Admiralty have provided all special mountings, such as those in turrets, which may be said to form part of the ship itself, and all machinery connected with such mountings; but in future they are to be responsible for the whole provision, and I believe that to be a step in the right direction. Turning to the immediate Vote before us, I have very little to announce in the way of change affecting the personnel of the Navy. But it is impossible for me to move this Vote without some reference, however brief, to the events which have happened since the Navy Estimates were last introduced in the House of Commons. It maybe held that when the two Houses of Parliament passed a Vote of Thanks to the two Services, the curtain, as it were, dropped upon that act in our military history; but I cannot move the first Vote in the Estimates without taking occasion, on the part of the Board of Admiralty, to express again their high admiration and appreciation of the conduct of all engaged in the Egyptian operations. The officers and men of the Navy may be said to be always on active service; they are always, so to speak, in face of the enemy; they are every day engaged in all parts of the world in the discharge of duties full of difficulty, responsibility, and danger. It was, therefore, nothing new for them to find themselves called upon, under the eyes of the whole world, to accomplish such a task as was laid upon them in Egypt. But, as far as I have been able to observe, not a single fault has been found with any part of their conduct, because there was no room for 610 fault-finding. I am not aware that even criticism has been extended to the naval part of the operations; and it is hard to say which has been more remarkably illustrated—the skill and high professional attainments of the officers, or the courage, fine spirit, and unbroken discipline of the seamen and Marines. It is our intention to ask Parliament, in the present Session, for powers to enable us to confer a benefit upon those whose conduct has been thus so worthy of praise. This is in pursuance of a decision at which my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty arrived long before these events. Shortly before he came into Office the loss of the Atalanta occurred. A subscription was, as usual, opened for the benefit of the relatives of the warrant officers and men who had lost their lives in her; but the public did not appear to be disposed to subscribe a sufficient fund to furnish the pensions required. It then appeared to Lord Northbrook hardly creditable that when such a disaster occurred the relief of the distress occasioned by it should be wholly thrown on the relatives of the sufferers and on the charity of the public; and he stated publicly that the Government would consider what could be done. When, consequently, the calamity to the Doterel occurred, my noble Friend begged the Lord Mayor to refrain from calling for subscriptions from the public, and subsequently we gave temporary allowances out of Greenwich Hospital Funds to the widows and near relatives of those who were then killed. The same course has been followed in the case of the families of those who lost their lives in Egypt. There is, however, some uncertainty how far the Greenwich Hospital Acts authorize us to let these allowances take the form of permanent pensions; and, therefore, a Bill on the subject will shortly be introduced, which, I hope, will receive the willing assent of the House. There is only one other matter to which I think it necessary to allude. We intend to make a slight alteration in the term for which men in future will be engaged in the Navy. At present a man engages for 10 years, from the age of 18, and then he reengages for a further period of 10 years. We propose that the first period should be 12 years, making the total service of those who continue 22 years, instead of 20. It appears to us that 38 is too early 611 an age for a man to leave the Service and commence to draw full pension; and we believe that seamen would be very glad to continue in the Service up to the not very advanced age of 40. Our proposal, then, is that the first engagement should be for 12 years, instead of 10 as at present. We do not anticipate that the change will cause any difference in the entry of boys, and it will prospectively have a considerable effect in diminishing the burden of deadweight, so that we shall be doing something for our successors. I merely make this casual allusion to our proposal, which does not in any way affect these Estimates, nor will it, of course, affect men now serving. Statutory powers will be required; and when the necessary measure comes before the House there will be every opportunity for its explanation and discussion. I have now completed my task to the best of my ability; and, apologizing for the length at which I have trespassed on the patience of the Committee, and thanking hon. Members for their kindness in listening to me, I beg to move the Vote for the number of men and boys.
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That 57,250 men and boys be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1884, including 12,400 Royal Marines.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I have listened with great attention to the Statement of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty, and I think it must be the universal consent of the Committee that nothing could have been more temperate, moderate, or more clear than the Statement of the hon. Gentleman; but I may, perhaps, be allowed to refer, in the first instance, to his later observation with regard to the conduct of the Navy in Egypt. The claims of that Service demand our first recognition. I am sure that everyone will join in the commendation which the hon. Gentleman has expressed on everyone engaged, from the Admiral, to the officers, men, and blue-jackets, and Marines, for their conduct in the late operations in Egypt. Whatever our opinions may be, and there are adverse opinions, as to the policy of those operations, it is not at all necessary, on the present occasion, to enter into that; for there can be no 612 doubt that every man has done his duty, and that the Navy has as fully maintained its ancient reputation as completely and thoroughly as in the old times. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the discipline maintained in the Fleet, and I think that discipline deserves more commendation than even bravery and daring; in fact, the credit of the British arms depends upon the discipline and good behaviour of the men of the Force, and it is especially to the discipline which was maintained that I desire to express my admiration. The hon. Gentleman has also referred appropriately to the question of widows' pensions, and the provision which should be made by the country for the families of those who have suffered and fallen in the discharge of their duties. I will not now enter into that; but I feel certain that the country and the House will be prepared to consider any proposal the Government may think fit to put before them, in order to provide against contingencies which, in connection with a Service like the Navy, must, unfortunately, frequently occur. I trust, indeed, that we may not have a recurrence of the particular calamities to which the hon. Gentleman has referred; but that calamities must occur in connection with the Service is unfortunately certain, and it is only just and proper that some provision should be made. The hon. Gentleman has referred also to the question of an alteration in the terms of engagement; but I will not discuss that question now. The hon. Gentleman is very well aware that the dead-weight upon the Navy is a subject which gave the late Board of Admiralty great concern; that great efforts were made, tentatively, to lessen that dead-weight; and that we called the attention of the House seriously to it. I shall cordially welcome, and gladly assist in, any efforts the present Board of Admiralty may make with reference to the ultimate relief which may be afforded, unfortunately not to this generation, but to those who come after us. The hon. Gentleman commenced with an elaborate and interesting statement as to the charge which falls on the