§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,369,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge for the Supply, Manufacture, and Repair of Warlike and other Stores for Land and Sea Service (including Establishments of Manufacturing Departments), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) what steps Her Majesty's 1482 Government propose to take with regard to the charges which have been made against the Ordnance Department, and which are familiarly known as the Ordnance scandals? For some time past the Press has teemed with accusations against gentlemen, highly connected, in the Ordnance Department, and the accusations themselves amount to this—that gentlemen who hold important positions in that Department have been in the habit of receiving commissions and fees from those who supply warlike material to the Government. Now, Sir, I know nothing personally as to the truth of these charges, nor do I know anything of those who have made them, and I deal with them simply in the interests of the public. There have been made, in the newspapers, charges which are charges of dishonour of the worst character that could possibly be made against high officials connected with any Government Department. The charges are preferred with such directness that one is inclined to think there may be something in them. I go no further than that; but of my own knowledge, in connection with another Department of the State, I know that commissions have been taken. In one instance which has been brought to my knowledge, one of the longest established, most respectable, and best houses in the City had been in the habit of supplying goods to a public Department, and because the firm declined to pay a commission it had been refused any further contracts from that Government Department. More than that. One gentleman connected with the Department, who appeared to take a leading part in the matter, gave a member of the firm a hint that such was the case, and even allowed him to see, lying on the table, a contract for goods which he had also offered to supply. The contract itself was for a larger sum than his own tender for the same goods, although the firm in question have certainly produced the very best articles. I do not mention the Department, because I have not permission to do so from the gentleman who supplied me with information. Although the articles produced by this firm, are better than those which are being actually supplied, a larger and higher priced contract has been entered into, simply and solely on account of the re- 1483 fusal of this gentleman to give a commission. I drew attention to this case two years ago; it had no connection with the Ordnance Department, but referred altogether to another Department. Since then I have had several statements made to me—at least, three or four—and I am bound to say that the evidence, in the majority of them, is so strong that it is impossible for me to disbelieve it. With regard to the Ordnance Department, let me ask what has been the character of the warlike goods that have been supplied? We all know perfectly well that the bayonets which have been served out to the Army are of the very worst character, and that they are of no use for warlike purposes. In the Egyptian Campaign hon. Members will be aware that what are known as "jamming cartridges" were served out, and I believe that the same description of cartridge is still being supplied. I am able to speak of a matter which came under my own knowledge. I have served in the French Army, and at one time we were served out with cartridges which went by the name of "jam" cartridges, and I know the effect on the men when they arrived at the conclusion that they were unable to rely upon the ammunition and weapons with which they had been supplied for fighting purposes. Even when they were provided with cartridges that would not jam they would not fight. The same thing must take place in our own Army; and there is the strongest evidence that warlike material of the very worst and most useless character has, for a long time past, been served out to the Army. Another case was brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), in the discussion of the Estimates two or three years ago, and a somewhat similar charge was made. It was received, however, with nothing beyond an ordinary pigeon hole reply, to the effect that such a thing was an impossibility. Nevertheless, an examination into the facts of the case was forced upon the Government, and the result was that three of the heads of the Department were dismissed, and several others were reduced. I cannot speak with any certainty in regard to the charges which are now made; but I think it is sufficient for us to know that such alle- 1484 gations have been publicly made in the Press, and that they have now been continued for a long time past. Therefore, whether they be true or untrue, for the honour of the Service and for the dignity of the right hon. Gentleman himself and of his Predecessors in Office, it has become absolutely necessary that a thorough inquiry should take place. I read in one of the papers a day or two ago that some of the charges had been referred to the Law Officers of the Crown, and that the Law Officers have expressed an opinion that the charges have not been substantiated. But what evidence was taken? If, on taking evidence, the individuals against whom the charges are made should be found guilty of these dishonourable practices, they ought to be dismissed at once from Her Majesty's Service. If, on the other hand, the charges are untrue, the gentlemen now suffering from them should be fully acquitted. Similar charges were made some years ago against the Duke of York, who was accused by public report of selling commissions and making money out of it, not directly himself, but through his mistress. Although the Duke of York was a very high personage, it was deemed necessary that the charges should be inquired into; and when, upon examination, they were found to be true, the bold step was taken of dismissing the Duke of York from the position he held in the Army. That is a good precedent for the examination I now ask for. I am only repeating now the demand which is made by the public, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will do well for the honour of the Service, and for the dignity of his own position, to consent to this investigation, in order that the guilty may be convicted or the innocent acquitted. I have no desire to lend any authority whatever to the charges themselves, and I could not do so unless I had the most positive information. Therefore, I do not put the matter on the ground of evidence, but simply on the ground of the honour of the Services; and in consideration of the nature of the charges I think I am justified in asking the right hon. Gentleman what his intentions are?
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, North-West)
I think that never, during a discussion and debate of this kind, have I ever had to get up and 1485 address the Committee on a more important subject than the one which has just been brought under discussion by the hon. Member for the Birr Division of King's County (Mr. Molloy). I venture to think that it is a matter of the gravest importance, not only to the Army, but to the country. As far as I am able, I shall not say anything that will hurt the feelings, or give pain to any individual, nor have I any desire to place the accusations which have been made, however true or however false they may be, upon any particular parties or individuals. But, Sir, the country demands that there should be a thorough investigation into this grave and important question. The newspapers have written upon it; Questions have been asked in reference to it in this House; and statements have been made which may be false, or may be correct, or may be correct in part. I shall have a word or two to say on that point presently; but the question itself opens up the subject of our defences, not only at home, but all over the world. I refer to a question which is not only occupying the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, but which must also have occupied most closely the attention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman)—namely, the great question of the coaling stations all over the world, in which this country is so deeply interested. Looking at our stations abroad, and the Reports we have received from General Officers and others who are thoroughly conversant with those stations, they show that in some cases fortifications have been made, but have been left without guns; while in other cases guns have been sent out, and there are no carriages on which to mount them. Let me take a station which is not very far distant—namely, Malta, in the Mediterranean. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend in what condition the defences of Malta are at the present moment? I am not going further into this subject now; but I think that, in the statement which we shall have presently from my right hon. Friend, we ought to be supplied with some information in regard to the coaling stations, which everyone knows are of the greatest and most vital importance to the nation in the event of war. Well, Sir, there is another question I 1486 should like to raise at the outset of this discussion, a question which was touched upon by the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) yesterday, on the Vote for the Commissariat and Transport Services. I wish to know whether or not we are to have a thorough investigation as to the quantity of stores which are required for absolute use, and that the country shall know whether one Government lets down these stores while another Government has to raise them up at unnecessarily high prices? Of course, a certain amount of odium is always attached to a Government which is compelled to ask for money for the purpose of providing additional stores after they have been let down by a preceding Government for purposes of their own. I am not accusing one Government more than another; but I think we ought to know what quantity of stores we really require, and, having ascertained that, the requirements ought to be kept up to the mark, and we should be able to see at a glance whether we have those stores in hand which are absolutely necessary for the requirements of the Service. It has been said that, if we were to have a statement of that kind, it would give foreigners information as to what we have in hand. But, Sir, there is no country like this for telling foreigners, by means of reporters and newspapers, and Questions in this House, everything we have. We have never been in the habit of hiding what we have got. What foreigners, however, are anxious to know, and what they can easily find out, is the number of men we can place in the field, and the number of ships we can send to sea. It is of very little consequence to them to know how many stand of arms we have in store, what quantity of gunpowder we possess, and how many transport and commissariat conveyances we have on our hands. Those are matters, however, which we ought to know; and, looking broadly at the question which has been brought forward by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, I would venture to say that it divides itself into four different considerations. The first consideration is the accusations which have been made, and, in my humble opinion, not very fairly, against certain officers who have endeavoured, at any 1487 rate, to do their duty. Until I find that these accusations have been proved against any one of these men, I, for one, will not believe that any officer in the British Army can have committed the acts which have been alleged against these gentlemen. At the same time, I must say this—that the accusations having been made, it is the bounden duty of my right hon. Friend to provide some proper tribunal by whom they may be thoroughly sifted, so that men who have been foully aspersed may have an opportunity of clearing their characters, and so that those who have made the accusations—at present I am unable to say whether they are true or false—may, if the charges prove to be false, receive the punishment they richly deserve. That is the first consideration. The next question we have to consider is, whether the Committees we have at Woolwich, at the War Office, the Ordnance Committee, and the Elswick Committee are constituted in the best manner for the interests of the Service. That is a question which deserves very serious consideration. It must be borne in mind that these accusations have been made. The country is certainly not satisfied with many things which have taken place, and I am quite sure this House will be prepared to give every assistance in its power to my right hon. Friend and the Government in making a searching inquiry, with a view of ascertaining whether the way in which these Committees are organized is the best. The next point is, whether we have got the best arms that can be provided. That is a question which, in my humble judgment, deserves serious consideration; and the fourth question is one which is of the most vital importance to the Service. It is one upon which a Committee was asked for, some time ago, by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron). That Committee was appointed, and it was presided over by Lord Stanley of Preston, then Colonel Stanley; but at present that Committee has only reported the evidence which it took, and I should have been glad to see it re-appointed; but that has not been found possible, owing to circumstances that were not known at the time. If hon. Members will read the evidence taken by that Committee, the questions that were 1488 asked and the answers that were given, I think they will come to the conclusion that something more requires to be done in regard to our contracts than is done at the present moment. The large contracts which are made whenever we go into a small or great war are very inefficiently carried out. Whenever an emergency arises we inevitably find that we have got nothing that we require in store, and we are obliged to enter into large contracts at the last moment. We saw how those contracts turned out in the recent campaigns in Egypt and in the Soudan. The evidence given before the Committee in reference to the stores that were sent out for the use of the troops in those campaigns speaks volumes; and I am certain that every hon. Member, no matter in what quarter of the House he sits, must be most anxious that a thorough investigation should take place. These are the four main questions which I think it is the bounden duty of my right hon. Friend to consider. With regard to the first question, I think that it ought not to be delayed. In the interests of the officers themselves it ought to be brought to proof at once; and if there is no foundation for the accusations which have been made, there ought to be an authoritative statement by the Secretary of State for War that the allegations are not proved. In reference to the second question, I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman himself is quite satisfied with the constitution of the Committees mentioned? I think that he himself must be of opinion that, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, some outside Committee ought to be appointed, not connected in any way with the manufacture of ordnance. I hold that the Committee ought to be a judicial Committee, and not a constructive Committee at all. I have no doubt constructors may be actuated by the best intentions, and may be possessed of the highest ability; but still they are not men who are best fitted to judge of those interests which conduce to the making and the maintenance of a great country. We have had many serious accusations made in the newspapers. I am not going into the whole of those accusations; but I wish to state three of them, because I think they are such as deserve immediate consideration, not 1489 only by this Committee of Supply, but by my right hon. Friend. The first I will mention is this—it is admitted, I believe, to be true that Reports have been sent by General Officers and by officers commanding regiments in the face of the enemy with regard to the character of the arms which have been served out to the troops. We should like to know simply what those Reports were. My right hon. Friend has said that it would not be wise or prudent to let the public know what these Reports were, because it might prevent officers from stating hereafter what is the character of the weapons supplied to them. He said that they would not like to send Reports, and that they would naturally refuse or decline to state accurately the character of the weapons served out to them. I do not myself credit that for one moment. I can quite understand that if there was to be a black mark put against their names for any disagreeable statement they might make there might be some hesitation on their part; but I am perfectly certain that that will never be the case so long as we have at the head of the Department men like my two right hon. Friends—the late Secretary of State for War and the present one—whose only object is to secure that the very best weapons shall be issued to the Army. If you encourage officers—both General Officers and officers commanding regiments—to state what the defects are of the class of weapon served out to them, I think you would do good service. I consider that the first duty of an officer in command is to see that his men are properly and well equipped, certainly in regard to their arms; and to say that they would not dare to make a truthful Report is, I believe, to treat them with great injustice. Hon. Members of this House would very much like to see the Reports which have been sent to the Government, because those Reports will show whether the allegations which have been made in regard to this question as to the character of the arms issued are true or false. The next question that has been raised has reference to the Nordenfelt gun. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he thinks it a wise or prudent course to allow the barrels of those guns to be manufactured at Woolwich, when the contract is made with Mr. Nordenfelt for the remaining por- 1490 tion of them. I think that the price is £376, out of which the cost of the barrel made at Woolwich is £139 19s. 5s. If Mr. Nordenfelt is able to make the gun, why is he not employed to make the whole of it? Why should Woolwich make any portion of it? I would further like to know whether the Committee at Woolwich, who are the persons who would have to pass these guns, are a proper Committee to be intrusted with that duty, a considerable portion of the guns having been made by themselves? That is a second allegation which has been brought before the Secretary of State. There is, however, a third question, which was raised, I believe by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex (Major Rasch)—namely, the question of saddles. It appears that nearly 3,000 saddles were withdrawn after having been issued. Now, I should like to know, because it is a most important question, who passed those saddles for the Service if they were unfit for use? I think the House is entitled to know who was the man who passed them, so that the matter should be brought home to someone. What we want to know is, who it was who passed saddles that must have been known to be unfit for service? These things did not happen so much in olden times, although, undoubtedly, they did happen occasionally. All I can say is that when we find these things do happen it is our duty to institute a thorough inquiry, in order to find out who was the individual who passed articles that were palpably unfit for use. Well, Sir, there is another question. I do not propose to enter at length into the question of guns; but I will leave that to hon. Members who are more thoroughly acquainted with that matter. All I wish to say about the guns is this—we never learnt the lesson which foreign nations learnt, and which we ought to have learnt long ago—namely, the necessity of supplying ourselves with breech-loading guns much earlier than we did. I am unable—at any rate I do not wish—to say who was responsible for the neglect; but, nevertheless, it is a fact that for many years we did nothing but make the old-fashioned muzzle-loading gun, and made no attempt to supply ourselves with breech-loading guns, although they were being 1491 manufactured in large quantities on the Continent. Also, as to the use of steel in the manufacture of guns, we were long in learning the lesson which the experience of foreign nations ought to have taught us. We preferred other methods, and some of them are still in use at Woolwich. I do not say whether the authorities are right or wrong; but there are many persons who urge that we ought to be much more forward with regard to our steel guns than we are at the present moment. Surely it is a question which deserves serious consideration. We ought to know why we are not in a much more forward state than we are now. There is another question which is somewhat pressing at the present moment—namely, the question of a new rifle. That, I believe, is a question which rests with another Committee. In answer to a Question which I put to my right hon. Friend the other day, I was informed that a new Committee had been appointed to inquire most carefully into the new rifle. One Committee did make an inquiry; but it was dismissed without reporting. I have been informed by a gentleman who had a great deal to do with the matter, but whose name it is not necessary I should mention to-night, that there were differences of opinion among the Members of the Committee owing to certain alterations which had been made in the rifle by one of their own body in opposition to the opinion of the majority. Although the Committee did not approve of those alterations, they were approved of by the Department, and were made; and the Committee, after having sat for something like six years, were abruptly discharged, without having made a Report. Now, I believe that that was a most excellent Committee, and that, taking it as a whole, they worked hard, and did well. Unfortunately, they received no thanks for their services, nor that encouragement which men are entitled to who give up a large amount of their time in an endeavour to do service to the country. I only mention this matter in order to show that an inquiry into the whole system ought to be undertaken. I am not going to enter into the recriminations which may have passed between one gentleman and another; but I think I am entitled to say this—that having regard to the wealth and position of this 1492 country, looking at our productiveness in regard to the appliances of war in days gone by, we ought still to stand at the head of the manufacture of arms. Then, the question is—Have we gone behind, or have we not? Are we in the position we ought to occupy? Have we such gun manufacturers as could be obtained if they had a fair chance of competing with Woolwich, Elswick, and other places? Are we not restricting competition by giving out that we do not want the arms which other people can produce, and that we are perfectly satisfied with those our Government manufactories produce? There can be no doubt that we are bound as a nation to have the best weapons that can be found, and at the present moment the country believes we have not got the best weapons. Therefore a fair and thorough and searching inquiry ought to be made. I am satisfied that if my right hon. Friend consents to give the inquiry which we ask for, he will make it one of a most exhaustive character, so that we may ascertain whether we have those weapons which a great nation like this ought to possess; and, if not, steps ought at once to be taken to place us in a more satisfactory position. I maintain that it is the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government to place our Army and Navy in a position as effective as that of any other nation in the world.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I will not detain the Committee for many minutes, and I only rise because at one period of my life I was a private soldier; and as I am consequently acquainted with their wants I have been asked by some private soldiers to submit certain facts to the Committee, which I believe to have been substantiated by evidence. They allege that when they were fighting for their country in Egypt they were left on more than one occasion without food and without medicine, because the transport was unfit to convey the stores. On two occasions I am informed that the harness or saddlery was so thoroughly rotten that when attached to the transport cart it broke down under the weight, and the medicine chests were left behind, because it was impossible to take them further. On one particular occasion two days' rations, required for troops on the march, were abandoned owing to the transport 1493 proving entirely insufficient. I have gone carefully through the evidence given before the inquiry which has already been referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot); but I will only trouble the Committee with the answers to three questions. I find from the evidence of Assistant Commissary General Reeves—Question 2,166—with reference to the pack saddles, that they were supplied by Woolwich Arsenal, but were badly put together. In answer to Question 2,169, the same officer stated that one cart had to be abandoned by the regimental transport on account of the constant breaking of the harness. The witness added that the harness was very poor stuff, and must have been in store for many years. Then, whose business was it to see that the harness was in proper condition? In this case it seems to have been in store for some time, and to have deteriorated while in store. The witness was asked—Question 2,614—"Do you know what was the reason of two days' rations being lost?" He explained that it was upon an occasion when an expeditionary force had been sent out which was intended to be away for two days, and it was sent out with provisions for two days. But the men composing the expeditionary force returned without having been able to do what they were sent out to do, because they found themselves compelled to abandon the provisions, owing to the regimental transport having completely broken down. Now, I submit to the Committee that when enormous sums of money are voted year after year by Parliament for the service of the country the least that the country can expect is that the pack saddles shall not be useless, the carts imperfect, and the harness rotten. I will not trouble the Committee with a speech, because these facts seem to me far more eloquent than anything which I can say.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I ask for the indulgence of the Committee while I, as a Naval Member, offer some observations on this important Vote. Perhaps no apology is necessary when attention is drawn to the Vote, which at page 53 informs us that we are asked practically to vote £1,250,000 for the sea service of the country. It is mainly on that Vote, as far as the sea service is concerned, that I desire to offer a few re- 1494 marks to the Committee. It is refreshing to be able to speak freely and altogether apart from all Party feeling. I am glad to find that there are occasions when both sides of the House can come together and discuss calmly the armaments of the country, and what is necessary for the maintenance of the power of the country. Let me remind the Committee that a short time ago—as recently as last May—there was a great scare as to the quality of the guns in the Navy. It was brought to our notice by the bursting of a gun on board the Collingwood; and it is mainly with the inquiry which took place into the cause of that accident, and the Report of the Committee upon our naval armaments generally, that I wish now to occupy the attention of the Committee. The alarm which was raised as to the quality of the guns in the Navy was certainly not without foundation. I hold in my hand a Report of the Ordnance Committee appointed by the late Secretary of State for War to inquire into the bursting of that gun. To that Committee were attached certain special Members, called "Associated Members," and consisting of Sir William Armstrong, Sir Frederick Abel (Chemist of the War Department), Colonel Maitland (Superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory), Captain Noble, and Mr. Gledhill. I find no fault with the composition of the major part of the Committee, nor with the fact that Members were specially appointed to act with it, with this exception—I do find fault with a serious error of omission. Surely the bursting of a naval gun while experiments were being made by a captain in the Royal Navy ought to have suggested that the naval element should have received better representation on the Committee. Colonel Maitland, the Superintendent of the Gun Factory—the Department which made the gun—was placed upon the Committee, but not a single naval officer who had been concerned in trying the gun. I have no doubt that the Naval Members of this House will concur with me in the opinion that as gentlemen representing the War and Ordnance Departments were on the Committee, there should also have been appointed, at least, the captain of the ship, or Captain Fisher, of the Excellent, a naval officer who has had very large experience in connection with the working of heavy guns. Both of these officers 1495 are very able men, and stand high in the Service. There is one remark which. I desire to make on this part of the subject. The bursting of the Collingwood gun cast no imputation whatever upon the naval branch of the Service. Naval officers are not, in the slightest degree, responsible for the guns supplied to them. The Ordnance Department are entirely responsible for that, and it is upon their action and their shortcomings that I wish to dwell. The Report of the Committee is a very important Report; and after reading it carefully I say, advisedly, that upon that Report the Manufacturing Department at Woolwich stand condemned. In order that I may make my case clear it is necessary that I should trespass for a short time on the patience of the Committee, because it is of no use to complain without suggesting a remedy, and by-and-bye it will be my duty humbly to suggest a remedy. The Committee had a variety of questions referred to them by a special Order. They were told by the Order of Reference, which will be found in Appendix II. attached to the Report, to inquire—(a) into the cause of the accident; (b) the steps to be taken to prevent such an occurrence with the remaining guns of similar pattern (14 in all I believe); and (c) whether, looking to the discussions and correspondence which took place with regard to the designs of Marks I. and II. guns before they were finally approved, and to subsequent experience, there was any reason to doubt their being of sufficient strength, especially at the breach, to stand the charge which had been approved? A copy of a Minute by the Director of Naval Ordnance, dated May 14, 1886, was also forwarded through the First Lord of the Admiralty, and they were asked to inquire—(d) whether, in view of the accident, they would consider it expedient to review the recommendation in the Report above mentioned, touching guns other than the 12-inch? In reference to the second head of the inquiry, the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty intimated that chase-hooping would be desirable, and stated that the Superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory had been directed to submit designs. Although Captain Fisher, of the Excellent, was not placed upon the Committee, he was examined as a witness, together with Captain Noble, who was a Member 1496 of the Committee. By excluding the Captain of the Excellent the authorities undoubtedly excluded one of the most competent men who could have been placed on the Committee. The Committee arrived at the following conclusions:—In the first place, that—The metal in the chase of 12-inch B.L. gun, Mark II., No. 16, was, as shown by the mechanical tests and chemical examination, irregular in its character; such metal would be specially liable to the setting up of internal strains during the processes of forging, or of oil hardening.Next they say—The metal had not been subjected to annealing processes by which such strains would have been mitigated, annealing not having been adopted until a date subsequent to the manufacture of this gun.Most of us who take an interest in the manufacture of guns, shot, and shell had heard of the annealing process long before this disaster. Then the Committee say—The gun had been, before issue, fired with large charges (340 lbs. C.) of a slow-burning powder, the effect of which would be to subject the chase to a severe stress.Fourthly, they say—After the preliminary trial and proof had been carried out, the gun was not fired for 18 months. The fracture of the chase occurred on firing the first round after this period, the charge used being a reduced one of 221¼ lbs. Prism I., brown.They leave us to draw the conclusion that as the gun had been neglected and not used for 18 months it might have been considered to be all right, and they seem to think that this was the reason of the failure of the gun. It is well known, they say, that steel and iron deteriorates after intervals of time, from not being used, and that they sometimes break without the application of external force from the effects of internal strains. That may be so; I am not metallurgist enough to justify me in expressing a contrary opinion. Then they say, in their last conclusion—The chase burst with violence when firing a charge which subjected it to comparatively low pressure, after having previously sustained a series of high pressures.Therefore, they admit that the gun ought not to have burst. Then they go on to give their opinion, and they say—Taking the above into consideration, the Committee are of opinion that the fracture of 1497 the chase of No. 16 gun, when fired with three-quarters of the Service full charge of powder, was due to a combination of the following causes:—To a want of uniformity in the metal of which the chase was composed.That rather suggests that the Ordnance Committee itself was badly composed, and that it ought to have had some eminent chemist upon it. They go on to say—To the absence of annealing after forging and oil hardening, which treatment would have mitigated any internal strains set up in these processes. That such strains were probably intensified by the preliminary and proof rounds, and their effect was developed during the interval of time between proof and the accident. To the foregoing unfavourable conditions not having been counteracted by the hooping of the chase.I submit that they stand condemned by their own Report. The Secretary of State