§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
I think that the statement which the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton' has laid before the House is especially interesting and valuable, because it deals, not only with the Estimates for the coming financial year, but because it lays down the principle on which our future naval policy ought to be based for a number of years to come. The First Lord of the Admiralty and his Colleagues have made an effort which I think the country will highly commend, to ascertain what should he the amount set apart year by year, before he holds out to us, not only the possibility, but the probability that the policy he advocates will be carried into effect—namely, that we shall have a reduction of expenditure with an increase of efficiency. No doubt that is a very pleasant prospect to hold out, but I am anxious to consider how far the promise of the noble Lord is likely to be redeemed. When we turn to that part of the noble Lord's Statement in which the proposal is made to set apart a regular depreciation fund to meet wastage and the cost of construction of new ships from year to year, we find that a very novel but excellent idea has been brought forward by the Board of Admiralty. It is proposed that the capitalized value should be taken of the Fleet as it at present exists. The Board assumes that when the present programme is carried out—as it soon will be—when all money Voted by Parliament during the last few years to construct new ships has been spent—we shall have a Navy efficient for all purposes of offence and defence; and the 620 present proposal of the Admiralty is that a certain sum should be set apart every year to maintain the Navy as a Navy worthy of the Country, and the great interests it has to protect. What is the amount thus set apart? We find that a certain percentage is taken on the different ships constituting the Navy and the original outlay upon them, together with the annual waste, and the conclusion arrived at was that the annual amount to be set apart for depreciation was £1,803,000. It is said that such an amount is fair and reasonable to be set apart from year to year. Then, supposing that such a sum is sot apart, we have to consider whether it is likely that we shall have that reasonable reduction in the Navy Estimates which has been held out to us as a fair and reasonable prospect by the Board of Admiralty. Turning to the Navy Estimates for the year. I find at page 77 that the total amount set apart ill 1887–8 for the machinery and hulls of ships is £1,911,000; "that exceeds by just £100,000 the amount which the Admiralty proposes to set aside for these purposes in all coming years. Now, that seems to leave a very narrow margin indeed in which to effect a saving in the Navy Estimates. But it does not represent the whole state of the case, because of the whole of this sum of £1,911,000, which is to be devoted to this purpose in the coming year, we find that there is a sum of £530,000 set apart for gun fittings and special purposes of that kind. That is an amount expressly excluded from the depreciation fund of the Board of Admiralty; and if we are to deduct that sum from the total sum set apart for the construction of new ships and for wastage in the ensuing year, there is only £1,400,000 left; so that the amount the Admiralty say is to be set apart in future years exceeds by £.500,000 the amount really to be devoted to such purposes. We know that this year is to be the last of a series of years which has to be devoted to the special construction of new ships. The Estimates have been swollen in the last few years by the expenditure of £8,000,000 for special improvements in the Navy; and the taxpayers may naturally expect that when that work has been accomplished some reduction might be made in the annual demands upon the country. But if this policy is to be carried out, as 621 far as I can understand the Estimates, I we shall have to spend in the construction of new ships and machinery an | amount larger by £500,000 than what we propose to spend in the coining financial year. That is a point on which I should like to elicit some information from the Representative of the Admiralty in this House. But then there is another point in connection with this depreciation fund which I think deserves the consideration of the House. There is no doubt that the Admiralty, in proposing to set apart this fund, are acting upon the analogy of what is done by men carrying on a large private business, who set apart a certain sum every year for depreciation. We know that private firms do set aside certain sums every year for depreciation—for special emergencies that may occur from time to time. But what would occur if the House of Commons were to vote, say, £2,000,000 every year for the construction of new ships, with the understanding that that sum was not to be allocated to other purposes? Do hon. Members believe that that sum would not be spent every year, whether it was wanted or not? The Department would feel itself bound to spend it, and would take advantage of every occasion for doing so. I should like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether it is proposed that this fund should be a permanent fund or not? Whether in some way it would be funded or reserved for great occasions, and that it would not necessarily be spent every year? There could be no security against the panics which arise periodically, or that the Board of Admiralty would not be required to ask for millions more because some other Board, which had been in existence for a few years, had obtained great credit for economy at the cost of the efficiency of the Navy. We could have no security that in one Year all the money collected in this way from year to year would not be devoted to the purposes of the Navy in one single year. I do not intend to cast any reflection on the present Board of Admiralty; but this is how the matter stands. A new idea is set before the House, which is no doubt excellent in itself, but it is one on which we ought to have some clear and definite information as to the way in which this depreciation fund is to be employed, and we should also receive some clear assurance that 622 the mode in which the Estimate is taken is the correct one, and that we shall not be asked in future years to vote a much larger sum as a regular Navy expenditure on new ships, than we may be actually voting for the coming financial year.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR (Kincardine)