Votes under the Estimates we are about to consider. I will not follow him in that elaborate statement, because I have neither the time, nor would it be to the advantage of the Committee that I should do so now. I shall not question the main facts he has 613 stated; but, from my own point of view, I must deal with what appears to me to be the gross charge under the old system of the Naval Service, and under the Estimates now before the Committee. Admitting that there are charges placed upon the Naval Votes which ought to be borne by the Army, it appears to me that while the Estimates presented to Parliament last year amounted to the charge of £10,600,000, the Estimates this year amount to £10,940,000, exclusive of the Transport Service. While I make no complaint whatever of that increased charge, I concur with the view which the hon. Gentleman has put before the Committee, that the Admiralty is responsible before the country for maintaining a Navy worthy of the country, and capable of maintaining and defending the position of the country in any emergency. I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that the Board of Admiralty are of opinion that by this addition they will be able to fulfil the duty which attaches to them; and I fully recognize the fact that upon them rests the responsibility of taking such steps, making such provisions, and asking for such supplies as shall enable them to provide a force in matériel and men which shall be sufficient to meet any emergency to which at any time the country might be exposed. I entertain the view that the Navy exists for a possibly sudden state of war. We are not to assume, because the sky is clear at the present moment—because there are no threatening clouds—that a storm cannot arise in the course of a few days, weeks, or months; and, therefore, I say, if we are to be at the cost of a Navy at all, it should always be maintained in a state of complete efficiency and readiness for the protection of the country in case of war. My earnest desire is that the occasion for its services in this respect may not arise; but it exists for, and the only justification of its existence is the possibility of a state of war, and the guarding of the country in such a state of difficulty and trial. It appears to me, therefore, that every ship in Her Majesty's Service should be as rapidly as possible brought into a state of complete efficiency. I am aware that it is not possible to maintain the Navy at every moment, and under all circumstances, in a condition of complete efficiency; but there should be no delay and no want of energy in the construction of 614 ships, or in the matter of repairs to ships, which are believed to be necessary for the defence of the country. The hon. Gentleman has referred in his speech—and I can heartily sympathize with his feelings in this matter, for I myself have had experience of the same trouble and anxiety—to the delays which attend the completion of ships. Those delays are intimately connected with a subject to which I have more than once drawn attention in this House, and to which, I regret to say, I feel it my duty to call attention again—namely, the supply of guns and ammunition to Her Majesty's Navy. In the year 1880, I believe, an understanding was arrived at between the Secretary of State for War and myself that a new class of guns should be supplied for the use of the Navy. The gun was to be breech-loading, and of 43 tons weight; but I think I am right in saying that from that time to the present—a period of more than three years having elapsed—the gun has not been supplied to the Fleet, nor is it yet in existence. Ships are actually waiting for these guns; and, more than that, there is a gun of a new class, to be supplied to ships of the Admiral type, which, I believe, is not yet designed. Sir, my hon. Friend made a statement just now which took me somewhat by surprise. I understood him to state that 241 guns of the new breech-loading class have been supplied to the Navy for the year ending 1883; but I must point out that this is not consistent with the statement made only three weeks ago by the Surveyor General of Ordnance in this House, in reply to my Question as to the number and calibre of guns actually on board ship. The statement then made was that there had been 56 8-inch and 84 4-inch guns supplied.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am very glad to hear they are ready; but I should have been much better pleased to hear that they were on board ship. The guns, it seems, are somewhere; but they are not delivered at the Dockyards, and are not in possession of the Admiralty; and, therefore, the expectations which were held out last year, and the year before, have not, up to the present time, been realized. But what has been realized is, that the ships for which the guns are 615 intended have been greatly delayed, are being greatly delayed, and are not ready for service when they ought to be ready for service. I venture to think that if they had been supplied under another system—that is to say, if the Admiralty had been solely responsible for the manufacture and for the obtaining of their guns, they would not have to come down to the House year after year and say—"The guns are not supplied to the ships; the War Office has Dot delivered them to us." This is a matter of very great import; and with regard to the observations which fell from my hon. Friend, I think I am right in saying that the country and this House will hardly be satisfied to receive from the Admiralty the statement that they themselves are not responsible for the supply of guns to the Navy. I know that they are hampered by difficulties, and by arrangements which have the sanction of usage, and it may be of the Government, and of many Governments, and I am not now attributing blame to the Admiralty in any degree; on the contrary, I am endeavouring to strengthen their hands for the discharge of the duties devolving upon them. But I say that as Parliament and the country will hold them responsible for the completion of ships for the Fleet, and for the efficiency of everything in them when they are sent to sea, it will not be sufficient for the Admiralty to say—"The guns are not ready; we do not know the size of the gun, or what the charge will be, and therefore we cannot complete the ships. ''The Admiralty is responsible for the completion of a ship, for the efficiency of its armament, for sending it to sea, and they are also responsible for the testing of guns placed on board ship, so that the men who are to work them may have complete confidence in their weapons. Now, I think I am right in saying that the 43-ton gun which is being built is not yet complete—it is a gun in course of construction, but it has not been tested; and I feel convinced that the First Lord of the Admiralty will not suffer a ship to go to sea with guns, the pattern of which has not been fully tried and tested. If I am anxious upon this question it is because I feel it to be one of the very last importance, and one that very greatly affects the accuracy of the Estimates presented to Parliament. If you have 616 not the guns you may just as well not have the ships; but if you have the guns they may be mounted upon a less costly and more rapidly constructed ship than an iron-clad, and make some use of them. Of so much importance do I regard this matter, that I shall feel it my duty, unless a more completely satisfactory account is given of the progress and construction of guns for the Navy, to move for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the system under which the guns for the Navy are supplied, or else to move for a Royal Commission on the subject, whichever may appear at the time to be best. But I am convinced that an end must be put to the delay which hampers each succeeding Board of Admiralty, and adds, at the same time, to the duties of the War Office. My hon. Friend has referred to the additions which are to be made in the programme of last year—namely, the contemplated increased amount of shipbuilding and repairs. I am glad to see that a much more efficient provision for repairs has been made—the amount of repairs necessary for maintaining ships in a state of efficiency having for the last two years been insisted upon by myself as a point of the greatest importance—and once more I say that if a ship is not efficient, and is not intended to be of service again, the sooner it is abandoned the better. I do not want you to repair a single ship which you yourselves believe to be an undesirable ship for the Service; but if you are convinced that a particular ship ought to be repaired, then I say she ought to be repaired without delay. It is, therefore, satisfactory to find an increase in the Vote for repairing purposes, and that between 1,500 and 1,700 additional men will be engaged in completing work which has not been carried out as the Admiralty intended. I give the Board of Admiralty full credit for their intentions, but I had some doubt last year as to whether they would be able to carry out their programme; and I confess to a feeling that there is a possibility of their not being able to do so with regard to the programme of this year. But I do not now reproach my hon. Friend with the deficiency of the amount of repairs executed; and as the Admiralty propose to effect these repairs during the coming year, I will not, on the present occasion, pursue the subject. 