asks—and the words are printed in the Report in italics—Is there any reason to doubt their being of sufficient strength, especially at the breech, to stand the charge which has been approved?They recommend—That the chase of these guns should be strengthened by hooping them to the muzzle after removing the front coil 3 B.With regard to the other point, they recommend—That these guns should be lined in the chamber to a diameter of 14¾ inches, and that after this operation the guns be proved with two charges, each of Prism I., brown powder, to give not less than 17 tons pressure per square inch in the chamber with a 714 lb. projectile; these two rounds to be followed with five rounds of such a charge as may be determined on for service; the pressure to be given by this charge not to exceed 15 tons per square inch in the chamber.The Committee deal next with the question—Whether, in view of the accident, they would consider it expedient to review the recommendations in the Report touching guns other than the 12 inch;and they say that—having reviewed the recommendations made in Report No. 429, under heading III., they consider that no alteration is necessary in their recommendation therein made concerning certain breech-loading guns (which they specify), all of which are either hooped to the muzzle or have double tubes.Passing on to the 9.2-inch Marks I. and II. guns, they say—They have, since the date of Report No. 429, been hooped to the muzzle. The Committee consider that these guns should have their 1498 chambers lined to an 11-inch diameter. After this operation, the guns to be proved with two charges of Prism I. brown powder, to give not less than 17 tons pressure per square inch in the chamber with a 380 lb. projectile; these two rounds to be followed by five rounds of such a charge as may be determined on for service; the pressure to be given by this charge not to exceed 15 tons per square inch in the chamber.I am sorry that I am compelled to trouble the Committee with so many details; but it is absolutely necessary to allude to them briefly. Passing on to the 8-inch breech-loading guns, they say that these guns which are manufactured at Woolwich—Marks III. and IV. should be chase-hooped to the muzzle, if consistent with naval requirements.Now, I think that is a point which we naval officers ought to understand. We ought to know something about naval requirements, and what I want is that the Committee should assist us in obtaining some control of the matter. The Committee say—If consistent with naval requirements the chamber should be lengthened to enable the gun to fire the same charge as the 8-inch guns, Marks V. and VI. In these designs the trunnions have been moved forward, the weight slightly increased and the chamber lengthened 3½ inches. Also the 8-inch guns, Mark VII., be chase-hooped to the muzzle. In this design the gun is shortened 4 inches, and the weight slightly increased.They then pass on to the 6-inch breech-loading guns, and they recommend that Marks II. and III. should be chase-hooped to the muzzle, and that Mark V. should before issue be chase-hooped to the muzzle, and further altered by having the tube hooked to the outside hoops. They further recommend that the 10–4-inch R. M. L. guns should be chase-hooped to the muzzle. Then, am I not justified in saying that the whole Manufacturing Department of Woolwich, as far as the naval guns are concerned, stands condemned by this Report of the Committee? If they recommend that all these alterations should be made in the guns, I can only say, God help us in the future! If our sailors and naval officers cannot trust the guns put on board the ships without having them chase-hooped, then our sailors are very much to be pitied, and I leave the Committee to draw their own conclusions. A more unsatisfactory state of things as far as the Gun Manufacturing Depart- 1499 merit is concerned could not exist, and I maintain that this unsatisfactory state of things is a disgrace to the country, possessed as it is of such enormous wealth, and such great mechanical and engineering talent. I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex that much more ought to be done to encourage the large manufacturers of the country by affording them opportunities for competing in the manufacture of great guns. The present condition of things is strongly objected to. At the present moment we are limited to Woolwich, to Armstrong & Co., and Whitworth & Co. In suggesting a remedy for this state of affairs I not only express my own opinion, but that of others connected with the Navy, who agree with my views. Having been, for many years, a gunnery instructor myself, I have taken a great interest in all that concerns my own branch of the Service, and I have felt it a conscientious duty to obtrude myself upon the Committee in matters of such great national importance. What we want is that the Navy should have its fair share in the management of its own armaments. We design the ships, but we must not arm them. As a matter of fact, the Naval Authorities design the ships, build the ships, equip the ships, and fight the ships; but we are not allowed to arm them. We have a Director of Naval Ordnance, and I admit that his voice now-a-days is attended to; but until within the last two years we had no voice at all, and had no option but to accept what the Ordnance Department chose to give us. In former years the trade was much more open than now, and the guns were supplied by contractors like the Carron Company, who supplied us with carronades. We have not always been dependent on Woolwich. No doubt, it is proper, if we are to be in a proper state of defence, that we should not be altogether in the hands of private contractors; but I think the Naval Service should be permitted to go to the trade generally for the guns they require. We have no wish to increase the expense to the country by one farthing. All we say is—"Give us this Gun Vote, and make the Naval Lords responsible for the expenditure; let the Vote appear regularly in the Navy Estimates." We should then be able to go Woolwich and say— 1500 "We want so many guns of such a calibre—can you give them to us?" At present, the ships are kept waiting for guns time after time; that is a serious evil. If Woolwich cannot supply us, we should be free to go to Armstrong & Co., or Whitworth & Co., and say—"Can you supply us?" Possibly some other gun firm may start up. If so, all the better for the country; for we do not want to be dependent on one firm. Let me remind the Committee that we are far behind other nations in the matter of guns, both as regards the strength of the gun itself and its durability, and also in projectiles and powder. Both the Germans and the French possess better guns, projectiles, and powder than we do. Indeed, I am informed that our best powder for the large guns is obtained from abroad, because our manufacturers have not yet devised the best method of manufacturing powder as the Germans do. We contract for our ships, and I believe that we get good ships built for us; we contract for the engines, and we get admirable engines built for us. All the world comes to us for our engines. Why, then, in the name of common sense, should we not be allowed to contract for our guns? And now let me add a few words in conclusion. I trust that I have made out my case. The naval opinion of the country is alarmed at the bursting of these guns. I hope, however, that I have said enough to satisfy the Committee, from this very Report of the Ordnance Committee, to condemn the system pursued at Woolwich. I speak with the highest respect of the talented officers to be found at Woolwich Arsenal. Many of them are known to myself and to other Members of this House. It appears to me that we ought to have the best mechanical talent at our disposal that can possibly be obtained. It cannot be supposed that a Colonel of Artillery, at the head of a great Department like the Gun Factory, is necessarily a good metallurgist, or a good mechanic, and we ought to have the most talented man the country can produce at the head of that Department. Years ago you considered that requirement so essential, that Sir William Armstrong was employed to give the country the benefit of his great services and knowledge. If that step was taken then, I do not see why a 1501 similar step should not be taken now. At any rate, the confidence of the country has been shaken in the manufacture of these guns, the confidence of the Navy is entirely gone in some of them, and the Report of this Committee can only have the effect of inspiring the Service with a further want of confidence. There are 14 guns of a similar type to the one which burst on board of the Collingwood, and the Committee report that they ought to be strengthened. Naval men say—"We do not want these guns at all." I have the very best information behind me, and I know they say—"You may do what you like with these guns; sell them to the Turks, who, judging from the state of affairs in the East, may want them soon; but we do not require sham guns. Therefore, at any rate, put these 14 guns aside, and do not let us have them. Our confidence is shaken in them, and it is not to be expected that the men will have more confidence in them than their officers. The time was when a sailor was in the habit of patting these guns with great affection; but those times have gone." We have heard a great deal from distinguished authorities in this House about the obligations of duty and honour. I certainly think there is an obligation of duty and honour on the part of this House and of Parliament to see that the Navy have guns that they can fight with. If we have guns that the men can fight and the officers can control, you may rest satisfied that the honour of the country will be safe in their hands.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
I thank the hon. Member for the Birr Division of King's County (Mr. Molloy) for having opened this debate. I must admit that, in speaking as he did, he has done good service to the country. He commenced his remarks by referring to what is commonly known as the Ordnance scandal. I do not intend to make any observations on that particular part of the hon. Member's remarks. It is, of course, a serious subject to deal with; but I think it might very well be left in the hands of the Secretary of State for War, who will take the necessary steps to protect the honour of the British Empire. Any other matter that may arise out of the scandals must be left in the hands of those gentlemen who preside over our Law Courts. I desire to say a few words 1502 upon some other charges which have been brought forward by the public Press against the Ordnance Department—charges, not of personal corruption, but of failure. I think any hon. Member who has studied the Report upon the bursting of the gun of the Collingwood, which has already been quoted, cannot but admit that the responsibility for the failure rests with the Ordnance Department. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Admiral Field) has quoted somewhat largely from that Report. I shall not follow in his footsteps, but I fully endorse what has been said—that the Report carries on the face of it a confession of failure. The Committee which sat to inquire into the bursting of the Collingwood gun reported, in the first place, that the cause of the bursting was the bad manufacture of steel; that the steel was not so good as it ought to have been; and, further, that it had not been submitted to the annealing process. That is not all. Some persons may be inclined to draw the conclusion from that Report that this is an exceptional case, and that it only occurred in reference to one particular gun, and that a similar failure is not likely to occur again—that it so happened that the steel furnished for this particular gun was defective, and that it may be assumed that the bursting of the gun was purely accidental. We have, however, a further Report from the Committee, that it is necessary to chase-hoop all the guns of a similar type, and guns also both larger and smaller in weight. That, I submit, really amounts to a confession that the system itself is wrong. It must be so, I think, because it is even necessary to change the whole nature of the gun, so to speak. The Committee have evidently no confidence that the system itself is right; and, therefore, they propose that a large amount of metal should be put round the gun, in order to make it safe. There are those who say that even that precaution will not make these new guns safe. Whether that be so or not I do not know; but I would like to say this—that the whole system wants overhauling, and unless we can get the guns to do the work expected of them, without adding to them an enormous weight of metal after they have been made, I think we had better go somewhere else for our guns. The reason, to my mind, why the system is 1503 at fault is because we hare not got any independent authority to inquire into it. It is a system which has grown up within what has been often termed in the papers and elsewhere a "gun ring." I hardly like to use that word, because it may be thought offensive; but, at any rate, it is a system which has certainly grown up within a very close circle—I may call it a tripartite alliance between the War Office, Woolwich, and Elswick; and nothing that comes from without that circle is considered for one moment by the Ordnance Department. I may be told that this exclusiveness is to prevent the authorities from being bored by the nostrums of inventors. We hear a good deal of inventors. There was one who sat in this House for many years, who was known to many hon. Members—I allude to the late Sir William Palliser, a man who did great service to the country by his inventions, which were of a most valuable description. But those who knew him as well as I did know the difficulties he had to contend with at the Ordnance Department. They well know that he was perpetually being snubbed, and how, in fact, his life was worn away, and how in the end he died, simply and purely, from a broken heart. Let me take another instance—the inventions of Mr. Krupp. No one can look upon Mr. Krupp as a charlatan—his guns are used all over Europe. Whether they are the best guns that can be procured I do not know; but I do know that the firm, as gun makers, were badly treated, and snubbed by the Ordnance Authorities. I have a letter from the firm in my own possession which says that the offers made to the War Office were treated in the most cavalier manner. They offered to produce a gun at their own expense, to send it over here and to have it tested at Woolwich; but they stipulated that they and their men must have the working of the gun. Probably they had not that entire confidence in some of the Ordnance Authorities that some people have, and they knew that a gun could be made to tell any kind of tale very easily if it were not properly manipulated. The firm, therefore, stipulated that the experiments should be made by themselves, and that, although they were to be carried out under the eyes of the Ordnance Authorities, the inventors should have the manipulation 1504 of the gun. The War Office refused these terms, and the consequence was that the gun was not tried in this country. In connection with this question a gentleman, one of those obnoxious class of inventors, came to me the other day with an invention—I do not know whether it was a good one or a bad one, but I was rather struck by one thing that he said. He said that he had been to the War Office several times, and that at length they had got rid of him by saying—"The fact is, Mr. So-and-so, we cannot take your gun until it has been adopted by some other country." Now, I think that that is a most humiliating position for this country to occupy. My hon. and gallant Friend who last addressed the House said that the Navy is a Department which is most interested in this matter. As a matter of fact, quite one-half of the Votes for Ordnance is for the Naval Service. My hon. and gallant Friend asks how it was that on the occasion of the inquiry with reference to the bursting of the Collingwood gun there were not more naval officers on the Committee? I think my hon. and gallant Friend said there was no naval officer appointed at all.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
No: I did not say that. I knew very well that there were three naval officers on the Committee—namely, the Vice President and two Post Captains. What I said was that the naval element was not properly represented.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
There were gentlemen associated with the Ordnance Committee specially appointed to assist in the inquiry, and among those gentlemen there was not a single naval officer. Five Associate Members were appointed altogether, all of whom were more or less concerned or responsible for the making of these very guns. That is an important point, and my hon. and gallant Friend was right in asking how it was that the men at the head of the Naval Ordnance Department were not represented on the Committee. The Director of Naval Ordnance was not on the Committee, nor was Captain Fisher, who probably knows more about heavy guns than any other officer, either in or out of Woolwich. I am strongly of opinion that the Navy should provide their own guns, and that the guns should be placed on the Navy Estimates. I want to know why it is that we have not got a Board 1505 of Naval Ordnance? I shall be told that we have a Director of Naval Ordnance at the Admiralty; but I should like to know what authority and responsibility he possesses? We ought to have, in my opinion, a Board of Naval Ordnance consisting of a certain number of naval officers and associated with them certain civilians—experts, who are acquainted with the making of guns. This Board should have power to order guns where they please. They might order them from Woolwich if they chose. I do not want to do away with the Woolwich Factory, certainly not; but they should have power to say what kind of guns they want to do the particular work they require them for, and they should have the right to order such guns either from Woolwich or from outside Woolwich, wherever they please. They should also have money to spend in the trial of the guns; because if they do not have that power we may depend upon it we shall continue to go on in the cheese-paring way we have hitherto gone on. That, in my opinion, lies at the root of the whole matter. We do not spend money enough in testing the guns and making trials with them; and unless we do that we shall still be running in the same groove and having guns made without any of them being properly tested. I think the suggestion I have made is a feasible one, and I do not see why it should not be carried out. I do not want to set up a Naval Woolwich, nor do I desire to abolish Woolwich; but I wish to reform it, and I think we ought to have placed at the head of our Gun Factory not a soldier, but a civilian. Of course, if the soldier is the best man who can be obtained, let us have him; but let us have the best man, and do not make it a necessary qualification that he shall be a soldier. I am aware there is a prejudice against having a naval officer; but naval officers know more about naval guns than Artillery officers do. It is only those who have been specially trained in that particular branch of the Service who know anything about it. I should like to ask, in reference to these guns, what would be the cost of chase-hooping the guns? An hon. Member who spoke from below the Gangway has said that it is only 16 guns that require to be chase-hooped; but if I read the Report of the Committee aright, guns, both smaller and larger, will re- 1506 quire it. I should like to know, first of all, what the total expense will be, and where it will be necessary to order the gun mountings, and what will be the cost of doing that? I should like to know whether, in the opinion of the naval officers who sat upon the Committee, or of the Director of the Naval Ordnance, these guns, after they have been chase-hooped and altered, will be of any use to the Navy without an alteration of the gun mountings? In talking about the alteration of the fittings on board ship, we must never forget that we must look upon our armaments as floating gun carriages themselves. They are nothing more or less than that. They are floating gun carriages on which these guns are to be placed, and very expensive gun carriages they are too. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) brought a question before the House not long ago in reference to the Nile and Trafalgar; two floating gun carriages which have cost £1,000,000 a-piece. The House voted against the hon. Member because they thought the conclusion he arrived at was wrong. But since the accident to the Collingwood gun I have been thinking seriously over the matter, and I am not quite sure that we shall be justified in going on with the building of the Nile and Trafalgar, unless we know they are to be armed with some gun we can rely upon. As the case now stands, we have no such gun. It must be borne in mind that the guns to be placed on board these vessels will be of a larger calibre than those on board the Collingwood. I should like to know where these guns are? I believe that one has been made, but that it has not been tried or tested in any way, so that there is in reality no gun in existence, and, so far as I can make out, no gun likely to be in existence for many years to come fit to be placed on board these ships. I have no desire to take up the time of the Committee longer; but the questions which have been raised are most important. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will give his attention to the matter, and that he will be able to do something to relieve us from a position of very deep humiliation, and remove a source of very great danger.
§ CAPTAIN SELWYN (Cambridge, Wisbech)
I wish to make a remark 1507 in reference to a matter which has been alluded to by the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot)—namely, the new issue of rifles. We who belong to the Army are given to understand that such new issue is contemplated, and we have seen the rifles which we are told it is proposed to issue. Now, on behalf of the taxpayers, and speaking in the interests of the Army, as far as I am allowed to do so, I hope that the question will receive much consideration, and that great care will be exercised before the new rifle is given to us. In the first place, the issue of a new arm to the Army will cause a very large expenditure; and not only that, but I believe that the rifle we have at present is in many ways superior to the one which it is proposed to substitute. I believe that the chief object aimed at in the new rifle is to provide a flatter trajectory, and that that trajectory has been obtained. Experiments are, I believe, being made in regard to the loading of the cartridges, with a view of altering the system of the Martini-Henry rifle we now have in the Army. There is another subject to which attention ought to be called. It is a matter which has often been spoken of; but very little has been done in regard to it—I refer to the jamming of the cartridges. It has been pointed out that the cartridges which are at present supplied for use with the Martini-Henri rifle do jam to a very great extent; and I believe it arises, to a certain extent, from the way in which the cartridge is manufactured. If our cartridges were made as those of other nations, which are almost universally constructed of solid drawn brass, I believe that the jamming would, to a great extent, be prevented. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will be able to tell us whether it has been determined to issue these new rifles, and whether experiments are going to be made with regard to the loading of the present cartridges, to see whether better results cannot be obtained in future from the cartridges than are obtained at present. I believe, for instance, that the makers of machine-guns, such as the Nordenfelt gun, have obtained greater penetration by loading cartridges in a different manner, such, for instance, as using different sorts of powder; one of coarser 1508 and another of finer grain. What I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman is that instead of trying experiments with the new rifle, and before committing the country to the serious expenditure which the issue of new rifles would involve, some attempt should be made to improve the cartridges, with the view of obtaining better results.
§ MR. WOODALL (Hanley)
In commencing, I desire to express my full sense of the extreme gravity of the subject now before the Committee, and the great advantages which must be derived by the Public Service from a thorough discussion of this question, and of other topics which are now engaging the public attention. In the first place, allow me to say a word in answer to the question of the hon. and gallant Member for Wisbech (Captain Selwyn) as to the new rifle. That is a subject which has engaged the attention of the authorities for a considerable time past. The matter has been under the consideration of a special Committee of experts, and their Report was finally adopted by right hon. Gentlemen opposite when last in Office. The new arm was then adopted, and it is now in process of manufacture. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite right in suggesting that great care and caution should be exercised before the new arm is brought into operation. With that view 1,000 rifles have already been produced and distributed throughout the country; and I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will very shortly be in possession of a Report as to the experience which has been gained in connection with the use of that arm. A certain number of the new rifles were sent to Wimbledon the other day, and I believe the opportunity of trying them was warmly appreciated by the skilled Volunteers who used them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has also referred to the jamming of cartridges; and I think he will be gratified to learn that solid drawn cartridges are being supplied without unnecessary delay. As to the Ordnance Department, the several speakers who have engaged the attention of the Committee to-night have given expression to their apprehensions that there may be a good deal of truth in the extremely uncomfortable suggestions which have 1509 been made by writers in the newspapers and elsewhere for some time past. The Department has been charged formally with conspiracy, corruption, corrupt favouritism, and malversation, and the same charges have been made against other Departments in the State. It is certainly very unpleasant to read these things. We have been told that our heavy guns are in a deplorable condition; that bad cartridges have been served out to the Army; that bad bayonets have been placed in the hands of the troops; and that the swords supplied are unfit for use. I have already referred to the cartridges. It is undoubtedly true that there were cases in which the cartridges jammed in Egypt; but it is only fair to the Ordnance Department to say that no such failures had been experienced in previous campaigns, and that, owing to some misadventure, no Reports reached the responsible authorities here from the officers commanding the troops. Immediately the matter was brought to the notice of the authorities in Pall Mal an inquiry was instituted, remedial measures were devised, and, as quickly as possible, solid case cartridges were substituted. A considerable quantity of them were sent out to Egypt, and I believe they were actually used in one of the battles there. They have been further reported on in connection with the experience gained in Egypt; and at the present moment, although the old form of cartridge is still supplied for certain purposes, wherever the Army is sent on active service it is supplied exclusively with solid drawn cartridges. With regard to the bayonets of which we have heard so much, the fact is that from the experience of Egypt we also learned, for the first time, that some portion of the bayonets were untrustworthy; but even with regard to these it was reported by one Commanding Officer that he found no fault with the Martini-Henri bayonet, but that he preferred to have it rather too soft than too hard. The officer commanding the first battalion of the Black Watch made no complaint against the bayonets, although his regiment had been very hotly engaged. The Commanding Officer of the first battalion of the Gordon Highlanders reported that the bayonets were good in quality and effective for use. These opinions were expressed in reply 1510 to a request made by the authorities for information. It it also true that the first battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment and the Ro3'al Irish Fusiliers, when they returned home and their bayonets were inspected, were found to have the old Snider bayonet converted, these bayonets having been in service for 30 years. The question of the bayonets has been engaging the attention of the Department for some years past. A considerable number—28,000, I believe—were ordered for use as far back as 1876; and I say, with humiliation, that of the quantity so ordered only 16,700 have been received, the contractors declaring that the tests imposed by the Department were much too severe for them to satisfy. Notwithstanding the tests were so severe, still further tests have been imposed, and I think the Committee will learn with satisfaction that every bayonet made since 1884 has satisfied the still increasing and more stringent conditions. But since the Egyptian Campaign every bayonet in store has been brought under test, and every bayonet in the hands of the troops has also been tested. At the present moment there is not a weapon in the hands of a British soldier in any part of the world which has not been exchanged or proved to satisfy the very severe conditions imposed by the Department. The Committee will be interested to know what was the actual result of the testing of the bayonets carried out by the Department. As a matter of fact, it was found that 4¾ per cent broke under the test, 4¾ per cent were condemned as being too small at the point, and 21½ per cent were found to be soft; but of that number which were held to be not sufficiently hard 75 per cent were made to satisfy the new conditions by re-tempering. Then, in regard to the test for the sword, I cannot look through the official records without seeing that the question of the sword has been a matter of continual controversy since as far back, at any rate, as 1853, and that it has been practically impossible to arrive at anything like an agreement as to what are the proper conditions of a serviceable sword in regard to weight, thrust, and cut. There is a difference of opinion in the different Services, and even among officers of the same regiment. The other day, for instance, the 1511 question of the swords for the Household regiments were reported upon, and of the three commanding officers two stated that the sword was perfectly satisfactory, the third being of a different opinion. The authorities of the much abused Ordnance Department have, I believe, demonstrated satisfactorily that a much better, a more serviceable, and a more scientific weapon can be produced; and, at the present moment, new designs are being tried which will be submitted to the usual test. There is a hope that we may now be able to arrive at a weapon suited to the special requirements of the Household troops. There was, I think, a sword adopted about 1882, which proved to be a very unsatisfactory weapon. It was a sword, the responsibility for which is not very easy to determine, as it was not arrived at by any deliberative Committee, and was, I believe, a sword submitted by an English contractor. It was, however, adopted, and it proved to be unsatisfactory. A special Committee was appointed, presided over by Major General Sir Drury Lowe, and that Committee reported on the 30th of April last year. The sword approved and adopted by that Committee is now being manufactured at Enfield, and is subjected to tests which I should like hon. Members to witness for themselves. It would be much more satisfactory if hon. Members who take an interest in the subject would go and see the tests applied at Enfield, and I think they will be convinced that they satisfy every conceivable condition that is required to be satisfied. The House has heard, from time to time, that there has been considerable difficulty owing to the swords not being made in England; but, as a matter of fact, the trade of the armourer has very much left our country, and we have had to rely upon manufacturers abroad. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, when last in Office, approved the giving an important contract for swords to a manufacturing firm at Solingen. The swords they produced are made under the inspection of persons specially appointed, and when submitted to our tests at Enfield they proved to be most excellent weapons. I must state that the process of manufacture is carried on under the inspection of a responsible Representative of the Ordnance Department, and so liberal are the manufac- 1512 turers at Solingen that I believe they have invited an inspection of the process by other manufacturers. I should have been glad if some of our Sheffield and Birmingham houses had availed themselves of the invitation. It is regrettable, and worse, that we should be dependent upon foreigners for weapons which may be required for our own defence. The Committee, however, will be glad to know that our own manufactory at Enfield also produces these swords, and I think I may say that it is producing them in a manner highly creditable to the skill of those employed there. But with regard to swords and weapons of a similar class it must be remembered that there is no possibility of the Government encouraging their manufacture as a permanent business upon which people may rely for steady and continuous orders. The contracts now out are for 30,000, and it may well be hoped that no further order will be required within the next 20 years. Having referred to the testing of these swords, I must say that a short time ago I had the honour to accompany the Commander-in-Chief and Lord Wolseley, and I was glad to hear from them an expression of the highest and fullest satisfaction with the tests to which these weapons had been put in their presence. I come now to the Report of the Committee which is now in the hands of hon. Members upon the accident to the 43-ton gun on board the Collingwood. That Report has been dealt with very fully by the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Eastbourne (Admiral Field), and he speaks of it as conveying the condemnation of the Department. He said, I think, that the Committee stand condemned by their own Report.