said, he recognized the value of the information given by the First Lord of the Admiralty in his able Memorandum, but desired that they should be afforded further explanations as to the armament of guns that were still required for the Navy. The noble Lord knew that for many years he (Sir George Balfour) had strenuously urged the Admiralty to undertake the supply of its own guns, instead of depending on the War Office. He had known the most ridiculous proposals to be made by the Navy with regard to guns. He had known ships to be built without the slightest information as to the calibre or the weight required for the armament of these ships. The noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton), in his Statement, had given the House some information as to the breech loading guns already supplied by the War Office; but he had failed to give any information as to what the total guns for the Navy were to be. The noble Lord said 1,281 breech-loading guns was the number now available; but he failed to show how many more wore required. In his (Sir George Balfour's) opinion, 3,300 was the lowest number which would be required. At all events, the calculation of the noble Lord was as entirely misleading as when he gave the cost of the ships at £39,000,000, without inserting in the Estimate the full cost of the guns required to equip the vessels. The amount of money provided in the Army Estimates for the supply of ordnance for the Navy was totally inadequate, He regretted extremely that the War Office was to continue to supply the Navy with guns and stores. No arrangement could be more unfortunate, and lie hoped some understanding might be arrived at by which the War Office would be relieved of the task. If he were Secretary of State for War, he would not retain the post for a day without insisting on being relieved of such a responsibility. Another change he would like to see effected was that of the War Office having the duty imposed on it of providing its own trans- 623 port. He saw no difficulty in carrying out that change under the superintendence of a capable officer. If such a change were brought about, it would have most beneficial economical results, as economy was by no means studied by the War Office in the matter of transport when they knew the Admiralty had to pay the bills.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
said, he joined in the congratulations offered to the noble Lord on the very lucid and able Statement with regard to the Naval Estimates which he had placed in the hands of Members. No such Statement had ever been issued before; but, although it was clear and conclusive, it was not beyond criticism and explanation. At no time had the responsibility of the First Lord of the Admiralty been greater than it was at the present moment. Although some of the Representatives of Dockyard constituencies might, perhaps, feel for the time being the effect of the reforms that were made, they would all unite in giving the noble Lord full credit for doing that which in his judgment and in that of the present Board was best for the country; and it was gratifying to learn that the saving of so much money was compatible with efficiency. The fact that we had 62,500 officers and men, against last year's 61,400, with a saving of nearly£800,000, was, of itself, a very important consideration. The Admiralty being one of the great spending Departments, it was right, and also of great advantage, that the head of that Department should be a Member of that House; and he trusted there would be no departure) from that rule in future. Both the Statement of the noble Lord and the Navy Estimates bore clear testimony that there had been no extraordinary extravagance in the Dockyards, as was often assumed. Reference had been made to the ill effects of the changes made in ships while they were in course of construction, and in the Statement of the First Lord some importance was attached to the proposal that in future, when the building of a ship was ordered, the design should not be interfered with, He gladly admitted that that was a salutary decision for the Admiralty to come to; but, while in the past those changes might account for a largely increased expenditure in the case of various ships, on the other hand he 624 ventured to suggest that there might be some disadvantage if they drew too hard-and-fast a line against any alteration of a ship until it was finished. It was quite possible to carry this new idea to an extreme. He considered that it was one of the great advantages of building our ships in the Royal Dock yards that we were able, when really necessary, to alter the designs of ships when in process of building; for it must be admitted, considering the frequent changes which were being made in the science of shipbuilding, that it might be highly desirable to make some alteration in the design of a ship whilst she was being built. It was the stitch in time which saved nine, and a judicious alteration might prevent a much very larger outlay after the ship had been completed. They had seen some ships which had been finished with great rapidity in Private yards, and which it had been necessary afterwards to send to the Dockyards to be refitted or changed in several important particulars, involving much higher cost and outlay before she was perfected than would have been incurred had the change been made in her while the vessel was being built. It was well known that war ships became obsolete