617 There is one point I wish to refer to. The hon. Gentleman, as I think quite unnecessarily, referred to what might be the political effect in Europe if the Parliament of this country sanctioned a further addition to the expenditure on the Navy. Sir, I believe such a course would not have the slightest effect in Europe; at all events, it would not have an injurious effect, if the Government of the country thought it desirable to expend some £400,000 or £500,000 more in shipbuilding than they had done last year. I think it would act as a kind of assurance for the peace of Europe if it became clear that the Government were determined to resist aggression and defend our interests abroad. The Governments of Europe have probably much greater knowledge of the offensive and defensive forces of this country than nine out of ten Gentlemen have who sit in this House. They have information upon which they can place reliance, and the addition of a few hundred thousand pounds, more or less, to the Estimates for the defence of this country will, I am sure, have no other effect than to convince Governments disposed to be belligerent that we are watchful and prepared in case of need. Without advocating the embarking in any great Naval expenditure, I do certainly advocate the maintenance of the forces of the country at an efficient standard, and that standard, in my opinion, must have regard to the forces maintained elsewhere; it must have regard to the duties to be discharged by the Navy, and which are of a very varying nature throughout the world, because heavier duties fall upon the Navy of this country than fall upon the Navies of all other countries taken together. We have a large commerce, and practically we have to perform what are called the police duties of the seas, and we have, in consequence, to maintain an iron-clad Fleet equal to any emergency. Certainly, we have reason to be proud of the way the Fleet performed its duty on a recent occasion; but I say it is impossible for us to be contented, in view of the great responsibilities cast upon us, with anything less than a preponderating Naval Force; and in making that assertion I do not wish to say anything which may be considered as a menace to any Foreign Power. I repeat, however, that we have a commerce to defend greater than that 618 of all the rest of the world taken together; and to say, under those circumstances, that our Naval Force should not preponderate above the Naval Force of other nations, would be to say that we should descend from the position we have always occupied on the sea to that of a weak and dependent Power. No, Sir; our duty is clear. We must not act in panic, and by no means as a threat to other Powers, nor with any desire to exercise an undue or exclusive influence in the counsels of Europe. Our duty is simply to protect the interests which belong to this country; and for these purposes I say, in the language of the hon. Gentleman himself, we are bound to maintain a Fleet sufficient to discharge the duties, and fulfil the obligations, of the country. Well, the question is, whether the provisions which have been made are sufficient for that purpose?—but I do not propose to enter into a discussion of that question on the present occasion; because other opportunities for doing so will arise; and I now only wish to lay down the general principle on which the Naval policy of this country ought to rest, and that is that both our ships and men should be adequate to our great interests and responsibilities. It has been usual for the Secretary to the Admiralty to make some statement of the work done in the past year. My hon. Friend, however, has failed to do that on the present occasion; and it is, therefore, to be presumed that he reserves his statement on the subject until the Vote is reached. There appears to be a discrepancy between the amount of tonnage of armoured ships last year and that stated in the present Estimates, which represents about 600 tons. That discrepancy is so remarkable that it takes a good deal of Admiralty experience to be able to suggest an explanation of it; but I have no doubt that the ships have turned out to be more costly, and the number of tons is, in consequence, less. You have paid wages and have used materials, but you have not produced the fall result expected. But, then, I am at a loss to see how the increase claimed to have been accomplished during the year is arrived at. That remains to be explained; and I have no doubt some hon. Gentleman will put questions that will attract the attention of the Secretary to 619 the Admiralty to this point. There is another subject to which I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman's attention. He has spoken with considerable force, and with all the feeling which belongs to the Department, as to the principle sanctioned by the Treasury of taking appropriations in aid. I can understand thoroughly the cordiality with which these will be welcomed by the Departments of the Admiralty; but I would ask my hon. Friend whether he is himself quite satisfied that he will realize all the money he has taken to account in this way? No one more than I heartily endorses the principle that old and worn-out ships, which can by no possibility be of use for the Public Service, should be disposed of, even at less than they are worth, if it be possible to sell them. I have had some experience, however, of the result of the endeavours to get rid of old ships, and I am bound to say that the amount which my hon. Friend has taken into account under this head appears to me a very sanguine Estimate; and although I sincerely hope his expectations will be realized, the sum in question seems a large one to be obtained from the sale of ships of this description. The question, however, which is involved here belongs more properly to the Treasury. I am exceedingly glad that the Admiralty have taken into their own hands the arrangements with regard to gun carriages, by which one serious cause of delay will be removed. It will be for the experienced officers of the Admiralty to find out what is the best method of mounting guns, and to adopt it for the time being. Improvements will come, no doubt—you can never get the best thing for all time; but in this case you can utilize that which appears the best kind of gun carriage for naval purposes, until those improvements have presented themselves. I have noticed with regret that ships building by contract have not been completed as they ought to have been—I refer to ships of the Leander class, and some of the gun vessels. I do not see why there should be greater delay in building a man-of-war by contract than in building a merchant ship by contract. The designs of the unarmoured ships have been carefully considered. I know the Constructor's Department of the Admiralty are quite capable of doing their duty, and I as- 620 sume that the execution of the designs was carried out under the supervision of a properly qualified officer, and that time was mentioned in the contract; and