§ MR. WOODALL
But it is not the Report of the Gun Factory. The Report now submitted to the House is the Report of a perfectly impartial Committee. [Cries of "No!"] It is a Committee, at any rate, which my right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) endeavoured to compose of the most authoritative and impartial persons. [An hon. MEMBER: No. Look at the Associated Members.] I shall have a word to say about the Associated Mem- 1513 bers by-and-bye. Reference has been made to a Report of an Ordnance Committee with Associated Members, which was appointed in 1885 by the noble Marquess behind me (the Marquess of Hartington). It must be remembered that this particular gun which burst on board the Collingwood was one of the type Mark II.; that it had passed through the ordinary tests: and that it had been fired nine times, with charges all of them larger, I think, than that under which it burst. I believe that four of the charges had been as high as 340 lbs., and that two guns of precisely the same type and the same manufacture, upon the same ship in the fore-turret had been fired successfully shortly before the accident to this particular gun. Although orders have been given to suspend the further firing of these guns, and of all guns of the same type pending the inquiry, and the decision to be arrived at by the Secretary of State upon that inquiry, I do not think it ought to be assumed that these guns are necessarily defective in their construction on account of this particular accident. Referring back to the Committee appointed by the noble Marquess in 1885, it will be remembered that that Committee was asked to report whether any alterations were required in the present method of treating steel for gun construction, and whether any alterations were required in guns already made, in the process of manufacture, or in guns for future manufacture. Well, Sir, it was determined in regard to guns for future manufacture that it was desirable that there should be a certain strengthening by means of chase-hooping, especially in regard to Marks III., IV., and V. Since that Report all the guns which have been made have been strongly chase-hooped, and I believe they have also been steel lined. The Committee will naturally ask, if this Committee of 1885 determined that guns should be made stronger in future than they had been in the past, how they could justify the passing of this particular gun, which actually at that time was on board of Her Majesty's ships? I have no authority to say that this consideration had any weight with the Committee; but will the House please to remember that at the very time that Committee was sitting the country was engaged in active preparations in 1514 anticipation of a possible war with Russia; that a Vote of Credit had been granted by this House in consequence; and that it was known perfectly well that the only weak part of this gun was that part, outside the turret, and to which, if any accident did occur, it would occur in such a way as to involve no danger to life? Furthermore, it was known that such an accident had occurred in France with regard to two heavy guns, which sustained exactly the same kind of injury—when the chases were cut off the guns were passed, and actually went through service, and are being used now at the present moment. In point of fact, after the accident to this 43-ton gun on board the Collingwood, it might have been fired continuously in action, although, no doubt, its usefulness had been diminished. Indeed, it would only have been a question of range, and the gun would have been not quite so accurate. In fact, like the hero in Chevy Chase—In doleful dumps,For when his legs were smitten offHe fought upon his stumps.Notwithstanding what the hon. and gallant Admiral said, I think that the Report of the Committee ought to be very re-assuring in regard to the guns. The hon. and gallant Admiral says—"Let us have no more of these guns in the Navy;" but the hon. and gallant Admiral ought to know that the Navy have been relieved of these particular guns, and that six other guns of the higher mark which had been made for land service are nearly ready to replace those of the Collingwood; they only require to have an alteration made by the removal of the trunnion, in order to fit them for the naval carriages. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will also be glad to know that other guns of this higher type and further development, 16 in all, of Marks IV. and V. are being manufactured by Messrs. Armstrong and Messrs. Whit worth, and will be forthcoming in the course of the coming winter, or in the early part of next year. Well, Sir, the hon. and gallant Captain opposite (Captain Price) has brought before the Committee some considerations which are not quite new, but which I venture to think are very well worth the attention of the House and of the authorities. He complains that the Admiralty had not that 1515 full responsibility with regard to the selection of designs which they ought to have; he complains that they have not the determination of the design, and the ordering of the manufacture of the gun. Now, I think there is a misapprehension with regard to the extent to which the voice of the Admiralty is potent in these matters. I think I am right in saying that no gun has ever been supplied, at any rate in recent years, without having had a distinct and prior approval of the authorities of the Admiralty. As a matter of fact, it has always been open for the Admiralty to say whether they would prefer to have their guns produced at Woolwich or Elswick, or at any other factory. At any rate, such is certainly the case at the present moment. The Committee will, perhaps, be interested to know that very lately I have had the honour of serving on an inter-Departmental Committee, to consider how we could bring about a change in the condition of things under which these Estimates are presented to the House. It does certainly seem singular that the Army Estimates should include Votes for furnishing armaments for the Navy, and I think it would be more intelligible and, certainly in my judgment, very much better, in any case, that the Votes for naval guns should be included in the Navy Estimates, rather than in the Votes for the Army. But the Committee will not need to be told that there may be some other reasons of considerable weight which have prevented this common-sense arrangement from being carried out before. The difficulty hitherto has mainly rested with the Treasury; but, seeing that at the present moment the Navy obtains direct Votes for gun carriages, although they are made by the Ordnance Department, and seeing how admirably the system of repayment works with regard to the service of India and the Colonies, I cannot but feel that the consultation now going on between the different Departments will result in such an arrangement as will bring about a more satisfactory division of these Government Votes in the future. With regard to the Board of Naval Ordnance, of course it would be impertinent for me to say a word; but I must remark that upon the Permanent Ordnance Committee there has always been a full representation of the 1516 Admiralty, who have nominated some gentleman presumably possessing their confidence, so that their opinion has been as influential on the Board as that of any other Representative of the Department. The Committee would have been glad to hear that the hon. and gallant Captain the Member for Devonport disclaim the idea of having a separate arsenal for the production of naval armaments distinct from that for the Army. The Committee will see the immense advantage realized at the present time, even in the changing of guns of the Collingwood type, because, although the pattern may be to some extent different, the guns used for the land service are similar in design to those used for the sea, and it is easy at any time to accommodate the one to the exigencies of the other. That which is true in regard to armaments is still more important in regard to ammunition. I was rather surprised to hear that the Ordnance Committee recently appointed, although specially constituted, is regarded as not being an impartial Committee. Of course, in the selection of men for any conceivable inquiry, there may be somebody presumably left out of the Committee who would be capable of rendering able service to it. Among the Associated Members the only one who could be supposed to have any prejudice or bias in regard to the manufacture of the guns in question was Colonel Maitland, the Superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory. I think I heard one hon. Gentleman suggest that there ought to have been on the Committee some scientist, whose opinion in regard to metallurgical chemistry would have been valuable. That remark is, in my opinion, somewhat unfair, when we know that Sir Frederick Abel was a Member of the Committee; and Sir Frederick Abel, as all the world knows, is one of the most able men to be found in the scientific world. He is a man who has rendered great service to the State by the improvements he has effected, especially in regard to the explosives, and in the making of gun cotton. I should be very sorry indeed if a word were to be said in the course of this discussion to reflect upon that distinguished scientist, and the great value of the services he has been able to render as an Associated Member of the Committee. [Admiral FIELD: No one said a word against Sir Frederick Abel.] I 1517 am sorry to say that words have been used in the newspapers, and I hope it will not be considered wrong that I should say, at any rate, that Sir Frederick Abel is a man entitled to be held in high regard. There are other charges, with which the public are familiar, to which one can hardly omit some reference on this occasion. The Ordnance Committee, as originally composed, was selected from men in the service of the State. Surely it will be felt by the Committee that it was a particularly happy thought of the noble Marquess, in determining matters of the highest importance for the security of the country and the expenditure of the money voted by this House, to invite, and to be fortunate enough to secure, the co-operation of the most distinguished private firms in the Kingdom, and I think I may almost say in the world. To have got Messrs. Armstrong to send two of their most experienced representatives, and to have induced the great Whitworth firm to contribute one of its members—to have got these men to give to the country the benefit of their large experience and their practical knowledge; to have induced them to render that service gratuitously to the country, surely ought to entitle them to some acknowledgment of the services they have rendered. Let it be remembered that in regard to the recommendations of the Committee which is now before us, the Armstrong and Whitworth Members of it were asked to give an opinion on a gun with the manufacture of which they had not the slightest concern; nevertheless, the Government actually called in competitors to give the country the benefit of their opinion and advice upon a matter upon which they had not a shilling's worth of interest. We have heard a great deal of charges of corruption. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) referred to those charges in a manner worthy of himself, and not one hon. Member who has spoken to-night has ventured to assume that there is any truth in the charges which have been made. The difficulty of meeting the charges, as far as I have had any knowledge of them, has been that they are not charges which name any individual, or specify any direct act which could possibly bring them under the cog- 1518 nizance of any Department. Had these charges been levelled against an individual, that individual would have had his remedy in a Court of Law; but the persons who have made the accusations have avoided that, while they have endeavoured to throw doubt and discredit upon a large class of men without directly incriminating anyone. Now, Sir, as a matter of fact, a great deal has been said in regard to the relations of the Armstrong firm with the Government. Those relations, I suppose, are matters of history. I can only say that, so far from its being necessary to have recourse to a subtle system for securing orders for the Armstrong firm, the difficulty is to get the Messrs. Armstrong to accept and execute the orders we require them to undertake. But the Armstrong guns are not merely made at Elswick. They are made also by us at Woolwich, although I do not believe that a single shilling has ever been paid for the Armstrong patent rights. The Armstrong guns are also made for us by the firm of Whitworths at Manchester, and at the present moment they have orders in hand on behalf of the Government. I can only repeat that which I have heard an hon. Gentleman behind me say—that we should be glad indeed if we could induce one of the great Sheffield houses to enter into the field of competition. The idea of any close kind of "ring," or of any monopoly on the part of any particular firm of manufacturers, is altogether absurd. It would serve no useful purpose to confine the work to Woolwich. We not only carry on the manufacture of guns at Woolwich, but we invite the competition of private firms; and certainly it is a wise policy that the country should not be dependent either upon one or the other, but that we should have as many competing and contributory influences at work as we can possibly obtain. I certainly hope, and do not doubt, that the Ordnance Committee, from time to time, will, as far as possible, be strengthened by outside help. I am sorry that I had occasion to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the other night in reference to a misapprehension into which the Lord Chief Justice of England fell when he spoke of the Ordnance Committee as having to select particular firms for the supply of ordnance. I find that the Editor of The Fortnightly Review, in 1519 commenting upon one short article which had been substituted for another which had been, withdrawn, declares that the English Government keeps salaried officials to buy weapons for them of the kind and at the price they think fit, and that these same officials are, at the same time, allowed to buy weapons of their own private manufacture. It is surprising that people should take so little care to acquaint themselves with the facts of the case before expressing opinions at once so dogmatic and so inaccurate. As a matter of fact—and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will bear me out—no Member of the Ordnance Committee, and no one who has been associated with that Committee, has the slightest authority in determining contracts for anything whatever. I am afraid that I have occupied the attention of the Committee longer than I ought to do; but we must, in acknowledging the occasional failure of our weapons, remember how rapid and how important is the continual progress and development of science in regard to instruments of warfare. If we could agree with other countries to have a truce for the next 10 years, I believe that it would be a "Truce of God" indeed. Sir, we must assume from the experience of the past, that the weapons we are making to-day will very likely be obsolete at the end of that time. But surely we must see in that the absolute necessity of bringing into a focus and applying the highest scientific skill and experience which can be found in any part of the world. We must try to make our own manufactures as perfect in engineering appliances and in administration as possible. I entertain great hopes that something may be done by the Commission which was appointed by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), and which has the good fortune to be presided over by Lord Morley, and which is to give its attention to everything concerning the administration and management of the Government Factories. I heard it stated that there is to be a further investigation and possible inquiry into the spending Departments of the State. If that be the case, these Departments which are now entrusted with the expenditure of a large proportion of the taxes of the 1520 country cannot, and ought not, and must not escape a full investigation. I feel that while it is desirable that independent Committees should from time to time be called into operation, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, with his great experience, will not feel inclined to shelter himself behind any Committee or Commission. I am perfectly sure that he will not shirk any responsibility which may possibly rest upon him in the important position which he occupies. I believe, also, that he, or any other man called to such an important position, will find himself supported by a permanent Staff as honourable in their integrity as I believe them to be able in the technical skill they possess. I also feel sure that when the facts are brought under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman he will, while discarding all personal conditions, and severely dealing with proved incapacity or misconduct, he will, on the other hand, defend the men who look to him for the vindication of their character against indefinite and slanderous accusations such as those which have been so familiar of late.
§ ADMIRAL SIR JOHN COMMERELL (Southampton)
It is not my intention to deal with what is called the Ordnance scandal. That, no doubt, will be made a question of law; but I think that the country, and, above all, we who belong to the Navy, have a right to ask how it is that our ordnance is in the wretched state in which it is at present? Our seamen cannot go on board ship with any satisfaction feeling that the weapons placed in their hands to fight with are trustworthy. Unfortunately, they consider that there may be a great deal more danger to those who are in the rear of the gun than to those who are in front of it. It must not be supposed that the Collingwood gun was the first that has burst. The first one that burst was a gun on board the Thunderer. That gun aid not burst in such a manner that it was possible to cut off the chase and use it again; but it burst in the turret and dealt death and destruction all round. It was said at the time that the gun was double loaded. All I can say is that I do not believe there is a single naval officer who was on the station at the time and heard the evidence that was given who could believe for a single moment that that gun was double 1521 loaded. The impression is that it was said to be double loaded for the purpose of covering the badness of the gun. I quite concur with the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Eastbourne (Admiral Field) that it would be folly to retain the other 14 guns of the same pattern as that which burst on board the Collingwood, because all guns of that kind may be strengthened by re-hooping them. Instead of tinkering, it would be far better to sell them for what they would fetch, and put the expense down to the cost of our education in the manufacture of guns. At any rate, we shall have learnt something—namely, that our guns ought to be made by the first machinists in the world, and until they are we may depend upon it that English ordnance will not be relied upon. There are one or two things in regard to which I do not agree in what I have heard from hon. and gallant Members on this side of the House. In the first place, I do not believe in the propriety of testing heavy guns too severely. I believe myself that a gun, which, after all, is not a long-lived machine, may be utterly and entirely ruined by being over-tested. We found that out in the tests that were applied to the chain cables. Over and over again chain cables were tested beyond their strength, until it was found that they were never reliable, and that they frequently gave way when it was least expected. Let me mention another point. These guns were never designed to fire the powder which was in them when they burst. Guns of the Collingwood type were made for the purpose of being fired with quick-burning powder, and therefore they were strengthened at the breech. When charged with slow-burning powder, which the gun was never intended to use, it naturally burst, because the charge brought great force to bear upon parts which had not sufficient thickness of metal to resist it. It is easy to understand that guns cannot be reliable if they are made to fire one kind of powder and are then charged with another kind. I have no hesitation in saying that there is the greatest possible distrust on the part of the Navy in our system of naval ordnance, both with regard to the way we obtain it and with regard to the guns themselves. What the Navy requires is a little Home Rule in the matter, and to be allowed, when 1522 the Vote for guns has been obtained, to order its guns where the order would be executed in the best and quickest manner. We ask for power to settle things in our own way; to be able to order our guns where we think we can get them best; and not only that, but where we think we shall be able to get them quickest. I have known a ship to remain in commission for three years, and although month after month and quarter after quarter demands were made on the Ordnance Department for spare gear it was never forthcoming. Why was this? It was because we were not allowed to have Home Rule, and to settle our things in our own way. Then, again, the destination of a ship which was originally ordered to the North American Station has been suddenly changed to the Mediterranean. Shot, shell, and powder might have been sent out to the North American Station, besides that taken by the ship herself; and as none was sent out to the Mediterranean the ship became absolutely useless, because the men were unable to practise and fire the guns, the powder and ammunition that were required to replace that expended having been sent to another place. I should like to ask whose fault that was? If any accident occurred, and the vessel had become entirely useless, you may depend upon it that the fault would have been attributed to the unfortunate captain and the Commanding Officer on the station. We see every year collisions between the Ordnance Department and the Admiralty. I do not mean to say that the Surveyor General of Ordnance and the Ordnance Department do not endeavour, as much as possible, to meet the views of naval officers, when they ask for a particular gun, or a particular weapon; but what I maintain is that it would be far better to leave the matter altogether in the hands of the Naval Authorities to settle for themselves. As the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne has stated, we build the ship, rig the ship, and fight the ship; but we are not allowed to arm it. We have no desire to set up a rival establishment to that of Woolwich, or to spend one sixpence on our own account; but I have no hesitation in saying that one of the cheapest things which the nation could possibly do would be to allow the Navy to make its own ar- 1523 rangements for its armaments. I am satisfied that if that were done the expenditure would not exceed two-thirds of the present outlay. There is another question with regard to the guns which ought to be thoroughly gone into. As I said before, this is not the first gun that has been rendered utterly useless in action. The other day, on the China Station, a 64-pounder, Mark III., burst. What was the result? There was immediately a telegram from the Admiralty that no gun on any station of Mark III. was to be fired. The consequence was that upon my own station, in North America, more than one-half of the guns were, with one stroke of the Admiralty pen, put hors de combat. Now, was that a right course to take? Have we not substantial grounds for complaining? I should like to know what the country would have said if war had suddenly broken out, if that order had been carried out, and we had gone into action with more than one-half of our armaments useless, because a gun in China had burst? In consequence of a gun having burst on the China Station, the Admiralty say they will not take the responsibility of allowing guns of a similar type to be fired anywhere; and, therefore, one-half of the guns of the British Empire are to be wiped out at once. Then, again, as to ammunition. Not only are the guns of the Navy in an unsatisfactory condition, but the powder, fuses, and shells are often given out in such a state that they can hardly be used. But what are we told? The late Surveyor General of Ordnance says it was a mistake; it was one of those unfortunate things which did occasionally occur, and that the truth of the matter is that certain weapons had been served out which had been in store for 30 years. I should like to know what right the Ordnance Department have to send out, in modern days, weapons which have been in store for 30 years? Why have they not been surveyed and condemned? Is it any satisfaction, when an enemy runs you through, to be told that your own weapon was bad in consequence of having been in store for so many years?
§ ADMIRAL SIR JOHN COMMERELL
At any rate, they had been placed in 1524 the hands of the troops for use, and it would appear, from the explanation of the hon. Gentleman, that bayonets had been allowed to be in the hands of a regiment for 30 years without having been returned, in order to ascertain whether they were perfect, or whether any reliance could be placed upon them. The truth of the matter is, that one of the principal reasons for the shortcomings of the Ordnance is the fact that the appointments of Surveyor General of the Ordnance, and of other officials, are made to depend upon political exigencies. They are not placed in the hands of officials who know who the best men are, and who can speak from their own knowledge without being dependent upon notes supplied to them by others. I am myself a sailor, and as a sailor I say what I mean. We should have professional men to do professional duty. The present system of appointment is unreasonable, and it might just as well be said that the Prime Minister should be made Admiral of the Channel Fleet, or the Archbishop of Canterbury Chancellor of the Exchequer, as that it should be allowed to continue.