by reason of changes which were very rapid in the mode of construction, in speed, and in armament. There might, therefore, be times and occasions when it would be cheaper and bettor for I the Admiralty to make alterations during construction. He thought there was reason to hope, from this Memorandum of his noble Friend, that they had come to the end of the policy of fits and starts, which was so very expensive, and so detrimental to the real and permanent interests of the country. The policy of fits and starts was to do nothing in times of peace, and then, when there was a war scare on, to rush and buy every vessel we could lay our hands on, from every country and belonging to everybody, at an enormous outlay, and thereby getting possession of a large number of vessels which were practically useless to us, and spending millions of money which would be saved if we adopted the sound and sensible plan of maintaining our Royal Dockyards always in an efficient state, so as to be ready to turn out any quantity of work on an emergency. He hoped this Memorandum was the first practical recog- 625 nition of what was wanted to put our Navy in a state of thorough efficiency. He looked upon it rather as an earnest of what was to come, although in itself it was very good. Some hon. Members were always addressing themselves to the question of the disestablishment of the Royal Dockyards. the reforms and re-arrangements proposed by the Admiralty would, at all events, have this effect—that they would give no reason to those hon. Members to urge that plea in future. They would see that the alterations would facilitate the understanding of how and where the money went. It gave him great satisfaction to learn that it was intended to keep the plant and capital invested in the Dockyards employed, while giving them the greater part of the work instead of to the private yards. He knew it had become a confirmed opinion in some quarters that work could be done cheaper by giving it out to private yards; but he had made it his business to inquire into this matter, and he had succeeded in getting an illustration of the way in which the cheaper work sometimes done in private yards was brought about. It was said that the Acorn was built in a private yard for £10,000 less than it could have been built for in a Royal Dockyard. Well, he was assured, on the authority of the Secretary of the Company who built her, that the £10,000 saved to the Admiralty, comparing it with other ships of the same type, represented £10,000 lost to the Company, He contended that even if it cost more in the first instance, which he did not admit, to build ships in the Royal Dockyards, it would cost less in the long run, because they would be certain of the character of the work; they would be in a position to make any necessary alterations during the process of the work, if absolutely essential; and they would keep their Dockyards in a state of thorough efficiency, ready to execute work on any emergency, which might be of the very greatest importance to the safety of the nation at an important crisis. Nothing could be more opportune than the proposal as to the new Intelligence Department. It was a very good idea, and the cost, perhaps, was not too extravagant; though he understood a considerable sum would have to be added for retirement pay. No one, he believed, grudged officers and seamen any plums 626 which might fall to their share; but, nevertheless, he thought it well that economy in practice should not be confined to the bottom, but should also find its way to the top. He was assured that nothing in the recent discharges in the Dockyards, which had, to some extent, been recognized as necessary, had made them so unpopular as the fact that at the same time that these discharges were taking place now offices were created with very large salaries—salaries of £1,000 a-year or so. He thought it would be admitted that Members who had for years represented Dockyard constituencies would have some knowledge of matters connected with Dockyards, and that, in advocating the claims of persons employed there, they were actuated by higher motives than a desire to get votes. There was one point in the Statement which, perhaps, the noble Lord would be able to explain. It was not quite clear whether more discharges were contemplated. He did not ask for specific information on a subject of that kind, as he knew the Admiralty must be guided by the particular circumstances of the time. There was no more honest, straightforward, loyal body of men in existence, taking them as a whole, than those employed in our Dockyards. Coming to particular branches, he pleaded, in the first place, the claims of the shipwrights, and submitted that their case was one deserving of very serious consideration on the part of the Admiralty. It was not fair, he maintained, to apply the strict principles of supply and demand to their public servants. The law of supply and demand ought, not to influence their treatment of them; but, even as a question of supply and demand, he would not admit for a moment that they could get plenty of men to take the place of these most loyal and skilled workers in the Dockyards. He desired to see them have something like fixity of tenure. Then there were the engine room artificers, whoso cause he had advocated for years, in the face of considerable opposition. Their claims had been strongly presented, though the suggestions had not been adopted, because it would involve spending more money. Those engine-room artificers were, practically, in the same position now as they were in the days of wooden ships. Their position was much more important than in days gone 627 by, requiring more education and outlay, and he wished the Lords of the Admiralty would take that into consideration in dealing with their modest requests. The claims of the warrant officers were such as the Treasury could hardly refuse, because they involved almost no outlay, while to concede them would be to increase the efficiency of the Service. In the next plate he urged the importance of improving the position of naval schoolmasters, which, was below that of any other schoolmasters in the country, including oven their brethren in the Army. And, lastly, in a special way he called the attention of the Representatives of the Admiralty to the petition of the Dockyard men, not to a reduction of the working hours, but to such a re-adjustment of the hours as would enable them to take advantage of the long summer evenings for recreation and education—an object which could be attained by fixing the hour from 7 to 5 all the year round. He urged these things not merely as representing a Dockyard constituency, and, therefore, knowing something of their management, but because he sincerely believed that if these suggestions were carried out they would promote the great interests of the country.