it, therefore, does seem to me most extraordinary that the anticipations of the J Admiralty as to the completion of these ships are so frequently disappointed. There ought not to be such delays as now occur, and which go far to place them all in a position of doubt as to the performance of the work undertaken by the contractors. I reserve for consideration, when we get to the Votes, questions as to the number of men employed at the Dockyards in Portsmouth and Devonport. I am glad to see that there is a large increase in the number of men employed in the Dockyard at Malta, and I hope to hear that the anticipations as to the amount of work which will be got through up to the 31st of March will be realized. The Admiralty have undertaken that the Thunderer and Invincible shall be completed for sea at Malta; and when the hon. Gentleman comes to Vote 6, it is to be hoped he will give us some information on this subject. I shall also require information as to the sources from which the large increase in the Wages Vote, or in the expenditure for wages at the Dockyards, has been met. I assume that the money has come out of the Egyptian Vote. I do not know whether that is so; but the amount spent at the Dockyards has been in excess of the amount voted, and if the extra money has not come out of the Egyptian Vote I do not know where it has come from. [Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN: From the Leander Vote.] That is very unsatisfactory, for, apparently, we have a sum voted for one purpose and put to another. If the money has not been spent on the Contract Vote, I give credit to the Admiralty for having made good use of it; but it ought to have been spent on the Contract Vote, and the hon. Gentleman should have come down to the House and asked for an extra Wages Vote if it was necessary. They are not acting fairly by the House of Commons or the country—certainly not by the House of Commons—in undertaking to spend a certain amount on a particular object, and then spending it on something else. [Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN made a communication across the Table to the right hon. Gentleman.] It seems the Admi- 621 ralty have been desirous that the money should be spent on the object for which it is voted, but that it has been prevented by a delay with the contractor. The House is not to be told that money is to be granted now for certain work, and that they are to remain satisfied with the provision for the coming year, and then find, six or 12 months hence, that the individual responsible for carrying out the engagement has not fulfilled it, and that the country is without the strength upon which it has relied. The contractors ought to be efficient for the Public Service. The contracts will not be complete for six or nine months. The ships have not yet been delivered at the Dockyards. There is one other point upon which I should like to have information when the hon. Member comes to the Vote itself, and that is the diminution in the provision for metals and armour and the increase in the provision for wages. All of us who have had anything to do with the actual administration of the Dockyards know perfectly well that if we employ a given number of men in shipbuilding we must have stores in proportion to those men. The hon. Member has said that they have received assistance from other sources in aid of this particular Vote for metals; but I fail to see that the resources they have obtained will be sufficient if the programme of the Admiralty is carried out. If they build this very large amount of armour tonnage for which they take credit this year they will want a larger amount of armour and metals to put on the ships. This is an estimate of his own, to which I wish to draw the attention of the hon. Member. I am glad to find that the Admiralty are of opinion that, so far as armoured ships are concerned, the barbette system is one which may be safely followed. Armoured ships should be built in proportion to the armoured ships of other countries, and in proportion to the duties we have to discharge; but I admit that the observations which have fallen from the hon. Member are of great weight. It is true the progress of inventions, and especially the progress made in regard to the power of guns, make it essential that the Admiralty should not proceed hastily or rashly in the construction of ships. They should proceed according to the necessities of the day, and to meet the exigencies of the country at the time. It may hap- 622 pen—I do not say it will, but it may happen—that we shall have some of these days to abandon heavily armoured ships, as men who went to battle in armour have been obliged to abandon armour. It may be—I do not say it will—that ships will not be able to carry armour that will keep out the projectiles which can be fired upon them. Experiments, very scientific and interesting, have been made upon this subject, and I doubt whether it will be possible for any ship to be sent to sea sufficiently heavily armed to resist the gun that will be manufactured in three, or four, or five years time. But we must build ships as rapidly as we can for the discharge of the duties of the day. At the present day, no doubt, armoured ships, protected ships, and unarmoured ships are necessary in our Fleet; and it will be the duty of the Admiralty to exercise its discretion—fully alive to its duties and responsibilities—in providing such ships for the time being as will suffice for the defence of the country. Reference has been made to the new protected ships of the Severn and Mersey class. These certainly ought not to be called armoured ships, or placed in the category of armoured vessels. The Mersey and Severn are only ships of the C class—larger and quicker ships of the 0 class—and clearly, though they may be called "protected," they are virtually unarmoured, as far as their boilers and space for seamen is concerned. I am afraid I have addressed the Committee at too great length; but the Navy Estimates involve matters that are of great interest to this country. They deserve the deepest and most careful consideration on the part of the country, and they are not to be disposed of in a few minutes' conversation across the Table. We shall have to renew the discussion which has now been commenced, I trust, very soon after Easter. I hope the hon. Gentleman will secure a day soon after Easter, so that we shall not have a repetition of that which I have called the time scandal—and I repeat the phrase—of considering the Estimates when the House of Commons has practically gone away, and there is neither time, inclination, nor strength to give adequate consideration to them. I certainly offer no opposition whatever to the Vote which has been proposed; and I trust my hon, 623 Friend will be prepared to give information on the points I have indicated, either now or when the next Vote is taken.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
said, he wished to join in the tribute paid by the late First Lord of the Admiralty to the speech of the hon. Gentleman for its clearness and excellence. There was one part of that speech, however, which he could not altogether praise with fairness to others who were much interested in Naval matters, and who were as anxious that the Navy should be built effectually and economically as even the hon. Member himself, or his Colleagues at the Admiralty. The hon. Member, in view of the anxieties which had been expressed as to the condition of the Navy, seemed to think it was fair to those who had taken a part in expressing those anxieties to put them forward as inconsiderate advocates of some monstrous expenditure upon ill-considered ships, which would impose heavy burdens on the taxpayers of the country. He (Sir Edward J. Reed) begged to assure the hon. Gentleman that, if that was his opinion of the advocates of au increased number of armour-clad ships, he was completely deluding himself as to their motives and feelings in the matter. The case which they presented to the Committee and the country was this—that while a large expenditure was taking place upon the Navy they were not getting the value for their money, but were spending money on an immense scale, and in such a manner