§ COLONEL HUGHES-HALLETT (Rochester)
Sir, I trust, as an old Artillery officer, that I shall not be considered by the Committee as interfering in this discussion by making a few observations. We have not yet been informed, by any hon. Member who has spoken, of one very important point—namely, that in this Vote there is a sum of no less than £294,727 put down on account of the Royal Gun Factory, Woolwich, for the manufacture and repair of the guns in this financial year. That seems to me to be a very large sum, when I call to mind the enormous amount of public money which has been spent on guns during the last 30 years, and I think the point for our consideration is what we have got in return for it. I recently put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War with regard to Ordnance stores; and in justice to myself, and in order to remove any wrong impression there might be as to my motive of putting this Question, I should like to make a few observations. My hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) has alluded to the Questions I put in this House with regard to the complaints made during the wars in Egypt and the Soudan, of swords 1525 breaking, cartridges jamming, and other matters, respecting which the General Officer commanding in the field sent home Reports. I have been inundated with letters and papers, amongst others The Naval and Military Magazine and The Horse Guards' Gazette, which have revealed some very unpleasant facts, and have made charges, of which it puzzles me to think no notice has yet been taken. Accordingly, I thought it right to ascertain what truth or falsity there might be in those accusations. I conceive it to be the duty of every Member of this House, when he sees in the Press statements of this kind, attributing waste and extravagance with regard to public money, or otherwise making charges against persons in the Public Service, to call attention to the fact, and to ask Ministers responsible for the Department either to confirm, or to give a refutation of, those accusations. Well, Sir, in putting the Question I have referred to I acted in the belief that I was doing my duty, and I acted innocently. I am sure that Ministers concerned would themselves be most anxious to ascertain the truth as to the accusations, and to refute them, if possible; and, further, I was acting on good advice, because I recollect that a certain noble Lord, no mean authority in this House or out of it, said in one of his speeches that Conservatives and Radicals alike desired to have the most efficient Army in the world; that they desired to have their money's worth, which at present they did not get; and that to have it they must destroy the system of corruption which prevailed at Woolwich and elsewhere, and give their orders to English manufacturers, which course of action would give them a more efficient and powerful Army than they had before. Upon that advice I put the Question which I did put. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: When was it I said this?] Of course, I accept the repudiation of the noble Lord, but will endeavour to furnish him in a day or two with the speech from which I quoted. Sir, I can only express the hope that the questions I have put will be accepted in the spirit in which they were asked; and I trust the Committee will understand that they were asked in an independent and disinterested spirit; for I am neither a disappointed manufacturer or contractor, nor have I any shares or 1526 interest in any journal concerned in pointing out deficiencies in any of our Military Departments. Now, with reference to those blemishes to which so many references have been made, I wish to point out one or two things. I think the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) referred to a "close circle" at Woolwich. No doubt there has existed through all these years what is called a monopoly—that is to say, there has been practically a partnership between the Government and a private firm—that of Armstrong, Mitchell, and Co.—I think the whole history of the subject points to that. The hon. Gentleman who addressed the House just now (Mr. Woodall) stated that Whitworth and Co. had an order for guns. That is quite true; but I think that was given by the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State for War during the short time in which he was in Office last year. Reference has been made to the Ordnance Committee which sat first in June, 1882. That Committee consisted of four Artillery officers and three Naval officers, and the duty of that Ordnance Committee was to report upon, examine, adopt, or reject any designs for improvements in guns. I am sorry to hear that the hon. Gentleman opposite supposes that any imputations at all bordering on dishonesty were made upon the Ordnance Committee. But I fancy the idea is, perhaps, that it would be better if the Gentlemen upon the Committee did not possess any interest, pecuniary or otherwise, in gun manufacturing firms. They probably have to advise, although I do not know to what extent; and with regard to any advice they give, we are quite certain that it is given conscientiously. But it is only natural that if a man has a large interest in any particular firm he should have a prejudice or bias in favour of that firm. He would be more than human if it were not so; and, therefore, with all deference, I submit that it would be more satisfactory to the public, and I venture to think more satisfactory to the gentlemen concerned, that while they are Members, or Associated Members, of the Ordnance Committee they should cease to be members of any firm of ordnance manufacturers. It was only on Thursday last, I think, that in reply to the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir 1527 William Crossman), we were informed that Sir Donald Stewart had at once resigned his position on the directorate of the Nordenfelt Gun Company, on the impropriety of his holding that position being pointed out to him. Therefore, I think it would be better if the gentlemen to whom I have referred were to cease to have any interest in private gun manufacturing firms. [Laughter.] I am not surprised that the noble Lord laughs at that; I am aware that it is impossible to prevent investments in any particular Company by persons holding Crown appointments; but I think it would be better if some pressure were brought to bear upon them for the purpose of inducing them to select investments other than those in question. Now, to proceed to the history of these heavy guns. We will begin with the 6-inch gun, one of which burst on board the Active. Shortly after the first 6-inch gun was designed by Armstrong and Co., in June, 1881, another gun was designed by the Royal Gun Factory at Woolwich, which was supposed to be more efficient, inasmuch as it was to carry a heavier charge with greater muzzle velocity. I believe that altogether 135 guns of this type were made, of which the Navy had 108. In May, 1882, five of these guns burst, and another burst in October; and it was decided by the Ordnance Committee that the charge should be greatly reduced in consequence. But, Sir, a remarkable fact came out before the Committee of Investigation that had to report on the bursting of the Active gun. This was that the Ordnance Committee had signed and sealed the design of the Royal Gun Factory Mark II., and before, as they stated, they had had an opportunity of considering the design! I say that this is rather a remarkable thing for the Ordnance Committee to do. The duty of the Ordnance Committee was to examine that design; but, for some reason or other, they signed and sealed the design without any examination whatever. Then, Sir, I point out that the Ordnance Committee proposes that in future all these guns should be made in steel. Well, that would render obsolete all the guns made of the pattern known as Mark II. Then, with regard to the 100-ton gun, which was the design of Sir William Armstrong; four of these were bought by the Go- 1528 vernment, It is a curious fact that sometime before that the Italian Government had ordered four 100-ton guns, one of which having burst, the Italian Government repudiated the whole number. Were these the four guns that Her Majesty's Government paid for, two of which were sent to Gibraltar, and another to Malta, but none of which have been allowed to be fired? Then, in regard to the 38-ton guns on the Ajax, after a few rounds in practice the vents got out of order, and further practice has been forbidden with these guns. The next gun under consideration is the 43-ton gun, which was designed by the Superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory at Woolwich. It was a gun of this kind which burst on board the Collingwood, and it is this gun which is in question at the present moment. None of these guns are now allowed to be fired; and the idea is that they should be strengthened by chase-hooping. But it seems to me open to some doubt whether this would make them safe; for the strongest gun is no stronger than its weakest part, and, however slight may be the spaces between the "hoops," each space may in itself contain the element of possible risk of fracture. It seems to me the best plan would be to form a complete steel jacket or sleeve to pass over the whole gun. The cost of the chase-hooping is estimated at £25,000. It was suggested by one who was outside the "close circle," at the time that the design of these guns was under consideration, that the weight of the gun was insufficient; and I may mention that a similar gun of the Russian Government has a weight of 51½ tons. Although the suggestion that each gun should have a greater weight of metal was pooh-poohed, yet it has turned out to be correct. Well, Sir, it seems to me neither politic nor wise to come down on the taxpayers for such costly experiments in guns, and which have proved to be of little credit to the British nation. In my opinion, the country requires, and demands, in view of the enormous taxation put upon it by the Admiralty and War Office, a thoroughly efficient supply of guns; that the money voted by Parliament should be properly expended and accurately accounted for. For these reasons, and having regard to the explosions which have taken place on board our ships, and the large 1529 amount of public money which has been spent in recent years, I am inclined to demur to so large a sum being voted as that which is now asked for, and shall move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £50,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,319,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge for the Supply, Manufacture, and Repair of Warlike and other Stores for Land and Sea Service (including Establishments of Manufacturing Departments), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887."—(Colonel Hughes-Hallett.)
§ SIR EDWARD REED
I wish to say a few words on the desire expressed by more than one hon. and gallant Member near me, with regard to giving the Authorities at the Admiralty larger powers than they have already. It is true that, for a long time past, there has been a Director of Naval Ordnance, and that the Navy has also exercised an influence in other ways in connection with the supply of guns for the Navy. But within the whole period of my experience the Navy had thrust upon it guns which, notwithstanding the protests made against them at the time, were absolutely unfit for the Service. The reason of that is that the Navy has had a very subordinate position as regarded the representation in connection with the Gunnery Service, and the War Office a very predominant influence. It is within my own knowledge that, for a number of years, all classes in the Service desired to have breech-loading guns. These guns were refused, and we fell behind as a Naval Power. We are placed in a position of discredit in comparison with the Navies of the world, because the wishes and knowledge of competent naval authorities have been ignored and thwarted by another Department in this matter, and this will continue until some step is taken to bring about a change. Now, the change which has been intimated by my hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Woodall) is a very remarkable one. He proposes to make a concession to the Navy in this respect—namely, that a certain sum is to be taken from the Army Estimates and put on the Navy Estimates. That is all that he proposes, and what will be the immediate effect of that? A great injury, in fact, to the Navy; because the public Press, and 1530 not a few Members of this House, will deal with the corrected Navy Estimates as if they were increased Estimates, so that the change will be detrimental to the Navy, unless there is associated with it another change which will give some real advantage. I should be sorry to say anything with regard to influence, or improper influence, in connection with Public Departments; but I wish, by the way of caution to Her Majesty's Government, to point out that there is a widespread feeling that the relations existing between the Public Service and private individuals are becoming much more intimate than they ought to be. I hope to be forgiven for referring to this, because on this subject the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) recently asked the Committee to accept with implicit confidence, and without question, every statement made from the Treasury Bench by a responsible Minister.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I said "receive statements as made in good faith."
§ SIR EDWARD REED
I have heard statements made in good faith which have been very false and wrong in themselves—very misleading statements. I remember in a former Parliament, when the right hon. Gentleman himself was First Lord of the Admiralty, a paragraph appeared in The Pall Mall Gazette, alleging that an officer of the Admiralty was engaged in designing a ship for a foreign Government, that a Question was put in this House, asking whether that statement was true, and the right hon. Gentleman got up, and, somewhat snubbing the hon. Member who asked it, said there was no truth in it. But I happened to know that there was a good deal of truth in it. An officer of the Admiralty had been employed in furnishing a design. Well, Sir, I stated the facts to the right hon. Gentleman, and he went down to the Admiralty to ascertain whether his statement or mine was correct. I believe that he found mine to be; but I am not aware that up to this time he has withdrawn the snubbing he gave to the hon. Member, or corrected the statement which he made in this House. Some time ago I was invited to the Admiralty by Lord Northbrook, through Mr. Trevelyan, to see a design of one of Her Majesty's 1531 ships, the Impérieuse. I went to see it, and was informed that though the coal supply was 400 tons they had coal space for 900 tons. I pointed out that this was wholly an insufficient supply. Notwithstanding that, the Minister, when he came down to the House, suppressed the fact that the real supply was only 400 tons, and gave it as if it were 900 tons. And thus the matter remained, the House being under the misconception until the noble Lord had explained the real facts of the case. I say that it is not proper that this House should be misled by Ministers, and that if Ministers make inaccurate statements at any time they should come down and correct them as soon as the actual facts come to their knowledge. But what is the state of affairs at present? I have said that the guns have not been supplied to the Navy as desired, and that the consideration of the state of things at present existing will show the reason for this. At the present time the official whose duty it is to advise the Government as to the qualities of different guns, and who should be in a position to form an independent judgment, is actually a consulting official of the Armstrong firm. That is the state of things at this moment. The noble Lord stated that this gentleman is not in receipt of any pay. That may be so; but does the noble Lord suppose that this House will endure the continuance of the state of things, in which the officers of Public Departments are in league with private establishments? For my part, I am sure that the country will rise up and put an end to this system.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
I rise to Order. I observe a disposition to introduce a discussion relating to the supply of ordnance to the Navy; and I wish to ask you, Sir, whether the hon. Gentleman is in Order in alluding to transactions concerning which I shall be perfectly ready to meet him at the proper time, but which I submit do not come within this Vote?
§ THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I understand the hon. Gentleman to be illustrating the connection between a Public Department and private firms. I do not think he has yet committed any breach of Order.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
At this moment the officer most largely interested 1532 in the ordnance of Her Majesty's ships, the man who can bring the most influence to bear upon the expenditure of the money we are now asked to vote, is an officer of Armstrong's firm, inasmuch as he is the consulting officer of the firm. That being so, I certainly do not think my remarks are at all open to objection from the noble Lord opposite (Lord George Hamilton). I do not wish to pursue the subject; but I should have been wanting in justice to myself, and in justice to my constituents and to the Committee, if I had failed to ask the Front Bench to bear in mind that they may easily fall into the error—a very old one—of refusing to see anything wrong in a Public Department when other people see a great deal that is wrong. No good can come from that state of things, either to themselves or to anyone else. With regard to the Collingwood's guns, I must say I am unable to feel the interest in them which some hon. Gentlemen feel. I have very little interest in the Collingwood, and I feel very little confidence in the manner in which the Collingwood's guns are placed in the ship. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Woodall) spoke of the part of the Collingwood's gun which was blown away as being the part which was outside the turret. She does not happen to have any turret. If he calls a barbette a turret, I suppose the whole gun is outside the turret. It is only connected with the machinery within the barbette, and with the ship itself by a couple of straps, each an inch and a half thick. Sir, I believe the ordnance of Her Majesty's Navy has been constructed upon wrong principles, and upon principles very materially unfitted for naval service. The guns that we are dealing with now are to be chase-hooped: they are long slender tubes, preposterous in length, wholly unsuited by virtue of their length for Her Majesty's ships, in many cases projecting from the ship so stupidly, because so extensively, that an enemy need not fire at the ships, but simply swoop past her and break away their guns owing to their imense projection. There are guns in the Naval Service which ought never to have been there, and which no one in his senses ought ever to have thought of putting there. This chase-hooping simply means another case of strengthening up, with additional hoops and additional material, 1533 these guns which are of a slender and improper type. Mr. Courtney, I do not know how it is to be brought about, I am sure; but I am confident that the naval ordnance of the country requires the most searching examination and the most extensive change. When I came down to the House I had no intention of speaking; but I could not help appealing to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) not to give us a speech which will give Parliament and the country no satisfaction, but to create—what I am sorry to say my hon. Friends failed to do—a feeling that the men charged with the responsible duties of the State, confronted as they are with great failures and errors committed in their own Departments, are not insensible to the great wrong that has been done to the country in bringing those failures and errors about, but will use their high abilities and high stations for the purpose of remedying the defects and giving the country what it is entitled to—namely, the very best materials that money will buy.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Mr. Courtney, we see that there is, at least, one advantage in a change of Government. The hon. Gentleman (Sir Edward Reed), who has just sat down, has delivered a speech which I am sure very much interested the Committee, and he has addressed me in terms to which I most cordially and heartily respond. He has asked me to use whatever abilities I possess in order to give the country the very best material it can have, in order to give it the best system which can be produced, so that the conditions which he thinks are injurious to the welfare of the Navy may be put an end to. Well, Sir, for six months the hon. Gentleman sat on this Bench as a Member of the Government; he had previously to that acquired all that extensive knowledge and that great information part of which he has conveyed to the Committee this evening; and not a single word during that six months was uttered to the House and the Government in warning of the course which Her Majesty's Government were pursuing.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
Sir, will the right hon. Gentleman excuse me for saying that he is misrepresenting me in the most extraordinary man- 1534 ner? It is within the memory of hon. Members of this House that I have, over and over again, made statements in it precisely to the same effect that I have made now.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I repeat what I have said, and the Committee may judge whether I am in the slightest degree acting unfairly to the hon. Gentleman. He has great means of information; he has great knowledge as a designer of ships; and he claims to have great knowledge on the subject of guns. He sat on this Bench during the whole of the last six months with the late Government, and he was silent as to the condition of things which he now condemns. I am not responsible for the present condition of things, as he well knows. [Sir EDWARD REED: I did not say so.] I know he did not; but I say it is a marvellous transformation which the hon. Gentleman has executed. The hon. Gentleman takes the opportunity of falling upon his late Colleagues and all who have gone before him in the Offices which they held, for having made false and wrong statements, for refusing to see anything wrong, and for constructing the war material of the country on wrong principles. The hon. Gentleman was good enough to say that statements made in good faith are false and wrong. Now, why are they false and wrong? Because those who know that they are false and wrong have not the courage and the honesty to denounce those who make such statements by name in the House of Commons and in the country. The hon. Member for the Birr Division of King's County (Mr. Molloy) referred, in terms of which I make no complaint whatever, to what he described as the Ordnance scandal. He said that it was believed that there were persons who were receiving commissions and fees; that charges of dishonour had been made publicly in newspapers—charges of a character utterly disgraceful to officers and gentlemen. [Mr. MOLLOY: If true.] Yes, if true. Well, Sir, it is within the recollection of the House that I have appealed to the House, once, twice, thrice, in the course of this Session, to any Member of this House, or any other person who had personal knowledge of any charge to be brought against an officer in the Queen's Service, to state the charge to me, confidentially if he was unwilling 1535 to state it publicly; but under any circumstances to bring it to my notice in such a form that I, with the aid of the Law Officers of the Crown, could find a judicial tribunal to deal with the scandal, whatever it might be. It is a very common belief that Ministers are anxious to screen the Departments over which they are placed; it is a common belief, both inside and outside the House, that we have some interest and motive in protecting abuses and hiding scandals, in covering up the sore. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are supposed to have an interest in preventing the full and complete discovery of any evil that may exist. Speaking for myself, and, I believe, for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, speaking for everyone who has ever held high Office under the Crown, I say there is no one thing we desire more than to be able to put our finger upon any abuse, and to expose it, as the hon. Gentleman (Sir Edward Reed) said, mercilessly. I undertake to say that if any proof—no; I will not say proof, I will rather repeat what I said a few days ago—any primâ facie case can be made out imputing to any single officer in the Ordnance Department malversation, corruption, fraud, or conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, I will find a tribunal which shall deal with the charge, and I will have it investigated to the bottom. I have invited such charges; and in reply I am told the only course which those who make them will take is to make the charges if there be created a tribunal at present unknown to the law. As a condition to bringing these charges to my knowledge, and to the knowledge of the Law Officers of the Crown, it is demanded that the guilty person—the briber if he be a briber—shall be insured against any consequences of his conduct, before he discloses any evidence which will incriminate the person he has bribed. I do not know what the Committee think of a demand of that character—a demand of gentlemen who assert that they have knowledge of these irregularities, a demand of gentlemen who have been in conflict with the Department more or less for the last 10, 15, 20, or 30 years. I make no imputation against them. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Molloy) referred to the fact that there I are inventors. He said that the Ord- 1536 nance Committee has to deal with inventors, and that it is looked upon as a body which occasionally discourages inventors. Well, Sir, inventors are very useful and necessary persons in this country; they have conferred enormous advantages upon it. Steel ordnance is the result of invention, and a great deal more of the strength and power of this country is the result of invention. But there are inventors, as we must all know, who have greater confidence in their own inventions than the most impartial tribunal which is appointed to consider them; and these inventors have arrived at the conclusion that the only cause for the refusal to entertain their invention is corruption; that there is some corrupt personal influence which prevents the Committee entertaining inventions which are to transform the ordnance of the country, which are to give it new life and new power, and make the country absolutely invincible. Well, Sir, if charges are brought by gentlemen in this position in the vague and general manner to which I have referred, I think I am entitled to say, for the protection of officers who have served Her Majesty with unblemished reputation for many years, that I, as Secretary of State, and the Law Officers of the Crown, must be satisfied that there is a primâ facie case, before we undertake to throw upon them the imputation that they are unworthy the commission which they hold in the Service of the Crown. I will not enter upon the discussion which has been dealt with by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff. He says that we refuse to see anything wrong. I have already said, I entreat anybody who knows of anything wrong to bring it to my knowledge; and I repeat that there is no object I desire to obtain more completely than the satisfaction of the public mind, as well as my own mind, as to the perfect integrity with which the Service is conducted. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Molloy) referred to the bayonets which, he said, are useless for the Public Service. I wish to tell the hon. Gentleman that every charge of that kind, whenever it is brought to the knowledge of the authorities, is examined, not by the Department itself, but, as a rule, by a perfectly independent body of officers, who report upon it. This body has no 1537 interest in the matter, except the interest of the Army. If there is any truth in the statement of the hon. Gentleman, we will undertake that the requisite remedy should be forthwith provided. But, from the documents which I possess, I think I could prove, even to the satisfaction of the hon. Gentleman, that as regards bayonets, swords, and other weapons, each case has been dealt with in succession by past Administrations, honestly and openly; openly, because it has been examined, as I have said, by officers who are themselves independent of the War Department. With regard to cartridges, there was, no doubt, a mistake made; but as soon as the matter was brought to the knowledge of the War Department, it was resolved that, from that time forward, solid-drawn cartridges should be issued for service, and an order was sent to Woolwich for a large quantity to be made. Of course, for the purposes of practice the Boxer cartridge is just as good as the solid-drawn cartridge. The hon. Gentleman, referring to the invitation I gave to anyone to come forward with any charge they may have against the Ordnance Department, said I required that the charge should be substantiated. I made no such request. I required, as I have said just now, that a primâ facie case should be made out which would justify an inquiry; just such a case as that which a Grand Jury requires to be made against a prisoner before they pass the bill of indictment. Our object is, undoubtedly, to convict the guilty; and I appeal to the hon. Member, and to every Member of this House, if he has knowledge of any guilty act, not to shield the guilty, but to come to me, or to some other Member of Her Majesty's Government, and to state the facts of the case in any form in which he may think fit, so as to put it in our power to clear up the matter. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) said that the country demands an investigation. The hon. Gentleman the late Surveyor General of the Ordnance (Mr. Woodall) referred to a Committee of Investigation which the late Secretary of State for War appointed. It appears to me that the Reference to the Committee did not include all the subjects which might be interesting and of im- 1538 portance to the country, and I have, therefore, decided to nominate another Committee, or small Commission, to inquire into the complaints which have been made within the last five years as to patterns in warlike stores—and warlike stores include guns, powder, and projectiles of every class—then or now in use in Her Majesty's Service, into the system under which the patterns of such stores have been adopted and the stores passed into the Service, and to report whether any improvement can be effected in the system.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
No, it will not; no Departmental officer will sit on the Committee. It will be made, as far as possible, a Judicial Committee, with the object of providing a complete statement for the satisfaction of the country and of the House of Commons as to the state of affairs at the present time and during the last five years. The result of the inquiry will be made public, and the evidence received by the Committee will be published; therefore, the information will be complete so far as the House is concerned. Now, in appointing this Committee, I desire to say that I, myself, do not cast the slightest imputation or entertain any doubt on the capacity and zeal with which the country has been served during the last five years; but I admit, and everyone who is at all reasonable must admit, that there is an impression abroad that the condition of things is not so good as it ought to be—that mistakes have been made, and, if you please, that fraud has been committed. I hope this Committee will be able to state to the House and the country the accurate state of affairs, and it will be my endeavour to constitute that Committee as strongly and independently as possible. Reference has been made in the course of the debate to the Ordnance Select Committee. I should like to tell the Committee of whom this body is composed. The Committee consists of Lieutenant General Sir Michael Biddulph, as President; Rear Admiral Le Hunte-Ward, as Vice President; Major General Fraser, Royal Artillery; Colonel Bayley, Captain Jenkins, Royal Navy; Lieutenant Colonel Davies, Major Colquhoun, Captain Hammill; and there are two civil members, Mr. Barlow and 1539 Sir Frederick Bramwell. The functions of this Committee are to consider the designs of guns. It has nothing whatever to do with the ordering of the guns; it has no relation of any kind whatever with the makers of the guns; it has simply to consider the designs of the guns by the light of the experiments which are carried on at Shoeburyness, and under its own direction. It has been remarked by some hon. Gentlemen that Sir William Armstrong, Captain Noble, Mr. Gledhill, and Sir Joseph Whitworth were added as Associate Members to this Committee. The hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Woodall) referred to the circumstances under which those gentlemen were asked to serve on the Committee. They had nothing to do as Associate Members with the designs of the guns and their manufacture. They have never been asked to assist the Committee with the view of designing the guns; but when those accidents occurred, when the circumstances seemed to require that the Government should acquire the largest amount of information at their disposal, the Government of the day, through the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) asked these gentlemen, with their knowledge of explosives and construction of guns, knowledge which they had acquired in the conduct of their own business, to assist the Committee. Well, Sir, I am not responsible for the acts of the noble Marquess; but I think it fair to my Predecessors—my political opponents if you like—to say I believe both the noble Marquess and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling (Mr. Oampbell-Bannerman) acted in the best interest of the country in availing themselves of the skill and the knowledge of the only practical gun-makers in England who had any experience in the manufacture of steel; and is it to be supposed that, when an accident occurred, the persons who had most knowledge of the conditions under which a gun is capable of standing the strain and enduring the pressure put upon it, are to be excluded from a Committee, and to be excluded from giving advice to the country, because they had carried on a trade which has given them their knowledge? There are no other persons in England of whom I am aware who possess the knowledge which these 1540 men possess, and I think the late Government did wisely in acquiring the information which these gentlemen could give as to the cause of the bursting of the Collingwood's gun. It must be borne in mind that these guns were not made at Elswick by Sir William Armstrong and Co., or at Manchester by Sir Joseph Whitworth and Co. If they had been made by Sir Joseph Whitworth and Co., or by Sir William Armstrong and Co., it would have been improper to place them on a Committee to determine the cause of the bursting of the gun. If these gentlemen had been actuated by such motives as some hon. Gentlemen imagined, they must have been strongly inclined to find out defects in the make of the gun, because it was not theirs. But let me regard the matter from a still broader standpoint. It is infinitely to the interest of the country that both Armstrong's firm and Whitworth's firm, and any similar firm we can find in this country, should arrive at a process of manufacturing guns which will give perfect confidence and perfect security, and, therefore, the knowledge which they might acquire in the examination of the cause of the bursting of the gun was knowledge which would be beneficial to the country at large, even if it tended to forward their own interests. I have been asked by an hon. Friend behind me whether this Committee is the best body we could find to carry on the work which is entrusted to them. He asks me whether I am of opinion that the Ordnance Committee, which consists, as I have said, of gentlemen belonging to the different branches of the Service and of two civil engineers, is the best Committee for the work they have to do? I think that can be determined by the Committee which I hope to appoint, and which I hope will report very shortly. I can only say for myself that I think the country would not act wisely in rapidly coming to a conclusion that men who have arrived at this position by the process of natural selection, who have not been appointed by any Party influence of any kind or by the influence of any clique, but who have acquired information and knowledge of a most valuable character, should be dismissed because some guns which are perfectly new in manufacture and constructed of material which was unknown for the purpose of gun manu- 1541 facture five years ago have failed. It must be borne in mind that during the last five years we have been passing through a complete change in ordnance manufacture. We have changed from iron to steel; we have changed from small to very heavy and very big guns; we have changed from quick-burning powder to slow-burning powder; and all these changes have been going on together, under circumstances which have thrown a great strain upon the ingenuity and the skill and the knowledge of our mechanics and of our artillerists. I have no doubt I shall be told that other countries have had steel guns. They have had steel guns; we were late in the field. I remember that when I sat on the Front Opposition Bench I urged right hon. and hon. Gentlemen sitting on this Bench to furnish us with steel guns. It is a fact that it is only within the last four years that we have been able to produce the ingot which could be used for heavy steel guns. It is only four years ago that the largest ingot of steel which was used for a steel gun was the 20-ton ingot manufactured by Messrs. Whitworth. Our knowledge we have obtained by hard-earned experiences, by experiences which have, at times, resulted in failure; and I am not prepared to say offhand that because these gentlemen have not been successful in acquiring steel without a flaw, in foreseeing the strain which would be put upon a gun by slow-burning powder in place of quick-burning powder—I am not prepared to say that on these grounds these gentlemen are to be dismissed as not fit to serve Her Majesty. I think it may turn out that they have, by their services, entitled themselves to the gratitude of the country. My hon. Friend also asked a number of questions about the Nordenfelt gun, among others whether it was wise to allow the barrels to be made at Woolwich? I am not prepared to give an answer to that question, but I believe the decision was taken in good faith. It was a matter in which it was exceedingly necessary that there should be no delay, and the War Department were anxious to get the gun as quickly as they could. It was a patented gun, and they were willing to get the assistance of Mr. Nordenfelt, which resulted in the opposition described. I am not responsible for it—I state the fact openly in the House, and I am sure 1542 those who preceded me in Office will he ready to give a good answer on the subject if they are questioned upon it. Then, with regard to a new rifle, I have to say that it had been the subject of careful examination by a Committee of officers—not of the War Department, but officers supposed to have most experience in regard to small arms—their adaptability for purposes of offence, &c.