ADMIRAL MAYNE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
I agree with the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston) that thanks are due from every professional man to the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) for the Statement which has been laid upon the Table, although there are some omissions in it. I only hope that the First Lord is right in saying that there will be a permanent change in the way of keeping the accounts. We have had so many changes, and there are so many difficulties in ascertaining what is going on with respect to work, whether under contract or in the Dockyards, that I am bound to say I have very little faith in any element of finality. We are told, practically, that the present Board of Admiralty have at last found out the one way in which all things are to be done aright. I trust that that may be so. Although I never had the honour of speaking on this subject in this House before, I think that anyone who has followed the manner in which the Estimates and the Accounts in regard to work done by contract and in 628 the Dockyards has been carried out must have seen that there is room for very great improvement, and that no commercial firm, with the business-like capacity of which the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) has spoken, would keep their accounts in the way our Navy Accounts have been kept. The hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Devonport has spoken most truly, and most properly, in regard to the Dockyard establishments. It is quite impossible for the Navy to be maintained by private contracts. In a time of war wages go up rapidly, and we were taught by bitter experience in the Crimean War that private contracts were not fulfilled as they ought to have been—that the work itself was scamped; that prices were high; and that an enormous amount of money was spent in a way that was wholly unjustifiable, and can only be accounted for on the supposition that everybody was too much frightened at the notion of war to consider what was being done. I entirely endorse, also, the remarks of the hon. Member for Devonport as to the Petitions presented to the Admiralty from the shipwrights, the warrant officers, schoolmasters, artificers, and other classes; and I regret with the hon. Member that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty has not seen his way to give a more hopeful answer than he has been pleased to give. These are times of great depression in Dockyard labour, and, as a Dockyard Member, I can bear testimony to the great distress and misery which have been caused by the discharges to which reference has been made, in the Dockyard I represent the distress has been especially great, because there is no other opening for work there; and I deeply regret that the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty has been unable to see his way to allow these men to die a natural death, so to speak, which would have been the case if they had been loft alone. In Pembroke Dockyard more than 100 men leave the Dockyard every year from age, sickness, &c, in the natural course of events. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty has been asked and has answered several Questions during the debate; but he has not told the House who is responsible for the designs and construction of such vessels as the Impérieuse, and other 629 vessels which have failed to meet the conditions as to speed, draught, and armour which were laid down for them? Why should ships be laid down and constructed in such an improper way without anyone having responsibility for them? Who is responsible for not adopting triple expansion engines in the Impérieuse and Warspite of 8,000, instead of compound, engines of 7,500, and for reducing the armour-belt protection from 18 inches above water to 6 inches below the water line '? Although the bunkers of these ships were constructed to hold 900 tons of coal, they are only able to carry 500 tons. It has been shown by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed, that they will never be able properly to carry the amount of coal originally intended. One vessel—the Mercury—is only able to carry a supply of coal for three days and a-half, and for some mysterious reason that ship has never been commissioned except for a short trip across Bantry Bay as an experiment. In the first page of this Statement, credit seems to be taken for the fact that Dockyard labour is not allocated in the present year, as has been the practice in past years. But I think that that is a great mistake, because if the money is allocated as an Estimate it enables the Constructors of the Yards to forecast, to some extent, what they would have to do in the course of the Year, and thus to regulate their staff. I do not see why money should not be allocated in the Estimates, the Board of Admiralty having the power to change the allocation as the year goes on. That would enable them to do with Admiralty knowledge what commercial yards are able to do at this moment, and would show them what work they would have to turn out in the Dockyard in the course of the