as no private concern would ever dream of spending it. The hon. Gentleman—for whom he ventured to predict a successful administrative career at the Admiralty, because of his perfect adaptation to the methods of the Department, and the clear and admirable manner of his exposition—had painted that night the condition of the Navy with a brush that was truly admirable. If he had any defect at all, it was of this kind—that he painted everything in such bright and favourable colours that one was almost disposed to distrust the thoroughness with which he investigated some of the questions. For instance, one of the complaints he (Sir Edward J. Reed) and others had made, and which he ventured to think the country would make before long, was this—that at a time when science and progress were increasing 624 the cost of their ships, and increasing charges for the Effective part of the Navy were inevitable, they allowed the Non-Effective Services to go on increasing in the dead weight they put upon the Public Service. At a time when they could not afford, apparently, to build themselves an efficient Navy, they could afford to pay people who were doing nothing in connection with the Navy over £2,000,000 a-year for half-pay and pensions. The hon. Gentleman took credit most properly—and he (Sir Edward J. Reed) was sure he was very glad the Admiralty felt themselves the relief they had acquired in this way—for the falling-in of Terminable Annuities to the extent of £8,000. But the hon. Member did not remind them that there had been an increase of more than £10,000 for pensions—that was to say, instead of the dead weight having diminished, they had £2,000 or £3,000 more to pay this year than they had last. He wished to ask what the Government were going to do to put a stop to this continual increase? The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Massey Lopes) moved for a Return, which was in the hands of Parliament, which showed that in, comparatively speaking, a few years the Non-Effective Service had increased from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000. It was now more than £2,000,000; and he wanted to know if these Non-Effective Services were to be allowed to devour the Navy altogether, for that was what they were going to do, unless some new policy was adopted by the Admiralty. He would give the Admiralty credit for all they had said on the subject. He had not a shadow of a doubt that they were anxious to do something in the direction of reducing this enormous dead weight; but he felt it was necessary for the House to bring some pressure to bear on them to force them to take some steps to relieve the Service of this burden. So far from the Estimates having altered the view of those who were anxious on these points, they seemed to him to illustrate on almost every page the strength of the arguments which had been advanced. After these arguments about the increase of the Non-Effective Charges came the other arguments about the growing up in the Navy of large and inevitable charges which a few years ago—only ten years ago—had no existence. They had taken 625 over £100,000 from the Army Votes, and he though the was right in saying they had an actual increase of about £38,000 for torpedoes and other things. The Admiralty had no means at all of escaping from these charges. As the cost of individual ships increased so did the Vote, and they were on the horns of this dilemma—they must either increase their outlay or go without the ships. They must do all they could to induce the Government to grapple with the items for Non-Effective Service and minor charges. He had said enough, be thought, to dispel the notion that there was anybody—at any rate, he had entirely disclaimed it for himself—who wished to run the Government and the country into increased expenditure for armour-clad ships. What he wanted was to see the money that was granted rightly expended. He would ask the attention of the Committee to what his view of these Estimates was—and he was bound to say it was a very different view from that of his hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman); but he hoped that in any criticism he might offer it would be thoroughly understood that he was actuated by no desire to disparage the action of the Admiralty, for he should be happy to assist them by all the means in his power. It was only right that they should bring independent judgment to bear upon the Estimates, and see how they presented themselves to their minds. In comparison with last year the Government had knocked off £58,000 from the Votes for Provisions; and it was only by comparison that hon. Members could obtain any clear idea of the matter. They had knocked off £110,000 in Vote 10 for Naval Stores, which, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) had stated at the end of his speech, included various materials required for the construction of ships. They had also reduced the Vote for Medical Stores£4,000. There was a saving of £8,000 in regard to half-pay. Altogether he made up £180,000 of diminished expenditure, mostly in regard to materials which, if they were not bought now, would have to be bought later. Then the next thing he found was the extra credit of £99,000 as compared with last year—that was to say, the Admiralty were going to sell £99,000 worth more material than they did last year. As to this credit question, they had heard the Secretary to the Ad- 626 miralty that night explain what an admirable change had been effected in taking away the hand of the Treasury—[Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN: No.]—Well, in a large degree; he did not say it would be done entirely. He remembered that when the system which was now abolished was introduced, it was presented to the country as a most admirable improvement, and one of those devices of economists which were most worthy to be recorded with admiration by the world. He remembered very well, when he was out in Japan, he recommended that very thing to the Japanese Finance Minister as one of the features of our financial reform which deserved the imitation of all mankind; and now he was in the unfortunate position of having the Japanese Finance Minister, and everyone else to whom he had recommended that system, told that it was just as admirable a thing to get rid of it as it was to adopt it in the first instance. These things were very puzzling—he supposed they were all right; but, at any rate, they were deserving of notice. In addition to the sums of £180,000 and £99,000, there was the recognized admitted excess of £ 129,000; so that, if they added all these sums together, it would come out that the Admiralty were going to spend£400.000 more this year than they did last. Now, he wished to tell the Committee how they were proposing to spend it. Anyone would suppose, from the speech delivered from the Government Bench that night, that it was about to be expended to the confusion of the advocates of an increase in the number of ironclad ships; but he did not find that that was the case. Let him give his version of it. What he found was this—that the Admiralty undertook this year to spend in the Dockyards £15,000 more upon armoured hulls than they undertook to spend last year. He would ask the Committee to mark that statement. Not more than they, in reality, did spend, but more than they asked for from the House of Commons. That was £15,000 out of £400,000. Now came an item for which he gave them full credit—that was to say, they would expend on engines for iron-clads £162,000 more, which made £177,000. There were various sums for timber stores, coals, electric stores, and torpedoes, which made a total of £121,500; but there, 627 would be nothing from that to add to the iron-clad Fleet at all. There was £10,000 additional to the pension list—and on that point he hoped he might not be misunderstood. He would not advocate breaking faith with anyone who had become entitled to a pension. That was not his point. He knew that these things became an incubus upon the Admiralty to their misfortune; but, at the same time, they should be mentioned, in order to get the Admiralty to make some attempt to reduce these charges prospectively. They had had nothing as yet of the balance