—for four or five years before it was finally adopted. It is said that there have been some alterations in the pattern. There have been none that I am aware of; but, as the hon. Member for Hanley stated, 1,000 stands have been issued for experimental service. The Reports on the subject which have come home will be considered by the Commander-in-Chief and the Adjutant General, and then the Committee will be asked to consider their Report, and to say whether any, and, if so, what, alterations are required in the arm before it is taken into the Service. Here, again, I may repeat that I shall be glad of any suggestions which may be made to me, with a view to improving this or any arm in the Service that it may be intended to adopt, or that may be in course of construction. I am asked by my hon. Friend whether it is open to manufacturers to tender rifles to us of their invention. It is not only open to them, but we invite them to do so, as we are most anxious to avail ourselves of the economical processes and perfections of the weapon which the experience and engineering and mechanical skill of the country can produce for us. But, unhappily, as the hon. Gentleman has said, there are few persons who will devote themselves in this country to the manufacture of warlike stores. It is a small trade in this country; and, though I believe that Woolwich has rendered good service, I exceedingly regret that so much of the work is necessarily done at Woolwich, Enfield, and other Government establishments, and that thus we are deprived of the advantages of the competition of the mechanical skill of the country which we ought to enjoy. Reference has been made to guns for the Navy. I confess I am surprised to hear the remarks on this subject of some hon. Gentlemen who ought to be better informed. No gun has been adopted for the Navy which has not been sanctioned by the First Lord of the 1543 Admiralty for the time being, and the Director General of Naval Ordnance, who is responsible for every gun taken into the Service, and who has the assistance of a Vice Admiral and two competent officers who are members of the Ordnance Committee to advise him as to all the changes that are going forward. So that, at the present day, the Admiralty is virtually responsible for every gun now on board Her Majesty's ships. The hon. Gentleman asks—"Is not the Government prepared to go beyond that?" I agree with all that has been said about making the Navy alone responsible for its own munitions of war. I have urged that in and out of Office for a very long time, and have been consistent in the view I have entertained; and I hope, with the assistance of my noble Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill), who is all-powerful in matters of this kind, that we shall obtain the consent of the Treasury to the proposed change, and that for the future the responsibility will rest with the Navy for the supply of all material of every kind which is required in its own branch of the Service. They may go to Woolwich for such guns as Woolwich may supply, or to the Whitworth Company for such as they can purchase from that firm; for they will have a perfectly free hand. Speaking on behalf of the Army, I would say that we have no reason to regret the liberty which such a course will afford us, and, besides, it will be a business-like change for the better which ought to have been made years ago. It is unreasonable that one Department should have a checking and controlling voice over the armaments of another Department. The War Office does not gain by the influence it exercises. Besides, the whole service of the manufacturing Departments of the Army will be as completely and thoroughly at the disposal of the Navy in the altered circumstances—which I hope will very soon take effect—as they have been in the past. There will be no jealousy; but, on the contrary, there will be every disposition to give the Navy our hearty co-operation in enabling them to furnish themselves with the very best guns they can obtain. I will not follow hon. Gentlemen who have spoken into all the points they have touched upon. It has been a cross fire. Some hon. Gentlemen 1544 have answered each other. I dare say the information which I have given on the part of the Government may have some effect on the course of the discussion. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Devonport (Captain Price) spoke of a "gun ring" between the War Office, Woolwich, and Elswick. I wish the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and other Gentlemen who may entertain any views of that kind, would satisfy themselves as to the facts of the case. If they would go into the actual condition of affairs—if they would only plod through papers and documents—they would find that we had occasion to complain, some little time ago, that there was jealousy between Woolwich and Elswick, and that there were complaints made in this House and out of it that Elswick did not get its fair proportion of orders, and that Woolwich was anxious to keep back from Elswick information which its own experience enabled it to obtain, lest it should be in some way injured. I believe these statements were just as baseless as those about the "tripartite alliance" or co-partnerships which is supposed to exist at the present time. But this I will say—if any Gentleman in this House or out of it will convey to me information or facts of any kind, showing the existence of any unholy alliance such as has been suggested, I shall be most grateful for the information, and most thankful for the opportunity he will give me to render service to the country. It was said, I think, that Mr. Krupp was badly treated; but that was not the case. It is going into a very old story; but the facts are these. Mr. Krupp came here some years ago and offered a gun for trial at Shoeburyness, if the Government would give him an order for £2,000,000 worth of ammunition and guns in the event of the gun being successful. Well, that was rather a large order; and, much as I admire Mr. Krupp, who is a very able man of business, much as I acknowledge his success as a manufacturer of guns, still I think the Government of the day were not wrong in refusing to enter blindly into a proposal of that kind.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman are we to understand that Mr. Krupp declined to make guns for this country unless he received orders to the extent of £2,000,000?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I never said that. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that Mr. Krupp was badly treated, and that we declined to try a gun which he offered us for that purpose. The fact was that he offered a gun on certain conditions, one of them being that there was to be a very large order given to him.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Yes, if the gun succeeded. As to the carts used in 1881, there, again, we have gained experience. I admit that the carts at that time were not of a proper character. The circumstances now have greatly changed, and it is perhaps fortunate sometimes that events happen in the Service which enable us to realize our own great defects. I admit, to the fullest extent, what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) stated.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
What I said was that the rotten harness caused a loss of the rations and medicines which were needed by the men in time of action, but which did not arrive until after the necessity for them was over.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I admit that the evidence given before the Committee bore out the statement the hon. Gentleman made. All I can say is this—that I will take good care, and the country, I am sure, will take good care, that no such circumstances shall arise again. The hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne (Admiral Field) complained that Captain Fisher, of the Excellent, was not put on the Committee of Inquiry to which he referred. Well, it has not been the custom for one Department of the Service to nominate an officer of another Department on a Committee of this kind; but I believe application in the matter was made to the heads of the Departments, who declined to nominate another naval officer, believing that they had in that one already appointed a person capable of fully representing his branch of the Service. I must apologize for troubling the Committee at such great length; but I am anxious to reassure hon. Members of the sincerity of my desire to act in these matters in perfect good faith. In conclusion, I may say I do not believe I am mistaken or deceived in the perfect honour and integrity of the officers who are 1546 serving under me at the War Office at the present time. I am bound to say that, in the strongest and most emphatic terms, I believe that they are doing good service to the State, and that they are giving stores of their information, of their skill, and of their observation to the State, which information and knowledge, if given to private manufacturing firms, would insure them an enormously increased annual remuneration. We have evidence of that. To our knowledge, when gentlemen of perfect honour and character have carried their abilities and information into the arena of commercial life, they have succeeded in a marvellous manner when compared with the comparatively small pittance which they received in the Government Service. I shall continue to believe in their integrity and honour and in their absolute impartiality, until I have evidence to the contrary; and I challenge hon. Gentleman and the world to bring to me evidence which will impugn their honour and their character.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
I rise to make, with the indulgence of the Committee, a short personal explanation. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) has made a very serious charge relating to the appointment of an official at the Admiralty. I rose to Order when the hon. Gentleman spoke, for when hon. Gentlemen make a charge against the officials of the Admiralty, it seems to me only fair that the Representative of that Department should have an opportunity of replying to that charge, which, under ordinary Rules, it would be out of Order for him to do. Perhaps I may be permitted, under the circumstances, to say what the facts were. Last year the naval designer, Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, placed his resignation in my hands. I took an opportunity of consulting two or three gentleman in confidence as to the best person to succeed Sir Nathaniel Barnaby. On that all-important point I was informed by these gentlemen, who came to a unanimous opinion, that Mr. White, the naval designer of Sir William Armstrong's firm, was the person best qualified to fill the vacant office. I opened negotiations with the Armstrong Company, and with Mr. White, who was in receipt of a far larger income than he would have at the Admiralty. 1547 Sir William Armstrong and his Directors were most reluctant to part with Mr. White, as they attached great value to his services in connection with certain ships which were then being built by the firm, and with other work. As, however, it was a question of national importance, they consented to give him up, and all the pecuniary relations between Mr. White and the Armstrong Company were terminated. Sir William Armstrong, however, asked that, during the remainder of the period in which Mr. White had contracted to servo the firm, they might consult him, on the understanding that no such consultations should interfere with his duties or be inconsistent with the position which he occupied at the Admiralty. That was the arrangement made, and I think it was, therefore, not quite fair for the hon. Member to make the remarks he did upon this matter.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I do not think that any further explanation is necessary. The noble Lord has now replied, and both sides have been stated to the Committee.
§ SIR HENRY TYLER (Great Yarmouth)
As regards the charges of corruption which have been referred to, until they are made specifically and have been proved, I, for one, shall refuse to give them credence. But I think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) has left the subject of the bursting of the gun on board the Collingwood in a most unsatisfactory condition. When a gun of this kind bursts on board a vessel, we naturally want to know distinctly the reason why it has burst. I, myself, have asked questions on the subject of Ministers on both sides of the House from time to time, and I have been told that a Committee has been appointed to inquire into the matter. I am told that the Report of that Committee is prepared, but is not yet circulated. But we have had descriptions of it from hon. Members, and I gather from these descriptions that, although certain points have been dealt with in the Report, there is one most important matter that the Committee have omitted to deal with. We may sum up that Report from the descriptions 1548 we have heard of it, by saying the gun burst in consequence of bad material having been employed—having been ill-employed—and because, through bad material having been employed, and ill-employed, it was unable to stand the strain it was required to stand. But there is another very important matter which the Committee did not deal with, and that is the twist, and the increasing twist, in the rifling of the gun. So far as I have been informed, I believe that all the guns that have burst have been constructed with an increasing twist. The effect of that increased twist is, of course, to impart a greater amount of spin to the shot as it leaves the gun. That is the object of increasing the twist. But, on the other hand, the effect of increasing the twist is to increase the liability of the shot to jam in the rifling, as it goes down the gun, and the point at which it would be likely to jam would probably not be far from the point at which the Collingwood gun burst. Now, that effect would be still more increased by this slow-burning powder which is used. When that powder is fired, it burns more and more as the shot goes down the gun, and the velocity of the shot goes on increasing, and also its twist up to a certain point, and its liability to jam. Such a result, it is not unreasonable to expect under such circumstances as were produced on board the Thunderer. It was urged that that accident was due to the gun having been double-shotted; but that I do not credit, and, I believe, that the gun burst through the shot jamming in the rifling. I think this question of twist is one that should have been referred to the Committee. I asked the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), in this House, specially to refer that point to the Committee, and he promised to do so. He, however, failed to carry out his promise, or, at any rate, the Committee failed to take any notice of the point. In my opinion, their Report is worth very little until they have dealt with that part of the subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) does not, I think, quite understand the dissatisfaction which some of us feel at the constitution of the Committee. They have 1549 made their Report; it is a Report by officers, eminent engineers, and gentlemen who have all been more or less mixed up with the designing and manufacture of these guns. Now, there is one golden rule in all these matters—namely, that if there is a failure to be inquired into, it should be inquired into by entirely independent people who hare had nothing to do with the construction of that which has failed. Therefore, I think this inquiry ought to have been conducted by other than those who had anything to do with the design or manufacture of these guns. My right hon. Friend says that there are no other people in the country to whom we could apply for information about guns, and to whom we could commit this question of guns, or, in fact, who understand anything about guns, than the gentlemen who composed this Committee. He would have us believe that they had been chosen on the principle of natural selection. Well, Sir, I venture to put it to hon. Members that the Committee were appointed entirely on a principle of unnatural selection, and those who are acquainted with the history of the way in which Sir William Armstrong commenced to make guns—of the alliance between him and the War Department, of the facilities and money afforded to him, and the encouragement extended to him, enabling him to make a large fortune, to set up his enormous establishment, and to obtain orders from Foreign Powers—will, I think, believe, and believe firmly and rightly, and nothing will induce them to accept a contrary view, that there has been an alliance between the War Department and Elswick, such as has not conduced to the benefit of this country. I say such as has not conduced to the benefit of this country, because it has narrowed the channel and reduced us to this—that there are too few people in the country who have had experience in the manufacture of guns. I know very well what inventors are, and how much trouble they very often give. My 23 years as a Government official gave me about as large an acquaintance as anyone with these gentlemen. I have been compelled to discuss matters with them for hours together, and I know that comparatively few of them have anything good to suggest, and they are sometimes very obstinate people, in- 1550 sisting upon the value and certainty of their theories, however wrong in principle. But, though I know what mere inventors are as a class, I do not agree that there are not other talented and practical designers and manufacturers in the country who could turn their attention to the question of guns, save those the Government have associated with them. If I wanted to procure good guns for the country to-morrow, I should offer a prize, and a very handsome prize, to anyone who would design and manufacture the best guns to accomplish specified objects for the good of the Service; and I believe that in that way you would bring in others than Sir William Armstrong, or Sir Joseph Whit-worth, or their firms, who would give you good advice. This country is not deficient in talent or mechanical genius, or anything else, if only you give free scope to it. But, in this matter of guns, you have been in a narrow channel throughout, and it is because you have been in a narrow channel that our defences are now in such a deplorable condition. What is our position? Why, our engineers are unable to build forts, our naval constructors are unable to build ships, because you cannot give them the guns wherewith to arm them. Another cause of the unfortunate state of things which prevails is, that those Gentlemen on both sides of the House who have filled the position of Secretary of State for War—two of them were sitting on the Front Bench opposite to-night, and one was sitting on the Front Bench below me—when Questions have been put to them, have devoted more ingenuity in finding plausible answers, than they have ever exercised in the attempt to thoroughly appreciate the condition of things which has led to those Questions being put. We must all admit the ability with which the ex-Surveyor General of the Ordnance (Mr. Woodall) smoothed over all difficulties, and made us fancy that, possibly, all our ideas were wrong, and strove to make everything pleasant all round. For my own part, I can say that I have never listened to anything better, in its way, of extreme optimism, than the speech of the hon. Gentleman. But that is not the way to bring about improvement. I hope that the Government will now look our defects fairly in the face, and set to work in such a manner that we shall be able to place 1551 guns in all our ships and forts, with which we can more confidently ask our soldiers and sailors to meet an enemy.
§ COLONEL HUGHES-HALLETT
Sir, I am satisfied with, the announcement that has been made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, and therefore desire, with the consent of the Committee, to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)
I should like to say a few words on this Vote with regard to those who have come in for a share of blame. I understood the Secretary of State for War to say the late Board of Admiralty were not free from blame in this matter. It is true that the Admiralty were, to a certain extent, answerable for the design of guns.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
What I said was that the Admiralty is responsible for the design of the guns, not for their manufacture. I never intended to convey that they were responsible for both those two distinct points.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
I quite understand the right hon. Gentleman; but I certainly understood him to blame the Admiralty. It was certainly not the view of the late First Lord of the Admiralty that the Admiralty were responsible. Of course, the Admiralty cannot be responsible for guns made at Woolwich, having no control whatever over that Department. I have heard with pleasure what has been said by the Secretary of State for War as to the change with respect to naval ordnance. It is quite illogical that the Admiralty should not order their own guns as well as their own carriages; and that was distinctly the view of the late Board of Admiralty, and I am glad that it is intended that there should be a continuity of policy. I am certain that there has been a deal of friction caused between the two Departments in consequence of the Admiralty getting the carriages and the War Office the guns. I remember that the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) made a speech in which he advocated this principle now to be adopted, and I am glad that he has a responsible position in the Admiralty Department, because, now, effect will be given 1552 to principles he previously advocated. I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Admiral Field) went a little too far when he said that the men in the Navy had lost all confidence in these guns, and that he has rather confused the question of the guns that will be on board the Collingtoood very shortly. What happened was this. The late First Lord had a conversation with a distinguished officer, who recommended that the other guns should be chase-hooped; but the next day he had an interview with my right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), and he said that instead of chase-hooping these guns he would prefer a gun of a more approved type, originally intended for land service. The trunnions were being taken off the guns, and I believe that when these guns are placed on board the Collingwood they will be guns in which the men will have confidence. I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend would say anything which would cause alarm to the men in the Navy; but I wish to say that the late Board of Admiralty took every possible precaution to get the best guns they could from the War Department, and that the guns it is now proposed to mount on board the Collingwood will be the best guns afloat. As the Representative of the late Board of Admiralty, I wish to state that we took every possible pains to secure the best guns for the Naval Service, and I am glad to hear that we are at last about to give the Naval Department power to go into the market and get the best guns they can for themselves. I think that will be a great improvement. The late Board were about to appoint a Committee, and the Admiralty and the War Office had agreed as to the scope of inquiry; the question was as to what the Reference to that Committee should be. Upon this point there was some difference between the Departments. The Admiralty agreed that the Committee should be appointed, but no agreement was arrived at as to the Reference. I should be glad to know whether that question has been settled? The difficulty as to the Reference arose with the Treasury, and I should like to hear that that point has now been arranged.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's County, Birr)
Sir, with regard to this question, I do 1553 not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War could have made any other answer than he has made, because I think he is properly bound to defend those with whom he is associated, and if I were in his place I would do the same. The right hon. Gentleman, however, made one or two mistakes in the course of his remarks upon this subject. He challenged me to bring forward evidence of the charges made. When I stated the case, I said that I did so simply on public grounds, and that it was notorious at the present time; I said that personally I had no knowledge of the matter, and that I did not know the names of those who were associated with these charges. I do not suppose that the charges were directed against those gentlemen whose names he read out. The charges I made were specific and connected with contracts. Although I admit the right hon. Gentleman has made the best answer he could under the circumstances, I do not think that the answer which he has made is entirely satisfactory; because, rightly or wrongly, the public have it in their mind that scandals exist. Currency has been given in some degree to charges connected with private establishments which cannot be passed over without notice being taken of them. I pointed out that not only was it a question of convicting the guilty of impropriety, but that in justice to those in control of the Department I thought the Government were bound to have an investigation, either to convict the guilty, if guilty, or to defend the innocent. I do not therefore think that the public will be satisfied with the answer of the right hon. Gentleman. One word about another matter—I do not wish to be mixed up in this question, and I simply made the statement on public grounds upon the allegations contained in the public Press. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) drew attention to the point with regard to the harness used in Egypt. The excuses for the condition in which this was found to be was that it had been in store for some time; but I would point out that those who know anything about harness, have the idea that it rather improves than otherwise by remaining in store. But the fact is, that it was an inferior article that was purchased, whether from wrong motives or other- 1554 wise I do not say. It is an easy thing, in order to save a few pounds, to purchase an inferior article; but it is not a small thing, because the most important results may depend upon it. There is one cause which underlies all these matters—it is red-tapism from beginning to end.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)
It is very important, when we see that some of the Great Powers are adopting magazine rifles or repeating arms of some kind, to ascertain what is the position of this country with regard to our armaments. Anyone who recollects the Campaign of 1866 will remember that when the breech-loader was introduced it gave a decided advantage to the nation which was armed with it, and England was the only Great Power which was not taken by surprise at the time. A Committee, of which Sir David Russell was President, had inquired into the subject, and the result was that it had been decided to adopt a breech-loading armament before the War of 1866 had demonstrated the absolute necessity for its adoption. Sir, I want the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to see that this country shall not be behindhand in adopting an arm which has been partially adopted by other nations; because, if one nation adopts a good repeating arm, depend upon it all other Powers have to follow suit. Now, with reference to these large guns. Having been a friend of the late Sir William Palliser, I recollect the difficulties which he underwent in connection with his inventions. There was at that time no suspicion of peculation, nor do I believe there is any foundation for such a suspicion now, but there was an idea that inventions were not treated with impartiality; and that is one of the things which we have now to look to. We must be sure that we have upon the Ordnance Committee no man whose judgment is warped by his own invention or prejudiced against the inventions of others. I admit that it is difficult to get men who are not interested in some particular form of invention; but we must be perfectly sure that that is not the case with regard to the members of our Ordnance Committee With reference to the chase-hooping of the guns, it will be recollected that Sir William Palliser strengthened the cast- 1555 iron ordnance in this country by inserting a steel interior tube; and I venture to think that that principle would be found to be stronger than exterior hoops. It is true that the diameter of the gun has to be sacrificed in this mode of treatment by the insertion of the tube; but I knew that Sir William Palliser consulted some of the best mathematical authorities, who were satisfied that this plan gave the greatest amount of strength. To my mind, I think it would be better for us to introduce a naval element into the Manufacturing Department at Woolwich; because it is even more important to have the very best guns in the Navy than in the Army. We have some competent naval officers, of the Excellent school, and I cannot see why the Manufacturing Department at Woolwich should not have a naval element associated with it. This is a subject which I sincerely trust the right hon. Gentleman will take into serious consideration; because, in the matter of armaments, this country is very apt to go from one extreme to another.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
We are aware that great and grave charges have been made against the Ordnance Department; and, in answer to a Question put by myself and other hon. Members, the right hon. Gentleman stated that, in view of the confidential character of the subject, he would submit the communications sent to him to the Law Officers of the Crown and be guided by them as to the proceedings it might be advisable to take. Now, Sir, statements have been made in newspapers as to certain confidential communications which have been made to the right hon. Gentleman, and the question I have to ask is this—Have such communications been made to the right hon. Gentleman; and, if so, what action has he decided to take? I should like to receive a clear answer from the right hon. Gentleman on this subject. I would also ask the nature of those communications? I am aware that such communications would be treated as confidential; but there is a limit to a promise of that kind, and, therefore, I shall be glad to know the nature of the evidence submitted to him, and the course he intends to take? I am sure that this further information would add to the general reassuring character 1556 of the answer he has given this evening.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
Before my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) replies to the hon. Member who has just spoken, I should wish to make a few observations with reference to the speech of the hon. Member for the Birr Division of King's County (Mr. Molloy); and I think it is desirable that this matter should be clearly understood, as I have been associated with my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General in advising my right hon. Friend as to the course to betaken. I agree with every word which my right hon. Friend has said to-night. It has been stated more than once in the public papers that the Law Officers of the Crown have decided that the charges have not been substantiated. It shows how little those who write these statements in the Press understand the matter. The simple fact is, that the charges have not been made. It is easy to say that persons have been receiving commissions, or have been guilty of corruption, or of conspiracy. Anyone would imagine that the law of England was incapable of dealing with such crimes; but the fact is, that if an instance were brought before the Secretary of State for War of an official of the Government having been bribed, or having received commissions corruptly, the law is perfectly competent to deal with cases of the kind; and I am satisfied that the Secretary of State for War would be about the last man who would hesitate to expose any case brought before him. It is not because gentlemen in the public Press make general charges, giving no dates, giving no names or particulars, against men who have been in the Public Service for 10, 15, and 20 years, that Officers of State can act. Before they are put on their trial at all there must be something approaching a primâ facie case. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War stated more than once to-night that, if anybody would bring before him not proof, but what he properly called a primâ facie case—that is to say, dates, incidents, and persons—he would not hesitate to bring to light any transaction, whatever it might be. But we certainly protest against its being suggested that we should endeavour to get information by 1557 promising to screen the very persons who are supposed to be culprits. With regard to the instance quoted by the hon. Member (Mr. Molloy), probably the hon. Member has not refreshed his memory by referring to the record of the facts. In that particular instance, I wish to point out that the particular charge of misconduct was stated in detail in the House of Commons; names were given and dates also, and it was upon that a Committee was appointed. The hon. and gallant Member for Rochester (Colonel Hughes-Hallett) said that it rested upon the Government to prove that the present charges are without foundation. But it is absolutely impossible to prove that they are without foundation, when all that is brought forward are vague and general statements. I can only say that I feel quite as strongly as hon. Gentlemen opposite the duty of those representing the Executive Government to search into and probe to the bottom any charge brought against a Public Department, or any public official; but we cannot lend any countenance to vague statements. It is the duty of those who have charge of the public interests to see that something like a primâ facie case is laid down before they can act. As I have said, the law is perfectly competent to deal with bribery, corruption, or conspiracy, and, indeed, with any misconduct of the kind; and I am convinced that if grounds were shown Her Majesty's Government would not hesitate for one moment to put the law into force.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, South-East)
Sir, as a Cavalry officer, I wish to refer to a Question which, some days ago, I ventured to put to the Surveyor General of Ordnance with reference to supplies, the answer which I received not being absolutely correct. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) has stated that the saddles were issued experimentally; but, Sir, I cannot think the issue of 3,000 saddles could be regarded in the light of experiment, and, therefore, I cannot admit that the explanation is satisfactory. A great many of the saddles were not used, because they fell to pieces through bad manufacture, and were, therefore, utterly useless. Of the large number of saddles issued to the Dragoon Guards four months ago, about 400 saddles were returned as 1558 useless, on account of the scandalous workmanship and manufacture. The nails, which ought to have been made of steel, were of the commonest cast-iron; and the screws, instead of being screwed in, were driven in with hammers. I wish to point out that one of the Inspectors who passed these had been in the employ of the contractor by whom those saddles were made. Taking into consideration also what the hon. Member opposite calls the more or less faulty construction of the swords issued to another regiment, I hope the Committee will not think that I have unnecessarily called their attention to the subject.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
The right hon. Gentleman has not replied to the question which I asked. I wish to know whether any certain confidential communications have been made to the right hon. Gentleman?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I have received two communications, both of which were referred to the Law Officers, and which, in the judgment of the Law Officers, did not contain anything with which I could deal. We require full information, dates, names, and circumstances, and of this the writers were informed. In one case only have I received an answer to the effect that the information would not be furnished to me, or to anyone else, unless a Royal Commission or other tribunal was appointed, having power to exonerate the guilty parties. I will not, however, be a party to exonerating any of the guilty parties. It is in that position I now stand, and I still invite communications being made to me with regard to any individuals. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Blundell) has referred to the question of guns. As I understand it, no alterations in the external fittings of the guns will be necessary. The 14 chase-hooped guns will be taken from the Navy and used for land purposes. The Navy will receive guns of a new design and of a much stronger character, and which will not be chase-hooped. My hon. and gallant Friend also spoke of the magazine rifle. A new magazine rifle is in course of construction, which it is intended to try exhaustively with a view to its introduction into the Service.