year. I am sorry to observe, in the shipbuilding policy of the Admiralty, that they propose to build ships calculated to steam only 13½ knots an hour. Under ordinary circumstances those vessels would not be able to keep up with the squadron, and they would only be competent, as was pointed out by Lord Ravensworth's Committee, to do the ordinary police work in a time of peace. Lord Ravensworth's Committee spoke of the construction of this kind of ship as a waste of the public money. I entirely concur in that opinion, be- 630 lieving that such vessels would be utterly useless for war purposes. The hon. Baronet the Member for Durham (Sir Charles Palmer) spoke at some length on the advantages of ships built by contract, and the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Devonport mentioned the case of two small vessels, to show the advantage of Dockyard building as contrasted with contract building. In regard to the question as between Dockyard work and contract work there is no ground whatever for saying, if the accounts are kept in the same way in both cases, that ships can be built cheaper by contract, than in the Royal Dockyards. Instead of two small vessels spoken of by the hon. Member for Devonport, let me take three largo ships to illustrate this point—the Audacious, the Invincible, and the Iron Duke. The Iron Duke was built at Pembroke, and cost £208,000; the Audacious and Invincible were built by contract, and cost £256,000 and £249,000 respectively. In the one case there was an advantage of £48,000, and in the other of £41,000 in favour of the ship built at the Royal Dockyard at Pembroke I may mention two later instances; those of the Benbow and the Anton. The cost of building and completing the Anson, of 6,640 tons, was £500,908. The contract price of the hull and extras for the Benbow—a sister ship—at the Thames Armour Works was £525,765. A further sum of £40,000 was provided to be spent on the Benbow at Chatham, making a total cost—according to official documents—of £565,765, or £61,857 more than the Anson, or at least, taking the contract price alone, £24,827 in favour of the Dockyard built ship. I am unable to account for these facts, clearly shown in the Estimates, on any other hypothesis than that the Dockyard ship is more cheaply built. I believe that I might adduce many other instances to show that it is a great mistake to suppose that a ship can be built cheaper in a private yard than in a Dockyard. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty has pointed out a case of failure of contract—I think it was a case of extra repairs—but it was due to the failure of the contractor under the conditions now imposed in a time of peace; and if such shortcomings occur now, what must we expect in time of war? In regard to Dockyard administration there is a 631 defect in the existing practice which. I hope the Board of Admiralty will be able to remedy. I refer to the appointment of the Superintendents of the Dockyards for varying periods. They may servo for one or two years, or for six months only. But, as a matter of fact, in most cases they are not allowed to serve sufficiently long to master the details of the work before they are superseded. I believe I am right in saying that this custom is disapproved of by those who have the immediate control of the Dockyards, and that its continuance is duo to the Treasury's refusal to grant the requisite money. One would have thought that the Lords of the Admiralty would have had sufficient power to obtain what money the country requires for the Navy, and not allow any Lord of the Treasury or Chancellor of the Exchequer, who knows nothing of the details of the Service, to interpose a veto on its complete efficiency. I am afraid that is one of the methods by which the money of the country is wasted. It is altogether impossible to have the Dockyards properly regulated when the officers arc liable to be changed every six, 12, or 18 months, instead of being appointed for at least three, or, better still, five years. Those hon. Members of the House who have read the Report of Lord Ravensworth's Committee will be aware that it has been laid down by that Committee that only under special conditions can ships of war be repaired by contract advantageously, and yet I see in these Estimates a large item for repairing ships by contract. I regret to understand that something like £30,000, in addition, I suppose, to the £18,000 put down now, is to be expended on the Garnet, a ship which never exceeded 8 knots an hour, and which certainly ought not to be repaired at anything like such a cost. I think there are many other points which are worth looking into, and I trust that if a Committee is appointed to go through the Navy Estimates altogether, it will not be too late, when that Committee is nominated, to stop some of the expenditure, which seems manifestly a waste of money. There are only two other points on which I will touch tonight. One is the position of the Commanders-in-Chief at the Home Ports. In relation to that matter, those hon. Gentlemen who take the trouble to look into the Navy Estimates will probably per- 632 ceive with surprise that while the Estimates are presumably signed by the Lords of the Admiralty and the Secretary to the Admiralty, there is one signature which is conspicuous by its absence, and that is the signature of the only Naval Lord—the noble and gallant Member for East Marylebone—who sits in this House (Lord Charles Beresford). The noble Lord, who seems to be the itinerant exponent of the Admiralty views, has spoken on the question of shipbuilding at the Mansion House, and at public meetings elsewhere, and it is to be presumed that his views are more or less endorsed by the Board of Admiralty. I have been told that each Lord who signs the Estimates does not thereby take upon himself the responsibility of the whole of the Vote; but each is responsible for that particular Vote which it is the business of his own Department to look after. Now I think that