for the iron-clads. Out of the remaining £94,000, they were going to pay for replacing the boilers of the Polyphemus, do a good deal of work on ships they had lately finished, and spend £55,000 in repairing a yacht for Her Majesty, which, he believed, ought not to be repaired. He did not wish to say a word of complaint in regard to the Polyphemus. She was announced to the House as a great experiment—an experiment involving many experiments; and he did not think it was possible to make such efforts as were made in that vessel to adopt a totally new style of ship without incurring risks of unfortunate outlays. He did not blame the Admiralty; but they had to take the amount spent into account in considering how far the increased expenditure had brought an increase of the Fleet. The expenditure in repairing the Royal yacht he confessed he complained of. Fifteen or twenty years ago he surveyed that very yacht, and had to strain his judgment a little in order to consent to her repair, so bad was the condition in which she was. She was then, however, so extensively repaired as to make her almost a new vessel. He remembered that when he came up from her hold, he encountered a distinguished Admiral on the deck, who asked him what he had seen—how the vessel looked? He answered the question, when he was asked—"What is your opinion as to her repair?" and to this he said—"For myself, I do not think she ought to be repaired, because I think a new iron yacht ought to be built"—and he should say the same now. The gallant Admiral then inquired—"Do you mean to say that you would send the Crown of England to sea in an iron vessel?" and he had an- 628 swered—"Yes; but nothing on earth would induce me to send her to sea in that vessel, because a vessel of iron intended for the transport of a personage so precious to this country could be divided into so many compartments that she could not be sunk by a slight accident; whereas the vessel you are going to spend so much upon is of such a character that if she met with a collision in the North Sea, or in the Channel, she would go to the bottom like a stone. The Admiralty had some very curious arrangements in regard to these Estimates, which he thought it was strange to present to business men. They said the proportion of the cost of the ship was the only real criterion; that they would take the tonnage of the ship and put it in a fractional relation to the price of the ship; and then this curious thing often happened—a ship was complete in her tonnage, and then the Admiralty asked for £5,000, or £10,000, or £20,000 to complete a ship the tonnage of which was already built. That system had been carried on for a long time; but it was such an absurdity that the Admiralty had at last been induced to abandon it. Now, however, it had turned up again; and he would strongly advise the Secretary to the Admiralty to remove from the Estimate a statement which had no earthly value, and which must tend to embarrassment and trouble. He wished next to say a word or two upon the point on which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) had so much insisted. Last year the Admiralty promised that they would complete the Agamemnon for £4,800, the Ajax for £8,000, and the Conqueror for £30,700; but what were the facts? The Ajax, which was to have cost £8,000, had cost £21,000; while the Agamemnon had cost £14,800, instead of £4,800. The hon. Gentleman had stated that night that those ships were now completed; but he would like to ask whether the hon. Gentleman was quite so sure that they were complete; whether they had their armament on board, and were ready for sea? He was afraid that the answer to that would not be so satisfactory as the Committee would wish. On the Conqueror £30,700 were to have been spent to complete her; but £7,000 more were now asked for to complete her. Twelve months ago the Admiralty stated that for £40,000 they would finish these three 629 new ships; but, in reality, they had spent £70,000 odd upon those ships, and had completed only two of the three. He was not putting these figures in order to censure anybody, but simply to throw a strong light upon the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, and with a view to asking the Committee to record their opinion, if the opportunity should arise, upon a system in connection with the guns of the Navy which paralysed the Navy entirely, and prevented the Admiralty from doing what they proposed to do, and caused unavoidable delays from which they would gladly escape. There was another point he wished to call attention to, which bore upon this question. There was a ship called the Edinburgh, which was commenced as the Majestic. When the last Administration was in Office he had delivered what he regarded as a heavy blow at them on the last evening of the discussion on the Navy Estimates. The Conservatives had been in the habit of boasting that they had always come into Office and built a great Navy; while the Liberals who succeeded them had always let down the Navy; but having been in Office for six years the Conservatives had not completely built a single iron-clad, and from that time they had never put forward that proposition again. He hoped they never would put it forward again; but, unfortunately, this Liberal Administration, which, when it came into Office, promised to build ships more quickly, and had done better at first, were now falling behind; and unless they took care in regard to the Edinburgh, and did better than they had hitherto done, they would incur great discredit. The Edinburgh was commenced four years ago, and the Government proposed in these Estimates to advance her so little in the coming 12 months that she would be only four-fifths built at the end of that time. He ventured to say that no Government was able to justify such an enormous expenditure of time. Why had the Government fallen into this position? Entirely because of this question of the guns. He did not believe there was any other cause for it; and between these two Departments of the State the Navy was more or less paralyzed. He would appeal to the Secretary to the Admiralty not to be satisfied with having the Edinburgh finished a year or 630 two after he went out of Office, and not to let it be said that a ship which was commenced before he came into Office was not completed when he left Office. Taking the present rate of progress, it would take six years and a-half to complete this ship; and he must urge the Admiralty to be more energetic than they had been. In the next place, he wished to refer to the Severn and the Mersey. These two vessels had some protection in the water, but they had no side protection at all; and it was surprising, as they had no armour, that they were put by the Admiralty in the list of armoured ships. Some of the Members of the Government had put forward the extraordinary notion that these ships were not likely, in battle, to be struck between wind and water. The other night, when the Army Estimates were being discussed, a statement by the late Secretary to the Admiralty was quoted, to the effect that ships in future would be very little struck between wind and water. He did not mention this in deprecation, in any degree, of the merit of these vessels, but to confute a dangerous doctrine. He hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would not think he had borne too hardly upon the Admiralty, or had sought to weaken them in any degree; but had rather aimed at strengthening them by these suggestions.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, that, at that hour of the night, he should not proceed with the remarks he had intended to make, but would simply say that he dissented altogether from these Estimates. He considered them utterly un-valuable; and at some other time he should state his opinions on the fallacious way in which they were drawn up. At the same time, he wished to take this opportunity of congratulating the exponent of the policy of the Government in this matter on the admirable manner in which he had performed his task. He desired to ask the Chairman whether, when Vote 6 or 10 was taken, he could enter upon a general review of the policy of the Government in regard to these Estimates?