SIR FREDERICK FITZ-WYGRAM (Hants, Fareham)
Mr. Courtney, I had intended to make some observations in 1559 reply to the statement made by the hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. Northcote) in answer to a Question put to him last week by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South-East Essex (Major Rasch). I think the hon. Gentleman's observations were more favourable to the Ordnance Manufacturing Department than was altogether warranted by the facts of the case. He attributed the failure of the new saddles to the pattern; but I, as the officer who is mainly responsible for the pattern of the new saddles, attribute the failure chiefly to the manufacturers themselves. I do not, however, intend to trouble the Committee with any lengthened observations on the subject, because I am perfectly content to refer the question to the independent Committee which the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) has promised to appoint to inquire into such matters. But while the Surveyor General attributes the failure of the new saddlery to a defective pattern, I, on the other hand, attribute it to bad manufacture, to bad supervision, and to a thoroughly and hopelessly incompetent Inspector of Saddlery.
§ THE SURVEYOR GENERAL OF ORDNANCE (Mr. NORTHCOTE) (Exeter)
The discussion upon this Vote has already lasted so long that I think it will be convenient to the Committee that I should compress my remarks in the briefest possible space. With regard to the remarks made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir Frederick Fitz-Wygram), and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Major Rasch), I have to say that, concerning the new saddlery, there is a distinct conflict of testimony. My hon. and gallant Friends say that the fault lies with the contractor, while the Department attribute it to the design or pattern. Under these circumstances, I have consulted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and he and I think it would be convenient and proper that a Committee of Inquiry should be held, before which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South-East Essex will have an opportunity of proving the statements he has made. Then, a point was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rochester (Colonel Hughes-Hallett) with respect to the Nordenfelt guns. I must 1560 remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Committee that only thebarrels—and by barrels I had intended, when answering a previous Question, to include jackets—are made at Woolwich, the remaining portions of the mechanism—the sights, carriage, and elevating gear, &c, being made elsewhere. A heavy royalty has to be paid to the contractor; indeed, I do not deny that Mr. Nordenfelt does make a good profit out of his gun. Of course, if the War Office buy a gun on which there is a royalty, they must pay the royalty. I am not personally responsible for the transaction. There is one other point which has been commented upon a good deal in the Press, and that is the failure of the swords of the 2nd Dragoon Guards. Some Questions have been asked me on the point, and I have had the most careful inquiry made at the War Office in regard to the matter. All that I can ascertain is, that in the early part of 1885 two swords were reported as broken; one was broken by being jammed the wrong way into the scabbard, and the other was broken in striking against another sword. The two swords were tested, and condemned as bad, and the swords of the regiment were subjected to an examination similar to that applied to the weapons of other Cavalry regiments. Undoubtedly, a very large number of the swords proved bad; they were condemned, and replaced by better weapons. Just before the regiment proceeded to India, in the autumn, the India Office thought they would like the men to be armed with the new Enfield weapon, and they were accordingly served out. That is all the information I have got. I am sure it cannot be said that I have concealed any facts from the Committee. The statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has dealt, as far as is possible, with the different items of this Vote; and, considering that in that statement he promises the appointment of a Committee—a Committee which will have large powers, and be able to make very full and searching investigations into the alleged deficiencies of the War Office—I venture to express the hope that the Committee will see its way now to pass the Vote.
§ GENERAL FRASER (Lambeth, N.)
One word only have I to say with re- 1561 gard to the swords. It is beyond doubt that the swords of 1882 were far from what they ought to have been—the question of whether they were over or under-tempered, is a question of the past—but the sword of 1885 is good. I hope that the swords that will henceforth be supplied will conform to the required standard. I have had some considerable experience, and I can, with truth, say that the English blades are appreciated in India. I know that one firm in this country is making 2,000 blades for India. After what has happened, I trust the Secretary of State will prevent any future contract being taken out of the country.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
Mr. Courtney, the observations I wish to address to the Committee will not occupy many minutes. In one respect the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) was, I think, eminently satisfactory. He has shown that he is capable of defending the reputation and position of the officials of distinction and experience in the Department over which he presides, and they must certainly feel that whatever charges, anonymously or otherwise, are made against them while he is at the head of the War Office, they have in him, at any rate, a man who will stand between them and any unfair insinuations. But, Sir, at the same time, it will be generally felt, I think, to be a matter of very great regret that the charges which have been whispered in all directions now for some months past have not been either established or disproved. I regret this, not in the interest of the gentleman who is so assiduous in disseminating them, but in the interest of many officers who are in delicate official positions, who cannot defend themselves personally, and who, perhaps, without the least demerit on their own part, are open to all kinds of suspicions and insinuations and whisperings which are of the most painful character. Under these circumstances, it is a matter of regret that Colonel Hope's charges cannot be met, and either established or disproved. With regard to the public aspect of the question, as to the efficiency of the guns in the Public Service, it is a matter of congratulation that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has decided to 1562 appoint a Committee, not of a Departmental character, but one which can be fully trusted to deal impartially with the whole question, and investigate everything from an independent point of view. There is one point upon which I should like to ask a question. It is in reference to the change of system which has been resolved upon with regard to then aval ordnance. I understand from the Secretary of State that, hereafter, the Admiralty is to be in a position to go where it will for its guns, to buy its guns either from the War Department or from any other institution capable of supplying them. The question I desire to ask is, What will be the immediate effect of the alteration upon the Army Estimates and upon the Navy Estimates? It seems to me that there ought to be some economical effect on the Army Estimates, but that, on the other hand, there will, in all probability, be some addition made to the Navy Estimates. I am afraid that, however small that addition may be in the immediate future, there is a very great possibility of the ideas of the Admiralty, in the more remote future, extending very considerably, and that we shall have possibly an application for a second Ordnance Committee—a Naval Ordnance Committee—so that the economical effect for the country generally may be of a very doubtful character. On this point I hope the right hon. Gentleman opposite may be able to enlighten us.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL) (Paddington, S.)
The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) must recollect that the Government have been in Office but a very short time, and therefore it is impossible for them to state in any amount of detail the exact nature of the change which they hope to be in a position to carry out. The exact financial effect of it will be, at any rate from my point of view, that the country will know exactly what the Navy costs, and exactly what the Army costs, and the same check will be imposed upon the Navy with regard to ordnance as is now imposed upon the Army by the Treasury. The only difference will be that the Navy will be responsible for the whole of its expenditure, and in no circumstances will it be able to shift that responsibility upon another Department. 1563 I do not wish the hon. Member to suppose that so large a change as that can be carried out, except after the lapse of some reasonable time; nor do I think the hon. Member will press the Government for details as to the exact manner in which it will be carried out.
§ MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN (Stirling)
I am entirely in favour of the change which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) has announced; and I may say that while I was Secretary to the Admiralty I succeeded in transferring to the Admiralty Vote the charge for gun-carriages, which was a considerable step in the direction of the proposed change, so that I have given proof of the sincerity of my desire to see an alteration effected. I am bound to say there is some ground for the fear just expressed by the hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), because, unless the matter is closely watched, there may be a tendency on the part of each Department to create an Ordnance business of its own, and there will no longer be the complete security there is at present for the interchangeability of stores or arms which, being obsolete for one Service, may yet be available for the other. But, after all, that is a small matter compared with the great object of securing the direct responsibility of the Admiralty for the armament of the Navy. From the point of view of the Army, it is most desirable that the Army Estimates should be relieved of this very great charge which the Navy ordnance entails. Well, Sir, the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry is also very satisfactory. It is possible there may be more truth than we think there is in some of these accusations brought against the manner in which the Departments have been conducted; and it is necessary to inspire not only the country, but the two Services, with perfect confidence in the guns which the latter have to use. It is one of the traditions remaining in the minds of all who have watched these matters, how much we suffer from the scare which occurred a few years ago when a breech-loading gun was issued in large numbers to the Navy, and, owing to some accident, failed to secure the confidence of officers and men of the Fleet. The result was, that all that had been done had to be 1564 undone, and that enormous expenditure was incurred without any advantage whatever. Now, the first condition is, that however we obtain our guns, or materials of war, the men who use them should have confidence in them; and if there is any idea in the minds of the officers and men of the Navy that they are not used well in this respect, surely it is most desirable, by any means in our power, to remove that apprehension or impression. It is a very large subject with a great many branches, and it is not easy to see how the inquiry can be conducted. I will now say a few words on the unpleasant subject that has been so much before us to-night—namely, the charges of corruption or malpractices on the part of the officers of the Ordnance Department. When those charges were first published in the prominent way in which they have come before the country, I was responsible for the War Department, and I have no other desire myself—and I am bound to say that the officers of the Department had no other desire—than that those charges should be investigated and refuted; but the difficulty was, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite has indicated, that there was really no foundation on which we could proceed. A vague charge of corruption, or of undue influence of certain firms, is not a matter which can be brought to the test of inquiry in the proper way. The Authorities might have appointed a Committee or a Commission to inquire into the question; but that method of procedure would not have got to the bottom of the matter. It was absolutely necessary to proceed in one of two ways—either by criminal prosecution against the offenders, or else by inducing Parliament to consent to the appointment of a Commission with the power of examining witnesses on oath, calling for the production of papers, and, what is the usual accompaniment of such power, the protection of witnesses. Now, Sir, I asked myself, how can I go to Parliament and ask it to appoint any such Commission? I should have to come to the Table of this House and say—"Mr. Speaker, I wish Parliament to assent to the appointment of a Commission with these extraordinary powers, because someone has said somewhere that some particular officials have done something which is corrupt, I know not 1565 where, when, or how." I venture to say that if the Secretary of State for War or any Minister of the Crown appealed to Parliament on such grounds, Parliament would refuse to grant the inquiry sought. I do not believe that there is any case of a Royal Commission with such powers being constituted, without, at all events, a primâ facie case being made out for investigation. I agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman said on the subject. I have the most perfect confidence in the integrity and honour of all the officers, both military and civil, who are concerned. I will say for them, that while I was at the War Office, they gave me no peace in their anxiety to have these charges brought to the test of public examination, and I endeavoured to satisfy their very natural feelings on the subject by making the explanation to them which I have just made to the Committee, and by calling upon those who made the charges and insinuations to supply me with the material on which I could base an appeal to Parliament for the powers previously mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has to-night made a similar appeal, and I trust that that appeal may be responded to, and that the alleged facts which underlie these rumours may be forthcoming, in order that satisfaction may be given, not only to the officers whose characters are assailed, but also to the public at large. But, putting aside that particular charge, there are other questions which may be inquired into with reference to the Ordnance Department. There is, first of all, the large question of the type and design of guns and other material of war. What would be done by an inquiry into that subject? We have already this Ordnance Committee. The Ordnance Committee is a body of whose constitution many who write and speak on this subject appear to be lamentably ignorant. The Ordnance Committee has nothing to do with the War Office, except that some of its members are appointed by the Secretary of State. It is a perfectly independent body; it is only a consultative body, and has no executive and administrative power whatever. All it has to do is to give independent advice to the Admiralty and the War Office on the question of armament. The members of this body ought to be the best naval and military officers available, and there are associated with them such 1566 authorities as Sir Frederick Bramwell and Mr. Barlow, who are placed on the Committee because of their intimate knowledge of metals and kindred subjects with which the Committee have to deal. But then it is said that there are added to this body members of certain great gunmaking firms. My noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who was in the House during the early part of the debate, asked me, as he was unable now to be present himself, to explain to the Committee why he added these members in 1885. There was no question then of asking the Committee, so strengthened, either to reject, condemn, or approve any guns whatever. The responsibility for approving or rejecting a gun lies with the Secretary of State for War; but when the noble Marquess asked those Members of the two eminent firms to join the Committee, he told them that recent accidents in the new types of breech-loading guns had indicated the necessity of modifying, to a certain extent, their construction; and, by the direction of the Surveyor General of Ordnance, designs of existing breech-loading guns and of other guns of the future would be submitted to them. They were merely asked to examine those guns, which were of an already obsolete type, but which were believed to be serviceable, and to say whether they ought to be strengthened, in view of the experience obtained. It has been said to-night that no gentleman ought to have served on the Committee without previously resigning his connection with the firm to which he belonged; but I should like to say, as to that, that he was appointed on the Committee because he belonged to the firm. It is a most extraordinary proposal. We wish to gain the best information we can find. To whom do we go? To the gunmaking firms of the country, the rivals of Woolwich. We wish to get their assistance; we wish also that they should, for their own benefit and the benefit of the country, gain any knowledge that may be attained from the experience of what has occurred; and I certainly think that so far from requiring any justification, the action of my noble Friend, in appointing these gentlemen, was one which the Committee will undoubtedly approve. In the course of time a certain gun met with an accident. This 1567 gun, having been approved and passed into the Service by this Committee, the chase exploded. Then it occurred to me, as the wisest course to take, that I should summon the same gentlemen, both of the Ordnance Committee itself, and also the Associated Members, who had approved the gun for service, to meet together and see how they could account for what happened. That is the whole story of how those names happened to be associated in the matter. The Report they have made is now before the Committee, and those who have technical knowledge sufficient to enable them to understand it, may judge of it for themselves. But I wish to make it perfectly plain that this is a body independent altogether of the officials of the War Office and the Ordnance Department. It is a body, I am bound to say, on which I have always looked with some jealousy and suspicion. I was in the War Office as Financial Secretary at the time it was created, and my objection to it was that it would be a cause of expense; that an independent body of this kind would be always proposing the adoption of new inventions, and would therefore tend perhaps to the undue expenditure of money. But in this case, however, the Committee will see that they have acted exactly in the opposite direction. While they might very well have rejected what was before them, and might have caused expenditure to be laid out on the gun before it was received into the Service, they, on the contrary, admitted it; and it is only now that they recommend that the guns of that class should be chase-hooped. It was decided that no more of these guns Should be used for naval purposes; but the Military Authorities, not having the same low opinion of them as is held by the Naval Authorities, believe that they will be found perfectly suitable when hooped for land service. We might further inquire into the source of supply, into the question whether we should manufacture guns ourselves, or whether we should encourage more largely than we do the independent manufacturing trades of the country. We have always endeavoured, as far as we could, to encourage the independent manufacturing trade; but I believe it is absolutely necessary to maintain an Arsenal and Manufacturing Establishment of our own at Woolwich. At the same, time it would 1568 be the greatest mistake and folly on our part if we allowed them to monopolize altogether the gunmaking business of the country; on the contrary, we should give every encouragement in our power to the creation and development of local manufactures. Then there is the further question whether the superintendence of the whole of this expenditure in the War Office is now arranged in the best way possible for the Public Service? I confess that is a point on which I have some doubts, I am not sure that the distribution of responsibility and duties in reference to the control of the Ordnance Department and the other Departments of the War Office is absolutely perfect. That, however, is a matter quite by itself, but one which might very well be taken into consideration by the right hon. Gentleman. Lastly, I come to a much smaller question, but one of great importance, as to which I myself appointed a Committee—namely, an inquiry into the Manufacturing Departments, as to whether they were economically and efficiently administered. I appointed a Committee of business men, who, I believe, have already commenced their labours; and I am sure that, whatever may be done in reference to other branches of the Service, their inquiries will be of the greatest advantage. The right hon. Gentleman now says he is going to appoint another Commission to inquire into all the complaints made as to military stores and the mode of their issue to the Service. Well, I quite agree that that is a most important thing to be inquired into. It was in my mind after the inquiry had been made into the Manufacturing Departments—that is to say, into the way in which material of war was manufactured—further to inquire into the method in which this material is stored and distributed in the Army. I trust that the further Commission the right hon. Gentleman indicates will make an exhaustive inquiry, and have an important result in pointing out the various respects in which the present system may be improved. I do not know that I have anything further to say. I can only repeat what has been said so often to-night—namely, that these charges of corruption, which are new matter and quite foreign to all the other questions of the efficiency of the Service, having been made ought to be supported with sufficient evidence, 1569 or put upon a sufficient foundation, to enable an inquiry to be made. I am confident, from my knowledge of the officers concerned, that any inquiry of this kind would only prove their perfect integrity and innocence of the charges brought against them.
§ ADMIRAL SIR JOHN COMMERELL (Southampton)
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell - Bannerman) has spoken of the bursting of one particular gun; but has he any knowledge of the other accidents which, have occurred to the heavy ordnance?