such a practice is most misleading. The reason given is that it is impossible for each of the Lords to spare time to go through the whole of the Estimates; but that, in my humble opinion, is their own fault. Why have they not time; and why are my Lords so overworked? It is on account of the far too great centralization of work of all sorts and in great detail at the Admiralty, and that they will not allow anybody outside to do any work at all. There is a Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, another at Devonport, and another at Sheerness, who are senior usually to the officers in the Admiralty, and often have been Lords of the Admiralty themselves; but such is the present system of conducting the Service that these Commanders-in-Chief have no power whatever, and have to refer everything to the Admiralty. It seems strange that when a man gets into an office he ceases to be the same naval officer he was before; but, somehow or other, when a naval officer gets into the Admiralty, he loses all his former views, and, believing himself omniscient, he tries to be omnipresent, and signally fails. I well remember a Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth answering my expression of surprise that he could not give some small order without reference to the Admiralty by saying—"The Commander-in-Chief here was once a great man, but now he is only a big midshipman." Lord Ravensworth's Committee came to the conclusion that it is 633 detrimental to the interests of the Service that so much technical detail should be gone into at the Admiralty. They say—There is too much centralization of detail at the Admiralty causing delay and unnecessary correspondence, much of which might he avoided if a larger discretion in technical and minor matters were allowed to the Dockyard officers.If more discretion were allowed to the Commanders-in-Chief I believe that much labour might be saved to the Lords of the Admiralty. I will add the hope that the Committee now inquiring into the Civil Departments will also inquire into the Civil Departments of the Admiralty—an inquiry which, was desired by Admiral Hornby. I think it would be well to employ some naval officers in those Civil Departments, in order to prevent the answers to Questions which are put in this House from being drawn up by civilians who do not know the meaning of the terms they write down. There is not a sufficient amount of technical information in the lower grades of the Admiralty, and a great saving both of money and time would be effected by employing officers on half-pay whose pay and pensions have at present to be provided by the country. I am certain there are half-pay officers whose employment at the Admiralty would supply that technical knowledge the lack of which is so often displayed by civilians receiving higher pay than need be given to the naval officers, already having half-pay of their rank and prospective pensions, and who would be glad of the employment. I have only one other point which I desire to bring before the House, and that is the question of naval education. I am afraid that I have already trespassed on the time of the House; but my excuse must be that this is the first time which I have trespassed upon its indulgence. I had hoped that hon. Members who have been in the House longer than I have would have spoken upon that subject, because it is one of considerable difficulty. The last Committee on Naval Education summed up all that has been done on the subject by two or three former Committees, and the result at which one arrives from reading carefully through the evidence is that naval officers are what they ought to be in spite of the system of education, and not on account of it. I know that great and useful changes have been made in 634 tho present system as it exists; and I hardly like, because I know I am going against the opinion of many officers who are better judges than I am—I hardly like to say I am absolutely in favour of those changes; but I should certainly like the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty to consider, among the improvements he desires to introduce, whether it would not be better to do away with the Britannia altogether. I feel very strongly that it would be better; and that, if we wish to get the very best material for the Navy, we should take that material from the great public schools of England—say, at the age of 15—and that we should then require the youths so selected to be restricted to an examination in what is taught at the schools, while special subjects should be studied afterwards. Admiral Ryder says cadets should be mainly drawn from the public schools, and that the subjects of examination should be those taught at the schools and no other, and he rightly lays great strength on physical qualities. I am sure that if the country wants, as it does want, officers with nerve sufficient to fight the enormous iron-clads of to-day as the ships of old were fought, it would be better to select youths of 14 or 15 from the public schools. Admiral Hornby says—I object to competitive examination of hoys as adverse to true expansion and invigoration of intellectual faculties, because, to succeed in them, a boy 'hath need of much cunning to seem to know that he doth not. If the entry is bad the next step confirms the evil. They are set to work far above their true capacity, and the natural result is made manifest as soon as they go to sea. Nineteen out of twenty who go to sea are reported as ungrounded, and the Naval Instructor has to begin to relay that proper foundation, which was broken when the boy was taken from his first school, and have to be taught from the point which was broken when the boy was taken from his first school.I am afraid that this is the case with most of the young gentlemen who are now sent to sea from the Britannia. I am sure that if we take a boy from a public school, and then send him straight to sea, we should get a much bettor officer after he had been a few years at sea. We should then bring him home and send him to the Naval College, when at an age to understand the value of and necessity for serious study, and that his future prospects would depend upon the use he then made of his time and oppor- 635 tunities. Admiral Hornby—admittedly the best practical tactician in the Service—says further—At present the country is burdened with a heavy expense, and the parent is relieved not only from that, but his natural responsibility of training his son. When once accepted, the training of these youths should commence as in the Scandinavian Navies—before the mast.I believe that a system of this sort would be far preferable to the present one, and in this opinion I am strongly supported by many distinguished naval officers.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)