The noble Lord wishes to enter into the general question of the Naval policy of the Government. When the Committee come to a special Vote, the noble Lord will have to confine himself to that Vote.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he was most anxious to forward Public Business; and, at that hour, he had thought it better to postpone his remarks to a subsequent occasion. He must, however, mention that whereas last year the Navy Estimates were moved at 2 o'clock in the morning, and there was no opportunity of discussing them, hon. Members were now called upon to discuss the Estimates four days after they had been issued. Hon. Members had hardly had time to look over them, still less to master their various details; and he must appeal to the Secretary to the Admiralty to give him a subsequent opportunity of discussing the policy involved in these Estimates.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he thought some slight misapprehension existed as to the rights of hon. Members in discussing these Estimates as a whole. It had been held, on former occasions, that upon Vote 2—the Victualling Vote—it was fit that the discussion should arise, and travel over the whole of the Estimates, if there had not been sufficient time to consider them on Vote 1. He hoped there might be an understanding that if this Vote was given that night, as seemed necessary for the Public Service, a discussion should be taken upon Vote 2, and full latitude be allowed to hon. Members to raise any question of general principles affecting the Estimates as a whole.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, the arrangement suggested was precisely that which had been adopted on many previous occasions, both in reference to these Estimates and to the Army Estimates. He thought it would be convenient to follow the same course now; and as there was the Vote for Wages, which it was absolutely necessary to take that night, to postpone the discussion till Vote 2 was reached, when there would be full opportunity for its renewal.
wished to ask when Vote 2 would be reached, because he must protest against a custom which it had been said would be altered, but which seemed to be still flourishing with vigour—namely, the custom which withdrew the Navy Estimates from discussion in Committee of Supply. The House had been in Committee only about two hours, and now they were asked to vote what was practically a Vote on Account of 632 the Navy for upwards of three months—for they were to Vote £2,500,000, and that would carry on the expenditure of the Admiralty for upwards of three months; and therefore it was very improbable, looking at the pressure of Public Business, that there would be any more discussion on this subject until July. The practice of the Government was to put down the Navy Estimates on the night when the necessities of the Public Service imperatively required thorn to be at once passed; and he protested against this practice, which was again pursued this year with the utmost coolness by the Government and their officers. This practice would, practically, withdraw the Navy Estimates from discussion in Committee of Supply to relegate them without discussion to the end of the Session, when the House was fatigued, and when the pressure of Public Business would prevent these Estimates from being discussed in a deliberate and ample manner.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, he did not know what information the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had received; but someone had apparently told him that the Government were going to relegate these Votes to the month of July, and he condemned the Government before they had suggested that that should be done. He could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Government had no such intention; and when the hon. and learned Member complained that the House had been in Committee only two hours, he must remind the hon. 'and learned Gentleman that that was not the fault of the Government. Supply was the first Order of the Day; but hon. Members having brought forward Motions, the hon. and learned Member ought not to complain. He blamed the Government for having done that which they had not done, and then for that which they were not going to do. It seemed to him that the arrangement now proposed would be convenient to the House; to take the remainder of the discussion on Vote 2; and he hoped the day was not far distant when the discussion could be resumed.
The noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) appealed to me on a point of Order just now; and I am bound to say that I stated the Rules correctly, as they have been handed to 633 me. After the first Vote there is no right in hon. Members to discuss the general policy of the Estimates; but there have been occasions when, by an understanding somewhat of the nature proposed by the hon. Member the Secretary to the Admiralty, a general discussion has been taken on Vote 2. Under the circumstances, I think the same indulgence should be extended on this occasion.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
asked whether these Estimates would be made the first matter in Supply when they were again put forward?
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he had to complain of the way in which the Government trifled with the Committee. He had more than once complained of there being no Minister in that House responsible for the Navy Estimates. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty certainly conducted his business with the greatest possible ability, but he had not sufficient power; and over and over again the Committee were called upon to discuss the Estimates without there being a Cabinet Minister present. That night they had to discuss the Estimates in the presence of a Minister who had nothing to do with them; while the hon. Gentleman who was responsible for them could not fix a day for the further discussion. He thought the Committee were entitled not only to know that the Navy Estimates would be the first Order of the Day when they were again to be discussed, but to have an assurance from the Government that that discussion would not be postponed until such a day when, practically, there could be no discussion at all. He did not wish to inconvenience the Committee by moving Progress; but he must press the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give an under taking that this discussion should be renewed at a proper date. Every year these Estimates had been brought forward when everybody was out of town, and the result was that very great abuses had crept in. Last year the Secretary to the Admiralty had promised that there should be a full inquiry into the grievances and complaints of the Dockyard men, by a Committee of the Admiralty. This inquiry had been put off to such a date that it was impossible 634 to discuss the recommendations of the Committee. He had received that day a letter from Devonport, the writer of which he would not name, because the Admiralty were averse to anybody asking anything of a Member of Parliament; but he found that only yesterday was an order received with regard to engine-room artificers, and they greatly complained of the manner in which their claims were treated. They were now bound to serve 22 years instead of 20 years, which was the maximum of other Departments, before they could obtain pensions. When an order was sent to a Dockyard only a day before the Navy Estimates were to be discussed there was no opportunity for Members representing Dockyard constituencies to make themselves acquainted with the grievances complained of. He must, therefore, support the hon. and learned Member for Chatham. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) seemed inclined to back up the Government; but aristocratic considerations would always make ex-officials support the Government of the day. He hoped the Government would seriously consider the claims which Dockyard Representatives had to attention, and would give some authentic assurance that the resumption of this debate would be fixed for a time when there could be a full attendance of Members on both sides.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, it was very desirable that these Estimates should be fully discussed; but it was quite out of his power to announce the exact day when the discussion would be resumed. It should, however, be resumed as soon as possible; and, in his view, it should be before the Whitsuntide Recess. Nothing but overwhelming necessity should interfere with that being done.
§ MR. A. F. EGERTON
said, he thought that promise should be satisfactory to the hon. Member for Portsmouth. If the debate on these Estimates was taken before Whitsuntide, he should consider the House very fortunate. He looked with considerable alarm on the diminution of men under this Vote 1—a diminution of 250 men—for that seemed to show that the Government were suiting the men to the money, rather than the money to the men. That was a policy 635 which he thought should be avoided as much as possible. He wished to have some explanation of the reason of this diminution; and there was another question which he thought germane to this Vote. There had been rumours abroad that the health of the boys who went into competition for Naval cadet-ships was suffering from over-cramming. As that was a serious matter, he would like to know whether the Secretary to the Admiralty could give the Committee any information as to the condition of those boys, and as to whether there were any signs of their having suffered from competition?