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War has made, as he always does make, a very sensible speech on most of the questions before us; but I do not intend to follow him through all the matters he touched upon. I will not go into this charge of corruption with which he has dealt, except to say that I do not believe in it for a moment, so far as the Heads of Departments are concerned. No doubt, there is, and always will be, the possibility of some minor official getting such a thing as a £5 note by some means which would not bear a searching scrutiny—even a large sum of money may now and then be made by an official in a transaction which, if put under a powerful microscope, might look very big. But I do not wish to talk about the officials. I should like to put before the Committee my view of the way in which all the evil that is complained of has occurred; I desire to draw the attention of the House to the very root of the matter. We must go back 15 or 16 years to find the origin of the present mistakes in our gun-making. What is the most noticeable feature in the history of English gunnery? Why, that for 10 years we adhered to muzzle-loading, when all the rest of the world had adopted the breech-loading system, and that got us into a different school of gunnery to anyone else. Since the American War there have only been three schools of gunnery in the world—the Woolwich and Elswick school, the Krupp, and the French school. There was absolutely no other school. Russia and the Germans followed Krupp; the Austrian system was partly Krupp, partly Armstrong, and partly their own; the Italian system was partly Krupp; but in this country we had strenuously refused to have any- 1570 thing to do with breech-loading for 10 or 12 years. The muzzle-loading system was backed up by one of the powerful Parties in the State—it was backed up, to a certain extent, by both Parties, but more strenuously by one than the other. Sir John Adye was in favour of it, and Sir John, as everyone knew, was a most clever and able officer. He was a man of very great talent, whose opinion on all military matters, save one, was of the greatest weight. Able and talented as was this officer, he had led the country in a wrong direction for a period of about 10 years, and had put the country to a useless expenditure of about £3,000,000. I took the liberty of pointing out to the House many times that the policy which was being per-sued in regard to the manufacture of guns was a mistaken one; but in those days there were very few Artillery officers in the House, and in the very few there were I am reckoning naval officers. That state of things, however, has passed away, and there are now many Artillery officers here. I say, I warned the Governments of years ago that they were not pursuing a sound policy in their manufacture of guns; and, modest and humble Member as I am, I must say that if my warning had been listened to, and my advice taken, a waste of about £3,000,000 would have been saved the country. You went on a different tack to the whole world—you would not take advice or example from the French or from the Germans. I admit that since 1880 the breech-loading system has had a powerful friend in the present Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith). That right hon. Gentleman asked many questions of the Military Authorities across the Table; and though, when in Office himself, he had not perhaps brought the subject of breech-loading into much prominence, hesitating to insist upon the fact that his Colleagues were wrong, I give him the credit of having long been a convert to the breech-loading system. About five or six years ago all who had supported the muzzle-loading system came to see the utter folly of their case. The evidences before them were too strong for them, and they were reluctantly compelled to yield. You may hide for a long time the fact that you are wrong by diverting attention to minor matters; but you cannot go on concealing your 1571 error for ever. Six years ago, then, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, when he went out of Office, asked many questions upon this matter. It will be remembered that he had not long occupied the position of First Lord of the Admiralty in the Government which had just gone out. He had been Secretary to the Treasury for some years, and had been promoted to the position of First Lord of the Admiralty; and it was whilst connected with this Department that he saw the desirability of changing our system of gunmaking. The country began to change its views on the matter about this time. Mr. Krupp produced some magnificent guns, and we soon saw that they were far superior to our own. Then came the rush. It was officially declared by Colonel Maitland, in a lecture delivered by him, that all our own guns must be considered obsolete; but that all that was wanted to put our armaments in an efficient condition was four years' time and plenty of money. If I am not mistaken the then Secretary of State for War, the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), was present at that lecture; and I believe that when the question of money was mentioned he not only left the place himself, asking the present Secretary of State to take the Chair in his place, but took with him the Financial Secretary. A large amount of money was asked for, for the officials in the Gun Factory had to make a rush for the breech-loading system, and I do not wonder at a great many mistakes having been made as a consequence of that rush and hurry. They tried to get velocities equal to Krupp's, believing that everything that the French did was bad. With our own guns we had been reducing the velocity by some 500 feet or 600 feet, and that was a much more serious thing than having a gun burst occasionally, though the sailors may not think so. The reduction of velocity by some 500 feet or 600 feet might mean the loss of a battle, if it were to be decided by gunnery; but the bursting of a gun could have no such effect. Our Ordnance Authorities, I say, would not go to France for patterns; but they took Krupp as a guide. They wrote a letter to which the Secretary of State has alluded. I remember putting a Question in this House on the subject, 1572 and I was told that Krupp had been applied to to give us a gun; but that he had replied that he could only give us one on condition that if, having been submitted to tests, the weapon was considered satisfactory, an order should be given to him to the extent of £1,000,000. ["No, no!"] I know the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War knows better than I; I am only trusting to my memory as to what another Secretary of State said, and I may be wrong in my recollection, or that other Secretary of State may have been incorrect in his statement. I believe it is a fact that Krupp would not give a gun unless we undertook to take £1,000,000 worth or £2,000,000 worth of ordnance from him. [Captain PRICE: When was that?] It was, I think, within a year of the debate on breech-loading in this House. We refused Krupp's terms, and cut ourselves off from all sources of information—we cut ourselves off from Krupp and from the French, although we have, to some extent, since adopted the French method of breech-loading, and have borrowed something of Krupp's manner of construction. We have taken the rings which strengthen the gun from Krupp, although, in the case of the gun that burst, we had not adopted this style. Krupp seems always to have used rings in the construction of his heavy ordnance, and that appears to be a great objection; but, although it is an objection, it seems to be an essential. He always puts on a few rings. We, no doubt, committed a fault in the first instance; but I think it was only a technical fault. The hon. and gallant Admiral opposite (Sir John Commerell) says that the Navy has got into a great tantrum—and in referring to the hon. and gallant Admiral I would congratulate ate him upon his political views; I only wish he had shown adhesion to them by his votes in the last Parliament. It is all very well for him to hold the advanced views he does on naval matters; but it is very different with him when he comes to vote on matters of general policy. Well, he says the Navy has got into a great tantrum, and, so far as I can see, he is quite right; for the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) when he took the House of Commons, or a great part of it, to Portsmouth, found that the officers there appeared to be in a state of panic. The noble Lord and 1573 those he took with him found that the whole of our gunnery was wrong. It was found that the velocity of our guns was reduced; and, as I have said, reducing the velocity of the shot is a much more serious thing than having an occasional burst. I do not see how you can hope to compete with other nations in high velocities without having a few burstings. It is a minor matter altogether how you are going to produce these guns, and I do not see why you should not have the Krupp rings. "We have something of the same kind on our Elswick guns; in fact, when I saw Krupp's guns I could not help thinking that Armstrong had taken a great deal from Krupp, and that Krupp had taken a great deal from Armstrong. I would say to the Government—"Do not neglect what foreign nations are doing at present; do not neglect to profit by what is being done in a great school like that of France." I do not say that the present Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) is neglecting what is being done by foreign nations, or that the late Secretary of State did so; but I would impress upon them that they cannot be too much on the alert in these matters. There is another point of mixed naval and military administration which has come before the House in which it appears to me that great dangers are involved, and I should like to say a word or two upon it, particularly as it has been noticed by the late Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that if you separate the Army from the Navy in matters affecting ordnance you will involve the country in great expense. I will go further, and I will say that you will not only involve the country in great expense by your attempt, but that, in the long run, you will find your new system unworkable. I say have a mixed Committee, and if you will not have the naval element predominate upon it, then let the military element predominate. There can be no doubt that if there is to be a choice between the Army and Navy, the Navy should have the best guns, because our ships can go everywhere, and are of the highest importance for the defence of the country—indeed, the defence of the country depends upon them. On the other hand, there are a large number of second and third class forts, and even first class forts, which, with somewhat 1574 inferior guns, will be very formidable. If you adopt this separate system, the result will be that whenever the Navy have improved their guns, and hand the old patterns over to the Army—which they must do as a matter of necessity, because, as I say, the Navy must have the best guns, whilst the inferior ones can be put on our fortifications—the Land Service will very naturally protest against having these second-hand articles given over to them. They will refuse to take the guns; of course you will be able to force them to do so; but in this way you will put the Land Forces in the ridiculous position of not knowing what guns they are going to receive, of not being prepared for them, and not knowing how to use them, when they do receive them. I think the Navy ought to have a considerable voice in this matter of gunnery, if you like the principal or preponderating voice; but I certainly think that if you divide your Gunnery Department into two you will make a very great mistake. You must remember the complicated nature of modern artillery. You must recollect that you have not only to decide upon the pattern of the gun, but also as to the shell, the fuse, the powder, the carriage, and everything else; and in making your selection you should have in view the requirements of each Service. If you do not adopt, as far as possible, the same pattern in both Services, you will very likely go wrong. I quite think that the money which is expended on ordnance for the Navy should be put in the Navy Estimates; but, while it is an open question whether the Navy or the Army should have the preponderating voice, I do not think it would be wise to divide the Gunnery Establishment into two. Otherwise, I think that the speech we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) is a very re-assuring one. The technical matter stated by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) that you can make your guns too long is a matter I will not go into; but I certainly was surprised to hear a man of his scientific attainments speak as he did upon this subject.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
Military officers generally are agreed that the Ordnance Department is not managed in the way it 1575 ought to be. Many military officers in this House, and many out of it, are far from satisfied with the management; and seeing the large amount of money which is asked for—namely, £2,500,000—I certainly think its expenditure should be in the hands of the most capable people. I agree with that which fell from the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Southampton (Admiral Sir John Commerell), and with what has fallen from several military Members here. I noticed just now that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said that when complaints were made of the jamming of a cartridge or bursting of a gun or anything else, immediately a special inquiry was made into the matter. That may be true; but I ask why should we wait for accidents to occur before we take measures to ascertain the defects of our ordnance? Why should you wait until you see letters in The Times from their correspondents before you take steps to find out whether the cartridges supplied to the troops jam, and whether the soldier, who has to trust his life to the excellence of the weapons served out, has the very best weapon which can be produced? The country, I am sure, would be willing to pay for that weapon whatever its cost. It is not fair to the soldier to send him on foreign service to face an enemy with an inefficient weapon in his hand, nor is it right that the armaments of the country, or any of them, should be purchased from abroad. This is a great manufacturing country; there is a geat deal of distress amongst the artizan and labouring classes; there are factories closed and people at this moment starving, and in want of employment; and I, therefore, hold that any orders which it may be necessary to place for arms should be given in this country. I trust that on every hand it will be pressed on the Ordnance Department that no material should be ordered from abroad. By keeping these manufactures in our own hands we shall have this advantage—that in the event of a war breaking out we shall be able to supply what we want for ourselves, without being put to the necessity of making application to a foreign country, which might prove unable or unwilling to meet our demand. In making these remarks about the Ordnance Department I am entirely unprejudiced. I 1576 am simply speaking from a sense of duty, and because I believe that the Army has very often been sacrificed to political exigencies. I hope that the present Secretary of State for War will be allowed to remain at the head of the War Department so long as the present Government remains in power, so that at last we may have a chance of getting the deficiencies that exist in the Department rectified and put to rights.
§ CAPTAIN COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)
I am not going to attempt many observations at this hour of the evening; but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War whether he can give the Committee any assurance that the guns which are not approved of in the Navy, and are condemned, will not be sent out to our coaling stations or Colonies? I need not give any reasons for putting this question. I am sure both the present and the late Secretary of State for War, with the correspondence they have had before them, will see the great importance to this country of not laying itself open to the imputations by our Colonies—which are erecting fortifications on their sea-boards—that we are sending inferior articles to them to arm those fortifications.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that no material will be sent to a foreign station that is not perfect.
§ MR. J. F. X. O'BRIEN (Mayo, S.)
I think we ought to protest against the advice given by an hon. and gallant Member to Her Majesty's Government. He recommends them to sell, or dispose of, to our friends the Turks, these guns that have been so much condemned; but I imagine it would be more desirable to dispose of them to our probable enemies the Russians. On the whole, Sir, I think we have reason to congratulate ourselves upon the result of this debate. No one can doubt that the public mind has been for a long time uneasy in regard to the subjects which have been touched on in this debate; and it is satisfactory to know that at length steps are about to be taken to put an end to the state of things which has been so much complained of. It is a very demoralizing thing that so many rumours should have been circulated, and that such grave alarms should have been created in the public mind. If it is possible, these 1577 rumours should be now dispelled—these alarms should be quieted. As to the rumours being well founded, if we only refer to the state of things which existed in France previous to the Franco-Prussian War we shall find ample evidence to convince us that when the public mind is disturbed, and no adequate measures are adopted to remove the cause of the alarm, very serious consequences may soon come about. I am sorry to say, as far as I am concerned, that our interests in this matter are very secondary; in fact, our interest is confined to the pecuniary portion of the question. Our country is, at the present time, very heavily taxed; and we cannot, therefore, afford to waste any more money. It is our interest, then, to see that this waste does not go on; because of the money that is wasted Ireland has to bear her share. We are interested to this extent besides—that the armament of the country, of which Ireland pays her share, should be properly provided for; and that interest, it is to be expected, will be greatly increased when this House takes into consideration a Home Rule Bill for Ireland, such as that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). Meantime, and until Ireland is accorded a Volunteer Force of her own, I think it is but fair that an equivalent money contribution should be made to Ireland.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ (2.) £465,800, to complete the sum for Works, Buildings, &c. at Home and Abroad.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, North-West)
On this Vote there is one question with regard to the defence of coaling stations on which I should like to have some information. Will the right hon. Gentleman state how much money has been expended on those works? I see that only £60,000 is asked for of the sum to be expended—£300,000. This is a snbject which demands very careful consideration at the hands of Her Majesty's Government; and there is a strong desire to know what is intended to be done with regard to works which are all important to the defence of the Empire.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I may say that the 1578 amount provided for in this Vote is not so large as, if I had been responsible for the preparation of these Estimates, I should have asked Parliament to grant. I fully agree with the tenour of the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend, and I can assure him that our object is one which I believe the late Government had also in view—namely, the completion of these works in a way that will conduce to the economical expenditure of the money voted by Parliament. It is, of course, possible that an unwise expenditure might take place by undertaking more work than it is possible to do; and, under the present circumstances, I do not think I should be justified in asking now for a larger expenditure of public money than is here provided for. To a large extent the Colonies themselves are providing for the works, while their armament is being provided by this country.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I wish to refer to an important question which has not yet been brought under the notice of the Committee—I refer to the defensive works for the completion of harbours. This subject was considered in the year before last, and we find that a certain amount of money is asked for submarine defences in connection with these harbours. The opinion is that sufficient attention is not paid to the great importance of protecting our commerce; and that fact must bring to the mind of anyone acquainted with the subject the consideration that if our commerce is not efficiently protected this country must decline. The harbours around the coasts of England, Ireland, and Scotland are in such a condition that, practically speaking, if a war were to break out to-morrow our commerce would suffer to a considerable extent. Cork Harbour is, of course, fairly well defended; the forts on both sides of the harbour being in a fair state. These forts were commenced years ago, however, and yet Fort Carlisle is unfinished. It was only a short time ago that some heavy guns intended for the fort were left for days lying alongside the pier, because there was no suitable apparatus for lifting them; and when that difficulty was got over they could not be got into the fort. I hope the Secretary of State for War will pay attention to the backward state of the defences of the port. Labour at the pre- 1579 sent time is cheap, and there is no doubt that a great deal of misery and starvation exists in these Realms; and, accordingly, there could be no more proper time in which to employ a considerable amount of labour upon works of this kind. We find that with regard to them there is a great deal of backwardness and want of diligence. We know that we are on the verge of a troubled period—that a great war might break out; that there is a disturbed state of things in the Balkan Provinces; and that, therefore, we ought to be prepared. Well, Sir, there is another part of the Harbour of Cork which is not in such a state of defence as it should be. I refer to Fort Westmoreland, commonly known as Spike Island, which it was supposed could be put in a pretty forward state in the course of 12 months, and fitted up for a battalion of Infantry. I have heard that the works are not progressing as they ought; and that the Military Authorities are taking things very easily. They are trying to tide over things, in which attempt they are assisted by the state of the weather, and by the excuse that they are changing Spike Island into a depôt for Militia, who are sent there for training, and also for the benefit of the sea air and bathing, an arrangement which, although it might be of advantage to the Militia, is not, in my opinion, to the interest of the district, or the country. I maintain that the Government should at once take this work in hand, and as soon as possible carry out the original design, which everyone is looking forward, to. Then, I turn to the Harbour of Waterford. Waterford has not a very large trade, perhaps; but there is a considerable amount of commerce in connection with the locality; and we know that the harbour is thoroughly undefended. Passing to the Port of Dublin, I remark that were any of those iron-clads, which Italy and other foreign countries possess, to make the attempt, they could, without any difficulty whatever, destroy the Port of Dublin, and that is equally true with regard to the Ports of Belfast and Derry. Now, I think it is really time that Her Majesty's Government, whether Liberal or Conservative, in consideration of the large amount of money spent by the Naval and Military Departments of the State, should see that these 1580 works are carried out, and that they should not lose sight of the great importance of defending our harbours of commerce, but pursue to the utmost the policy of protecting our Commercial Navy. And not only do these remarks apply to the harbours of Ireland, but they apply with even greater force to the harbours of Great Britain. What would be the position of a great commercial city like Liverpool if a war were to break out to-morrow; and what would, be the position of Glasgow or Edinburgh? I see that a certain amount of money is to be appropriated especially for the defence of the Tyne, and also a very small amount, having regard to the importance of the subject, for Ireland. Taking into consideration the state of the coast defences in Great Britain and Ireland, I feel that hon. Gentlemen will recognize the importance of this question. The South Coast of England is well provided for. But why? Because the South Coast faces the enemy. This does not apply to the West Coast and the harbours upon the West and East Coasts, which are attainable in most weathers, and are consequently readily assailable. Then I find that the amount of money granted for the defence of coaling stations is not being expended as rapidly as it ought to be. The total amount originally voted was£331,251, of which £43,750 has already been voted, and £50,000 is asked for for the present year. With regard to this, I think that the interests involved are of such importance that we ought to proceed to the expenditure of the sum originally voted on the principle that we should not make two bites of a cherry. I think this is a question that ought to be settled and brought to a termination at once, and that right hon. Gentlemen should look forward and take notice of the dangers and difficulties which might at any time beset the nation; and I am convinced that if this is done it will be not only a wise precaution in itself, but one which will be emphatically endorsed by this House and the country.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
I should be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman as to the state of the fortifications at Hong Kong; and, further, if we have any reliable guns that we can send out there?
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
I feel some hesitation 1581 in addressing the Committee after the number of speeches which have been made in connection with these Estimates; but there is a very simple question which I should like to bring under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. I should be glad to know whether I can obtain the support of the right hon. Gentleman to the proposal for providing some recreation ground for the soldiers of the garrison of London? Perhaps the Committee will allow me to remark that the number of troops in the London garrisons is at least 5,000, and that it is the only garrison of the size that is without means of recreation. I think it is only right and fair that, as a soldier, I should urge upon the Government the desirability, the necessity, and the common sense of providing a means of recreation for British soldiers in the Metropolis. It is not my intention to go into the details of the subject; but I think I may fairly urge that a question of this sort is of interest to all concerned, not only in the welfare of this particular garrison, but also for the maintenance of order throughout the Metropolis. There are certain newspapers which seem to be ready to take every opportunity of condemning the conduct of the soldiers who form part of the garrison of the Metropolis. I think if those who make these attacks were also acquainted with the great temptations to which soldiers are exposed, and the great want of those national recreations which are the great safeguard against temptation, that they would not be so willing to withhold their approval from such a plan as I propose. I trust that it will be found to be in the power of the right hon. Gentleman to provide some ground for the recreation and amusement of our soldiers, and that the proposal will receive his favourable consideration. I am quite certain, in that case, that the Army will think that they can have no more sympathetic and kind friend than the right hon. Gentleman. I venture also to express a hope that the Committee will not be backward in supporting the Secretary of State for War in carrying out a proposal which will be an act of common sense as well as fair play to the soldier.
§ THE SURVEYOR GENERAL OF ORDNANCE (Mr. NORTHCOTE) (Exeter)
I think the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) will find, when my right hon. 1582 Friend the Secretary of State for War makes his statement to the House next year, that we have not been neglectful of the importance of the subject of the defence of commercial harbours. It is now engaging the attention of Her Majesty's Government, and the hon. Member himself has admitted that they have not been entirely idle in this respect. The work is being pursued with considerable activity at Hartlepool, Dublin, and Belfast. With regard to Hong Kong, I am informed that the works there are in an advanced state, and it is hoped that they will be ready next year, when the guns will be sent out. In reply to the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken, I can assure him that the question of providing a recreation ground for the troops of the garrison of London shall receive the most careful consideration of Her Majesty's Government.
§ DR. TANNER
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman at what time it is contemplated that the work on the Irish harbours will be proceeded with; and whether it is contemplated to employ civil labour at Fort Westmoreland?
§ CAPTAIN COLOMB
I did not gather from the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General of the Ordnance whether the guns for the works at Hong Kong were ready, and I should be glad to have a statement upon that subject. I will also ask what progress has been made with the works at Singapore; and whether the armament will be ready by the time the works are completed?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am unable to give the exact information asked for by my hon. and gallant Friend; but he is probably aware that a certain programme was laid down for four years, and I may say that that programme will be adhered to.
§ DR. TANNER
I find that the amount of money to be expended on Fort Westmoreland is £3,000, while there is a sum of £5,000 for the purchase of land for a house for the officer commanding the district. I think this will show the way in which these works are being proceeded with.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the manner in which he stimulates the zeal of the Department; but it will be satisfactory for him to know that the expenditure on the house for the General commanding 1583 in the district is an amount that would otherwise hare to be paid.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (3.) £73,600, to complete the sum for Establishments for Military Education.
§ CAPTAIN SELWYN (Cambridge, Wisbech)
I should like, on this Vote, to call the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War's attention to the question of the Staff College. I find that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction as to the Staff College, on account of the regimental officer being compelled to do student's duty during the term—exceeding, as a rule, two years—he is practising his studies at the Staff College. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) can, without increasing the Vote, hold out any hope that the grievance will be redressed. I have no doubt that many hon. Members present do not really understand what the grievance is. It is a grievance of the regimental officers, and they are so much concerned that, at the present time, an officer who is known to be reading for the Staff College becomes from that very fact unpopular, simply because, if he was successful, they for two years would be compelled to do his duty. Indeed, it is not only for two years that they are compelled to do this, but for the additional time, generally four months, which the officer has to spend in study with other arms. If the right hon. Gentleman can hold out any hope that the regimental officers will not be required to perform this extra duty, a great deal will be done to allay the dissatisfaction that at present exists.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR OFFICE (Mr. BRODRICK) (Surrey, Guildford)
The matter to which ray hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Selwyn) has referred has only now been brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith); but he will take care that due consideration is given to it.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I should like to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) and of the Committee to the condition of the Medical Establishment at Netley. As far as I understand, Net- 1584 ley is intended, first of all, as an examining body; and, secondly, as a training school, where young medical men, who enter the Army Medical Department, are fitted for the position they are afterwards to hold in the Service. I would suggest to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee whether it would not be advisable, bearing in mind the few facts I brought to the attention of the Committee last night, to enlarge the school at Netley, with a view of making it so large as to enable the officers belonging to the Army Medical Service, who have spent a long time either abroad or in isolated districts at home, to come up and obtain fresh information concerning their Profession? We all know that in time a man gets stale as regards his Profession unless he reads in order to keep pace with the times. I would suggest that officers belonging to the Army Medical Department should, as they pass from one stage of their service to another, be obliged to return to Netley; that Netley should be made a place of general instruction for medical officers of all grades; that it should be made a great educational establishment, capable of conferring benefit upon the Profession and credit upon the country. From time to time I have heard many complaints that officers of the Army Medical Department are not afforded the facilities which, in the interest of the Army as well of themselves, ought to be afforded them. In France military surgeons are obliged from time to time to attend hospital, in order that they may ascertain what is going on in the medical world. Such is the case, too, in Germany. I have been in classes in Berlin where most of the men were members of the Army Medical Department. It does not follow that because a military surgeon might happen to be Deputy Inspector of Hospitals he is not obliged to go to Berlin and go through a course of medical training when his time comes round. The same state of things should obtain in this country. We know that when a young medical man joins the Army he knows a great deal more about his business than he does when he has been in the Service 10 years. Such a thing ought not to be. As a man grows older, he ought to be more fitted and capable to deal with the cases intrusted to his care. 1585 That is not the case in the Army Medical Service. I challenge anyone to prove that that is the case. We have had complaints over and over again about this state of things; and I ask the military men in the House to stand up in their places and let us know whether it is not the fact, generally speaking, that if they want good medical treatment in the Army, they apply not to the old surgeon-major, but to one of the young and pushing assistant surgeons? I also wish to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that good assistant surgeons, who are able to make their mark in the Service, do not remain in it; they only stay in the Service a short time, because the advantages I have specified are not extended to them. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to examine the statistics in regard to this matter; because, if he does, he will find that all the assistant surgeons who pass first or second at Netley leave the Army in a very short time, unless they have got some other connection with the Service. I trust that the grievance may be remedied; it is not a theoretical, but a practical grievance. If you want practical men you must teach them practically. You must afford them practical instruction. Unfortunately, that is not the case. You have got a magnificent hospital at Netley; all you want to do is to enlarge it and its operations.