said, he must congratulate the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty on being in a position to ask for decreased Estimates with increased efficiency, but he thought the noble Lord would admit that the present satisfactory position was due very much to the fact that the programme of Lord Northbrook had been faithfully adhered to. He was glad the noble Lord had not to come down to them for those large Estimates which had pressed upon them last year, and he also rejoiced that he had not found it necessary to ask them to raise money by resorting to Terminable Annuities. The Naval Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) last year told the House that £5,500,000 were necessary to put the Navy in a satisfactory position; but he was glad to find that the noble Lord, in a position of responsibility, did not feel called upon to make that large demand upon the taxpayers of the country. The reduction was mainly due to the Shipbuilding Vote; but the whole reduction was very considerable and very satisfactory. He could not, however, help expressing his regret that the noble Lord had allowed something of a Party character to enter into the very able Statement which had been issued. The noble Lord had said that—In the period between 1881 and 1885 every Naval Power in Europe, except England, had largely increased its naval expenditure.Yes; but this led to one of two conclusions—that they never had a Navy at all before 1881, or else that it was kept up until 1881 and then suddenly allowed to run down. That was not correct, as the noble Lord would find if he carried his researches beyond 1881. The fact was that both sides had their scares; and after the Conservative scare 636 in 1877, when several additional ships wore added to the Navy, the supply of new vessels had been allowed to run down. From the years 1878–9 to 1880–1 inclusive, the expenditure on Votes 6 and 10 averaged £3,718,708. The then succeeding years of the Liberal Government 1881–2 to 1883–4 showed an average on these Votes of £1,166,850—being an increase of £118,119. He thought those figures sufficiently disproved the allegation in the noble Lord's (Lord George Hamilton's) Statement. He could not quite accept the noble Lord's statement as to the Ordnance Department. It was a difficult question. The old system was universally condemned, but it was difficult to decide on the plan to take its place. He was quite certain they must get their own guns, but there must be responsibility. The Admiralty ought to be in a position to say "We want a gun," and then, if it bursts, lay their hands on the right man and tell him—"You are responsible for this gun, and you must go." he should be very glad, therefore, to know from the First Lord of the Admiralty how he intended to carry out the change he contemplated, and also what was proposed to increase the facilities for the coaling of war ships at the home ports, these facilities not being at all satisfactory at the present time. With regard to the shipbuilding policy, he hoped that the vessels which the Admiralty were going to lay down would come up to the expected speed, and if they did, they would be very satisfactory vessels. He trusted, also, that the personnel of the Navy would not be neglected. The Report to which he proposed to direct attention was the result of the deliberations of a Committee appointed in 1885 by Lord Northbrook's Board of Admiralty. Dealing with the Report, he did not think it necessary to dwell upon the competency of the Committee to investigate the subject referred to them, because that would be universally admitted; but he might briefly remind the House that the Chairman, Admiral Luard, added to his other professional qualifications that of having occupied for a considerable time the responsible office of President of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, and that he consequently enjoyed special facilities for forming an opinion on the working 637 of our present educational system by being brought in constant contact with young officers at a time when they had almost completed their professional studios. The same might be said of Mr. Niven, who, for a considerable period, had occupied, with great advantage to the Service, the important office of Director of Studies at the College at Greenwich. Lord Dalhousie, as those who were in the House in 1880 would remember by the able speech he then made on the subject, had long given his attention to this question; and, having served for two years as Commander of the Britannia, might also be said to have had special opportunities of acquiring a clear insight into the working of our existing educational system. If Members would look to the other names on the Committee, it would be admitted that they were all Gentlemen well qualified to deal with the subject both from a naval and a civilian point of view. The subject dealt with in the Report was by no means a novel one. It had been frequently discussed in this House, and by competent naval authorities elsewhere. He would best consult the convenience of the House if he addressed his remarks principally to the recommendations contained in the concluding chapter, under head (f)—To consider