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, he had not heard anything about the cadets on the Britannia being over-crammed; but he would make inquiries. If he found there was any truth in the matter he would let the hon. Gentleman know.
§ MR. PULESTON
reminded the Committee that similar speeches and promises were made last year; but, notwithstanding, the Navy Estimates were not taken until the very end of the Session, when the House was half empty. Indeed, for many years past the Government had promised, no doubt in good faith, that the Navy Estimates should he brought on at a time when they could be adequately discussed; but, somehow or other, those promises had never been fulfilled. What he wanted to put to the Government was, whether it was not possible, in view of the importance of the Estimates, and the difficult)' of getting anything like a debate, that the Estimates could not be fixed for some day—say a Monday—on which there would be no discussion on the Motion to go into Committee? Surely the New Rules must count for something. This Session there ought to be some improvement made on preceding years.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, it was evident his words had not reached the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Puleston). He had, a few moments ago, said it was to his official interest to get the Estimates voted early, and he would do his utmost to get an early day for their discussion. He gave a much less decided pledge than that last year about the Army Estimates; but the Committee would remember that it was fulfilled to the letter.
§ MR. PULESTON
fully appreciated the good intentions of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he found no fault with the Members of the Government. Force of circumstances had prevented the Estimates being taken early in past years; and he merely made these observations in the hope that it might be found possible this year to carry out the understanding arrived at.
as a point of Order, asked if it was possible for an hon. Member to move that only half the amount now asked be voted? He did not suggest the taking of that course on the present occasion. The Committee would have much greater power over the Estimates if it could be moved that only one-half the sum for wages should be taken now, and the other half the next time the Committee sat.
It is quite competent for the hon. and learned Member to move any reduction of the Vote.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had promised that further discussion on the Vote should come on before Whitsuntide. He would like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Budget would not be brought in, this year, before Easter; and that, judging from certain expressions of feeling, the discussion on the Annual Financial Statement would very likely occupy several nights. After the Budget there would be the Army Estimates, and other important Business. He did not wish the right hon. Gentleman to give an absolute pledge on the subject; but it certainly would be interesting to the Committee to know whether the Government would give a second night for the Navy Estimates before they took the second reading of the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill? He was perfectly justified in asking that question, because it was quite evident that upon that Bill there would he several nights debate.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, the pledge he gave was clear and straightforward, and he did not think he ought to be pressed for anything further. He was not the Leader of the House, and he had gone as far as he considered it his duty to go. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had thrown out a bait which had been thrown out to 637 other Governments before. It was very tempting to take Votes on Account; but all Governments had declined to do it, both with regard to the Army and Navy Estimates. There was nothing which could weaken the financial control so much as Votes on Account, and he certainly must resist any proposal made to that effect.
SIR E. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he thought there might be some misapprehension as to the question of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). It would be perfectly competent, as the Chairman had ruled, for the hon. and learned Gentleman to move to reduce the Vote by one-half; but then the question would arise whether, having once been reduced, it could be re-voted? He (Sir E. Assheton Cross) apprehended there would be great difficulty in carrying out the course hinted at in the question of his hon. and learned Friend. He agreed that in regard to Army and Navy Estimates, Votes on Account were practically unknown, and that to take such Votes would mean the introduction of a dangerous practice. At the same time, he must back up the appeal made by the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway (Mr. Puleston), and others, as to the absolute necessity of taking the next Votes at an early period. They ought to distinctly understand that they had a positive pledge from the Government that they should have a whole night before Whitsuntide for the discussion of the Navy Estimates.
said, he was sorry to trouble the Committee again; but he could not allow the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pass by without a word of explanation. There was a sort of plausible virtue in not taking Votes on Account in regard to the Army and Navy; but the fact was that the Government really did take Votes on Account. What was the Vote they were now asked to pass but a Vote on Account? It was a Vote of upwards of £2,500,000, which had to be spent in carrying on the Naval Service of the country for a period of upwards of three months. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said they never took Votes on Account in regard to the Army and Navy. It was quite true they never took them under that name; but they did take them nevertheless.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, they commenced the Business of the evening by a protest from the other side against his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds (Mr. Herbert Gladstone), saying that Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House combined together to prevent Business being carried on. What had been going on for the last half-hour? If he might venture to give the Government a piece of advice, it would be that they should remember that if they gave an inch, hon. Gentlemen opposite would immediately cry out for an ell. He never heard more handsome offers than those made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. ["Question!"] Hon. Gentlemen cried "Question!" They wasted half-an-hour, and then, if anyone protested, they cried "Question!" The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not give more distinct pledges; therefore, let this "nagging" and protesting cease, so that some Business might be transacted.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere), on account of the great position he held in the House, was, no doubt, entitled to read the Opposition lectures, and they accepted them with great deference. What he (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) wanted to point out was that they had got from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer no pledge at all. All the right hon. Gentleman had said was that he took great interest in the matter—as, indeed, they all did—and then he went on to say he was not the person to decide; that he had to refer to others. He noticed that a Committee of the Cabinet had just entered the House—two moderate Liberals and two advanced Liberals—and, therefore, he would again ask whether the Government would give the Committee a pledge that the adjourned debate on the Navy Estimates should come on before Whitsuntide? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he could not give such a pledge without consulting somebody else. Could the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) do so?
§ MR. WARTON
said, the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had spoken about the waste of half-an-hour in what he was pleased to call "nagging." What, after all, was half-an-hour if, by means of its waste, they secured a proper and adequate discus- 639 sion of the Estimates? All the Estimates had been neglected by the present Government; and of late the Indian Budget, despite its importance, had been put off till the very last week of the Session. He did not think the pledge asked for by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow) was at all unreasonable. The Committee ought certainly to receive a pledge that the Navy Estimates should be brought on again before the second reading of the Parliamentary Oaths Act (1866) Amendment Bill was taken, or else it should run through the country that the Government preferred that the House should neglect its Constitutional duty rather than they should be prevented foisting an Atheist upon the House.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given a Parliamentary pledge that the Navy Estimates should be discussed before the Whitsuntide Recess; and unless the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), or some other Member of the Cabinet, repudiated that pledge, he was quite content to abide by it.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ (2.) £2,633,300, Wages, &c. to Seamen and Marines.