§ MR. BRODRICK
In reply to the hon. Member opposite (Dr. Tanner), I have to say that the Government are fully aware of the advantages of a course of training at Netley. A very considerable increase in the number of students has taken place, which has necessitated a slight increase in the pre-Bent Vote. Beyond that, the matter has been under the consideration of the Government; and, in some respects, the information gained points to conclusions similar to those arrived at by the hon. Member. Of course, any reform in the direction which the hon. Gentleman suggests would create a very considerable charge upon the Exchequer; but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will, nevertheless, give the fullest possible consideration to the views of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (4.) £17,100, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Effective Services.1586
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) a question with respect to Sub-head H—"Expenses arising from Prevention of Contagious Diseases." The question crops up upon the present Estimates, inasmuch as the Estimates were made up before the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts. The late Government said they would deal with this matter; but I suppose they did not remain in Office long enough to take it into mature consideration. I do not desire at this moment to urge the Government to take any particular step, and I do not wish to raise any debate on the subject of the Contagious Diseases Acts, which are now repealed and disposed of finally. I merely take the opportunity of calling attention to the question on the present occasion, with the view of inducing them to put matters straight, so to speak, before they bring in the next Estimates. I have avoided bringing up this matter on other Votes, and I shall avoid bringing it up on any other Vote of the present Estimate, although, if hon. Members will turn to page 81, they will see that besides the £5,514 which has been expended, or, at least, which has to be voted for the general expenses of hospitals, there is a sum not far short of that amount, included in various Votes, intended to be devoted to purposes connected with the Contagious Diseases Acts. For instance, in Vote 9, Sub-head G, £552 is taken for police. There are a good many items of that kind. While I bring this matter up for the future consideration of the Government, there is one point upon which I should like some information now. £500 is taken "for carrying out similar measures in the Colonies." That item is £100 greater than it was in the previous year. That increase is, no doubt, owing to some reason which we can have explained to us. But what I particularly wish to impress upon the right hon. Gentlemen who are now managing the affairs of the Army and Navy is that the vote of the House in repealing the Contagious Diseases Acts is considered by myself, and those who with me took part in the agitation against the Acts, to extend to the Crown Colonies, and to those Dependencies which are directly under the control of Parliament, or of Ministers and officers responsible to Parliament. Therefore, 1587 this item of £500 "for carrying out similar measures in the Colonies" is one upon which I should like some statement from the Government.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, I should like to offer one or two observations with respect to the question raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Stuart). The hon. Member seems to be of opinion that the supervision should be as light as possible, and that every facility should be given, for the propagation of these diseases. I am of a different opinion. I think that the late Government acted in a most unjustifiable manner, and for this reason—they practically repealed an Act of Parliament, which had been agreed to by both Houses of Parliament and assented to by Her Majesty, by a simple Resolution of one House of Parliament. I hold that that is a most unconstitutional proceeding on the part of the late Government. If they had wished to act in a proper manner, they should have introduced a Bill for the repeal of the Acts; and if the two Houses of Parliament agreed to the repeal, then they would have been perfectly justified in not putting the Acts in operation. As long as the Acts remain it is the duty of the Government to have them properly and fairly administered.
§ MR. JAMES STUART
The hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) is about six months behind the fair. A Bill to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts was introduced and passed through both this and the other House. It was passed through this House early in April this year nemine contradicente, and I should have thought every Member was aware of that fact. Any Member who is not aware of that fact is justly described as being behind the fair.
§ MR. BRODRICK
In reply to the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Stuart) there is no question that the Contagious Diseases Acts were repealed, and the Government are prepared to give a loyal expression to the views which Parliament has taken. The sum appearing in the Estimates was placed in them before the decision of Parliament was taken. It is continued for these hospitals; but it will disappear from the Estimates at the close of the present financial year.
MR. M. J.KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
Is the Secretary of State able to give any statistics showing the increase or decrease which has taken place since the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts? When the first Resolution against the Acts was passed in 1884 the Acts ceased, I believe, to be worked; and the Secretary of State for War—the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington)—was able to give the House some figures which were, at the time, considered of a very alarming character. Now that six months has elapsed since the Acts repealing the Acts was passed, the Secretary of State may probably be in a position to state the result.
§ MR. BRODRICK
No statistics have been presented; but if the hon. Gentleman likes to ask me a question on some future day I may be able to give him some information.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
May I ask why it is, if the Acts have been repealed, the hospital at Cork is being carried on? I see there is £416 put down as general expenses. I understand that the admissions to the hospital are voluntary; and I have heard—and I have no reason to doubt the statement—that the number of admissions during the past year have been simply insignificant. I sincerely trust the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will see fit to put an end to this sham and humbug. Again, I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether, in the event of these establishments being abolished, the medical men who have been in attendance will receive any retiring allowance or pension? Most of them have been for a considerable time in this particular line of service, and I know that most of them have been the losers by adopting this branch of the Profession. I trust that they will not be sent adrift without any recognition at all.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I am not aware of the circumstances attending the hospital to which the hon. Gentleman had called attention; but the matter will be attended to.
§ MR. JAMES STUART
So far as it goes the answer of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brodrick) is satisfactory; but he did not answer the second part of my question, which had reference to the 1589 item of £500 "for carrying out similar measures in the Colonies." I should like know what the Government intend to do with regard to the Crown Colonies, and other Dependencies which are directly under the control of this House, or of Officers or Ministers responsible to this House?
§ MR. BRODRICK
The item of £500 must remain part of the Vote until the arrangements for the future are completed.
§ DR. TANNER
Have I to understand that no retiring allowance will be made to the medical men who have attended the Contagious Diseases Hospitals?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
These arrangements cease on the 31st of March next. The condition of the medical officers will be considered, and if they are entitled to a pension it will be given them.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The hon. Gentleman has not given me any Notice of this Question, and I am not in a position to give him an answer. I really do not know under what conditions the medical men are serving.
§ DR. TANNER
These points are really of practical importance, and this is the only time that we have for eliciting definite information from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Treasury Bench. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any difference will be made in the pensions or retiring allowances of the medical officers belonging to this Department, and those of medical men in civil practice?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Again, Sir, I have every wish to give the hon. Gentleman information; but it is not in my power to give him, on this point, an answer which would be at all satisfactory. I assure him, however, that the question he has raised shall receive most careful attention.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I see that £200 is put down as commission for bankers. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will consider the advisability of issuing money to officers and men at certain stations abroad, where gold is not the standard, at the then rate of exchange? At present there is a system under which a more or 1590 less arbitrary rate is fixed from time to time—notably at Hong Kong—and officers have to accept the exchange without any chance of recovering any loss they may sustain. I must confess I never understood the policy or justice of that arrangement. The officers stipulate for a certain rate of pay per diem. That pay is calculated on the standard coin of the Realm—namely, gold; and they have a right to receive the exact equivalent for the gold due to them, on whatever station they may be. Why this equivalent is not paid in the current coin of the station I never could understand; but, as a matter of fact, it is not. An arbitrary sum is paid to these officers. I would suggest that the present system should be abolished, and that these officers should get the equivalent of their gold pay.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I concur in the spirit of the remarks of the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. A. O'Connor), and wish it were possible to introduce an arrangement under which officers in Her Majesty's Service would always get the exact equivalent for English money in the pay they receive in foreign parts. But the conditions under which payments are made abroad are laid down by Treasury Circular. I will confer with my hon. Friends at the Treasury to see if it is possible to improve upon the existing arrangement. No doubt, the object in view in issuing the Warrant under which the rate of exchange is fixed for the year is to prevent complication of accounts, and to obviate inconvenient disputes which might arise between officers and men as to the particular rate of exchange on a particular day. I am afraid it would be extremely difficult to determine the exact rate of exchange on the very day the money was paid to the troops; but no doubt it is only fair that the ordinary rates of exchange should be observed in paying Her Majesty's soldiers and sailors abroad.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
I notice that in this Vote there is an item for the Engineers' Department, and I wish to say a word in connection with that Department, as to the employment of contractors, especially building contractors. The contracts for building are advertised through the Engineers' De- 1591 partment. Contracts are in that way invited; but when a contractor gets one of these contracts he finds himself in very awkward position. He may he an independent person, entirely unconnected with these officials, and having little or no experience in the matter of these contracts—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
There does not appear to be any item here regarding contracts made with the Engineering Department. The hon. Gentleman, therefore, is speaking wide of the Vote.
§ MR. HARRIS
I felt I was somewhat out of Order. It was on Vote 14 I should have made my observations; but I saw that in the present Vote there was an item connected with the Engineering Department, and I did not think it would be outside the scope of the Vote to complain that, through the conduct of the engineering officials, the contractors are made somewhat to suffer. However, if I am really not in Order I will not proceed in the matter.
§ MR. PYNE (Waterford, W.)
I wish to call attention to an item of £500 here. Is it for medals won by soldiers, or what?
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR OFFICE (Mr. BRODRICK) (Surrey, Guildford)
It is for medals for distinguished services in the field.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
Are any of them for the Canadian boatmen who served in the Egyptian Campaign? I understand it was intended to grant these men medals.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
A separate Vote was taken for that last year.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (5.) £135,500, to complete the sum for War Office.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
Now, perhaps, I shall be in Order in drawing attention to the treatment contractors receive at the hands of the Engineers' Department.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
On the point of Order I would draw your attention, Sir, to an item on page 85, headed "Works Division," under which money is taken for an 1592 Inspector General of Fortifications, a Director of Works, Assistant Director of Works, Inspector of Iron Structures for Defensive Purposes, Inspector of Sub-Marine Mining, and so on. As I understand it, it is with regard to work under this Department that my hon. Friend wishes to address the Committee.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I am distinctly of opinion that the hon. Member's observations relating to the conditions under which contracts for works are carried on should have been made under Vote 13, which is the Works Vote.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
—[Cries of "Order!"]: I wish hon. Gentlemen opposite would be as anxious to keep in Order as I am. Perhaps, Mr. Courtney, if you allowed me to continue a little you would find I was perfectly in Order. What I was striving to approach is that the great power resting with the gentlemen named in this Vote is injurious to the contractors and the Public Service.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
It would be destructive of all Order in these debates to permit the hon. Gentleman to make his observations on the present Vote. Any question on the subject referred to must be raised on Report.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
If the hon. Member moves to reduce the Vote for the purpose of impeaching the conduct of these officials, would he not be in Order?
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
On the Vote for the Intelligence Department, on page 84, I wish to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he will be able to give directions or make arrangements to have the maps which are printed in connection with the Intelligence Department supplied and sold to the public? The maps are extremely valuable when they relate to new countries, and for one particular reason of all others—namely, because they are reliable as far as they go. There are many maps made by land speculators of parts of Africa and America; and I suppose now we shall be offered by these gentlemen maps of Burmah. In these maps we find large tracts of land shown, marked "rich, rolling prairie;" and these very same tracts, if we had a Government map, we 1593 should probably find marked "sandy desert; no water; no vegetation." The Government maps I refer to I have frequently applied for, and through the courtesy of the War Department I have been permitted to see them; but they are not supplied to this House, nor to the Royal Geographical Society. If we come to the House for the geographical information we are in search of, we almost invariably find that the maps in the Library are obsolete, being 12 months old, and we are told that no more copies can be supplied. When we apply to the War Office for the new maps we may require the answers we receive are several. First, we are informed that the War Office Intelligence Department is not established for the purpose of giving intelligence to the public; secondly, they say they have no means of telling, and that, therefore, it would be very costly to issue the maps to the public; and, fourthly, it is stated that, though a certain number of these maps are printed for use in the War Department, they are not even supplied to Cabinet Ministers, or to the different Departments of the Public Service; and that, therefore, the Department does not see its way to giving them even to the Library of the House of Commons. Now, if we who apply for these maps did so in order to make them public, the state of things would be very different; but, looking at the very keen competition we have in our Colonies all over the world, with Germany in particular, it is important that our merchants and manufacturers should have the latest information procurable in regard to the development of new countries. Take, for example, the Transvaal. Four or five years ago our War Department made excellent maps of that country. A large portion of the Transvaal is rapidly being developed, owing to gold having been found in it in considerable and paying quantities. Well, our merchants and manufacturers who wish to send out machinery have no reliable information as to the character of the country to guide them, and there is none except in the hands of the War Department. I would, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) to make some arrangement by which these maps may be supplied to the public in the same way that documents are issued through the Stationery 1594 Department or the Ordnance Department; for these Departments supply maps through Messrs. Stanford and other publishing firms. One of the reasons given for not allowing the issue of these maps to the public is that they are not correct; but I would reply to that, that it is of very small importance to our merchants and manufacturers who trade with our Colonies whether or not a particular point or town is two or three miles out of its proper latitude, so long as the distances are given pretty accurately and the rivers and general contour of the country are represented with some amount of care. The Expedition of Sir Charles Warren, which cost this country about £1,000,000, collected information, from which a map was prepared. It is an excellent map so far as it goes, and if the public could obtain it through any map-seller there is no doubt that large numbers would be quickly called for not only in England, but in South Africa, and the profit which would in this way be made would save the country from any additional expense in carrying out the plan I suggest. The result of not having these maps is that after a time private individuals bring out maps; but for many purposes these productions come too late. We have to go to Germany to get the latest published maps, and as a consequence of the advantage the Germans possess over us in the matter of information concerning these new countries a great deal of the trade of our merchants and manufacturers is taken by the foreigner. The pioneers are usually Californian or Australian manufacturers, because the English traders do not like sending out to places about which they cannot obtain information. The Germans get ahead of us, and when once the Germans get thoroughly established by their agents it is a very difficult thing indeed to displace them. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to take into his serious consideration the advisability not only of allowing these maps to be supplied to the House of Commons and the Royal Geographical Society, but of allowing them to be sold to the public immediately they are published. I do not believe that the public would be put to any loss by the adoption of the plan I propose; for I feel convinced that the profit on the sale of these maps would 1595 more than recoup the authorities for any expense they might be put to.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR OFFICE (Mr. BRODRICK) (Surrey, Guildford)
In reply to the hon. Baronet I have to say that this subject of maps has not been brought under the notice of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith), and that we are much obliged to the hon. Baronet for having called our attention to it. It is, of course, of importance that we should not be behind hand in supplying information which is of advantage to the public, and which is not required to be kept secret by considerations of public policy. The subject will be carefully investigated, and I trust with a result which will afford satisfaction to the hon. Baronet.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE
The late Government had this matter before them; but owing to their having to leave Office were not able to take any steps with regard to it.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (6.) £9,400, to complete the sum for Rewards for Distinguished Services.
§ (7.) £39,700, to complete the sum for Half Pay.
(8.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £687,400, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge for Retired Pay, Retired Full Pay, and Gratuities for Reduced and Retired Officers, including Payments awarded by the Army Purchase Commissioners, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I wish to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on this Vote. The Committee are aware that a large number of officers have been and are annually compulsorily retired, although they are quite capable and efficient. The Committee must, from its own personal experience, be aware of the fact that officers are sometimes retired as young as 40. When this system was introduced I remember speaking upon it in the House for an hour, pointing out its disadvantages and going through the Blue Books; but it had no effect whatsoever. At one time the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) backed me up; but when he took 1596 Office as Secretary of State for War he seemed to think that the system had been so long in use that it should be allowed to go on. Compulsory retirement is only a small benefit. It is a benefit to those who want promotion; but it is a mistaken system. To say that at the age of 40 a man who is quite fit for service should become an idler on a good salary is absurd. Why, at that age an officer has at least 15 years of capacity and good service remaining in him—for I think you may take 55 as the age up to which an officer is fit for work if he is in fair health. When you retire a man 15 or 16 years before he has reached that age and pay him £250, £300, or £400 a-year—£250 is the lowest—you find that the total cost to the State mounts up to a considerable sum. I think it high time that the Secretary of State should state whether or not he intends to continue this system. I look upon it as a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. I think the country is wasting its money, and that the time has come when the Secretary of State should say that he will seriously investigate this matter. I should not be surprised to see the sum that this compulsory retirement costs the country mount up to £400,000 or £500,000 a-year, or even over £1,000,000.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
There is the very considerable charge of £41,718 for Paymasters. It must strike everyone that such an annual charge merely for the disbursement of salaries is extremely heavy and burdensome, and it appears to me that some system should be devised by which officers might be paid in a much more economical manner. I do not see why payments should not be made by cheque, or why some other method could not be introduced whereby the Government could save the country this enormous sum which it pays to a class of individuals for discharging purely nominal functions. On page 100 the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will find a list of these Paymasters. The Chief Paymasters get £2,400, the Staff Paymasters £20,178 2s. 6d., the ordinary Paymasters £18,223 1s. 6d., the Deputy Paymasters £803, and the Assistants £114 1s. 3d., making a total of £41,718 11s. 3d.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The observations of the hon. Member, I am afraid, are 1597 out of Order. This Vote refers to retired pay.
§ MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
On the question of compulsory retirement I hope the Secretary of State for War will give special consideration to the case of Colonels commanding regiments. By the end of 1887 there will be 100 more additional Colonels, mostly men in the prime of life and able-bodied, retired under the present costly system, who will draw a large additional sum under this Vote. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will not lose sight of this matter.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
The Committee will remember that reference was made to this subject by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) and several other hon. and gallant Gentlemen on this side of the House last Session, and that they were replied to by the Secretary of State for War, who stated that the subject was under his careful consideration. When I came into Office I found that that consideration had advanced very considerably. When I arrived at the War Office last month I found that the immediate result of the consideration which had been given to the matter was that the Warrant of Her Majesty for the compulsory retirement of Captains and Majors had been suspended. That suspension had come into effect; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware that the re-arrangement of these matters involves very serious and careful calculation and consideration. I can only say that I am bestowing upon the matter the best consideration I can by the light of the information collected by the late Secretary of State, and that I hope to be able to propose an arrangement which will lessen ultimately the very serious additional charge which results from the present system of retirement. The charge directly arising from the retirement of officers at an early age is somewhat less than is generally supposed, but the indirect result is no doubt considerable, because the compulsory retirement, to a large extent, stimulates 1598 voluntary retirement. I fully realize the importance of the matter, and, as the Committee will remember, I spoke upon it last Session. It is one of the questions which will be most seriously considered; and, certainly, no effort on my part will be wanting to grapple with this difficulty of retired pay, and also with the other matters to which hon. Members have referred.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
Hon. Members must be aware that compulsory retirement is a heart-breaking thing to men in the Service; and certainly, from the experience we have had of it in the past, that retirement is one of the bugbears in Her Majesty's Service. The right hon. Gentleman the Predecessor of the present Secretary of State for War has acted wisely in bringing about this change so far as regards Captains and Majors; but I hope and trust and believe that the right hon. Gentleman, having gone so far, will go still further. We all know the old saying—"C'est le premier pas qui coûte"—that, having taken the first step, he will go on. We know perfectly well that in the present day a great many Colonels in Her Majesty's Service are not gentlemen very advanced in life; and what is a grievance with the Major is usually a grievance with the Colonel. It is within my own knowledge that within the last couple of years one of the smartest officers in Her Majesty's Service, an officer commanding a distinguished Cavalry regiment, was obliged to retire in the very prime of life, and, finding a difficulty in obtaining suitable employment, he had to leave this country and go off to the Colonies. We know that these gentlemen who are brought up in a profession like the profession of arms are thoroughly unsuited to take up any ordinary line of business. As a rule they become farmers. That is notably the case in Ireland, and they show by their results that they are the very worst farmers in the world. This is a subject which is well worthy of the consideration of the Government. But it is not all. We should, I think, deprecate any check upon voluntary retirement. We know that voluntary retirement was checked not long ago in the case of majors who wished to retire, but had not their 25 years' complete. The right hon. Gentleman will understand how unjust that system is, and that it ought not to be 1599 allowed to continue. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will also pay some little attention to the subject of pensions, the proper way of dealing with which is by a sliding scale. A graduated scale might be fixed up to 24 years, and at 25 years retirement might take place. We know that in the Service—notably in the Militia—the number of Majors has increased. With regard to honorary rank on retirement, I understand that this is not appreciated by good officers, because it is practically the shadow without the substance, and it is given to them as a means of saving the public purse. I think this is a shabby way of dealing with persons who have served their country during a considerable portion of their lives; and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will discover some way of doing without this system of conferring honorary rank on retiring officers. It is not only useless, but positively injurious to the officers, because they are looked up to by the public as peeple of more importance than they really are. And, what is more, these gentlemen look forward to pay in proportion to their rank. We know that when an officer leaves the Service he is expected to maintain the rank conferred upon him, and he will be called upon to spend more money in his rank than would a lieutenant or captain; and that is, in itself, sufficient to prove that honorary rank on retirement is not only of no use, but a mischief to the man upon whom it is conferred. Then, Sir, I think that all garrison appointments should be thrown open, and that institutions like Chelsea Hospital and the Royal Body Guard should all be officered from the Army. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be deterred from consulting the interest of the officers in the Service; and I am convinced that in his action he will not only receive the sanction of this House, but of the country at large.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ (9.) £59,700, to complete the sum for Widows' Pensions, &c.
§ (10.) £6,900, to complete the sum for Pensions for Wounds.
§ (11.) £12,200, to complete the sum for Chelsea and Kilmainham Hospitals.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I shall be glad to be informed 1600 if there is any prospect of Chelsea Hospital being done away with, or being merged into the Establishment at Pall Mall? I believe that in this way a great saying would be effected, and I know that there are many in authority who are in favour of the change. The reason why this has not been carried out is that there are four or five gentlemen who object to the change; but I believe it would be a great advantage to the Service if the present arrangement were put an end to, and a transfer made to Pall Mall. There are certain funds in connection with the Hospital which the authorities arrogate to themselves the right to appropriate in the most extra-ordinary manner. Last year the authorities of the Hospital took upon themselves to supplement a Vote of this House on the ground that the provision for a certain officer was inadequate; they supplemented in this way a Vote of the House of Commons, and they maintained that they were within their right in doing so. The pay of the Staff is as follows. The secretary receives £700, and the principal clerk £300 a-year; these are entitled to pensions; but besides that there is the sum of £300 a-year, not mentioned in these Estimates, in connection with the payment of prize money, with regard to which I say that the whole history of the payment of prize money in this country is simply scandalous. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to consider the desirability of changing the whole system, and transferring the staff to Pall Mall.
§ MR. A. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
I find that there is a charge of £137 for the chaplain at Kilmainham Hospital, and that there is next to it a charge of £75 only for the officiating Roman Catholic clergyman. I do not understand why a Roman Catholic clergyman should receive only half the amount paid to a clergyman of the Established Church for services at Kilmainham.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (12.) £742,100, to complete the sum for Out-Pensions.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I have frequently known of Army officers who have served a long time, and retired on pensions of varying amounts. Those pensions have been sufficient to keep them as long as they were able to work; but when they were 1601 no longer able to work these pensions were quite insufficient for the support of themselves and their families. I have had a complaint sent to me by an Army officer in the North of Ireland, who served with considerable distinction as private and sergeant in the Crimean War; he was seriously wounded; his wound did not heal, and, although he was able to use his leg for several years, ossification set in and he was no longer able to work. He applied for some increase of pension, but his application was refused. And it is the case that all these applications for increase of pensions have been refused by the Chelsea Department. I ask whether there is any rule for officers of a certain age under which they may rely on receiving consideration from the Authorities for the more increased recognition of their services? I think that their being unable to work entitles them to an increase of pension. It would be unreasonable to expect that the Secretary of State for War, who has only been in Office for a short time, should be acquainted with details of this kind; but I trust he will take the subject into his consideration. If I thought that my application would meet with any success I could supply the names of several men who are unable to subsist on their present pensions.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR OFFICE (Mr. BRODRICK) (Surrey, Guildford)
In reply to the Question of the hon. Member, I must point out that in so large a Service the question of pensions must be decided by general rules, and all such rules must occasionally press hardly on individuals. A general rule is laid down at the War Office with regard to pensions which it is impossible to relax, and we cannot undertake to exercise discretion in reviewing cases of hardship.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
There are many hard cases of this kind, and I have myself called at the Treasury and War Office about some which were within my own knowledge. There are many cases of men who are compulsorily discharged with pensions for five years only, and that after they have been 17 years in the Service. I hope the Secretary of State for War will take powers to deal with cases of the kind.
§ Vote agreed to.1602
§ (13.) £98,000, to complete the sum for Superannuation Allowances.
§ (14.) £20,900, to complete the sum for Retired Allowances, &c. to Officers of the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteer Forces.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.