and offer opinions on any suggestions for the improvement of the education of executive naval officers."'The evidence before the Committee all tended to prove that the Navy of to-day had entirely outgrown our system of training young officers; that the changes we had already made in our system were not commensurate with the rapid changes which had taken place in the Navy, and which necessitated a higher and more scientific education—he would not say than we had aimed at, but than our officers generally had hitherto attained. The two main defects in our system were—first, that we entered our cadets too young; and, secondly, that we endeavoured to combine school work with the teaching of the duties of our officers—two branches of education which, in the opinion of the Committee, ought to be kept separate. But before referring to the objection to the early age of entry mentioned by the Committee, he wished to revert to their objection to the present system of nomination to cadetships. At present the system was one of close nomi- 638 nation subject to a limited competition. If the present system was to be continued, much might be said in favour of the existing distribution of patronage; but if the age of entry was raised it would lead to a much better system, as the Admiralty would then be able to open the Service to public school competition. On this the Committee remarked—That the system of nomination, however admirably worked, limits the choice of candidates, and places artificial difficulties in the way of getting into the Navy.He did not think that, while the officers of our Army and the Civil Service were selected by a system of open competition, the country would be satisfied while an equally popular branch of the Public Service was recruited by a system of nomination. So long as they continued their present system of entering boys between 12 and 13½, he was perfectly aware that open competition was impossible. Competitive examination at such an ago, as had already been proved, was no test of fitness. But lot them adopt the recommendations of the Committee—enter their cadets at the age of 15, and throw the competition open to the public schools of the country—and they would then got rid of the difficulty—some First Lords had oven called it the "nuisance"—of nominations, and they would have a far wider field from which to draw the material for their future naval officers. Let him briefly say what the course of a young officer's training was from the time of his obtaining his cadetship till he became a sub-lieutenant. He entered the Britannia between 12 and 13½, the average time of entry was 13. After two years, in passing out, he became a midshipman, in which capacity he had to serve five years in a sea-going ship, unless by special merit he had gained time in passing out of the Britannia. He was then examined in seamanship, and, passing, became an acting sublieutenant, went to Greenwich for six months, and was examined in navigation, if successful joined the Excellent for a three months' course of gunnery and torpedo instruction, followed by an examination, and then a two months' course of pilotage, also followed by an examination, completed the officer's education for a lieutenant's commission. It would thus be seen that the compulsory course of study was from seven to eight 639 years. Under favourable conditions this should be a long enough period to give us efficiently educated officers. But, in the opinion of the Committee, this object was not attained. One of the chief causes of failure was the early entry. On this point there seemed to be a general consensus of opinion, even among those who did not agree with all the recommendations of the Committee. Mr. Aldous, Chief Instructor of the Britannia, said—After the rush through various subjects, by which a certain standard is attained, I do not think it possible that any but the most extraordinary young minds could have so learnt the subjects as to retain them for future use. Two conditions are required to produce a thorough knowledge of this course of study—advanced age in the pupil when entered and a longer time under instruction.If hon. Members would look at the examination required both for entering and passing out of the Britannia, given by Mr. Aldous, they would see that the standard, especially in mathematics, was a very high one indeed for boys at the ages of 13 and 15 respectively. But the opinion expressed by Mr. Aldous was entirely confirmed by the evidence of the young officers themselves. Lieutenant Wilson told the Committee—That it is the general opinion of the Service that a cadet, on leaving the Britannia, passes a better examination than a sub-lieutenant entering Greenwich.A statement confirmed by the evidence of Lieutenants Burney and Evan Thomas. He would ask the House for a moment to consider the real significance of the opinion he had quoted—that a young officer, on going to Greenwich, knew less than one passing out of the Britannia. It was the severest possible condemnation of the present system, because it showed that the most important years for educational purposes—the years from 15 to 19 or 20—had been completely wasted for all purposes of scientific education; while, at the same time, owing to the altered conditions of the Service, there had been no advance in purely professional education which would in any degree compensate for the loss in scientific knowledge, and this at a time when it was universally admitted that science in almost every branch was revolutionizing our Navy. Ten sub-lieutenants out of 24 recently failed at Greenwich. Now, the early entry had an important bearing on this point, as it was maintained by the Committee 640 that if boys entered the Navy at a later age, when they had been well grounded in general education, they would be far bettor able, in after years, to retain the learning they received on board the Britannia than they were now. He wished now to refer briefly to the second main objection he had mentioned—namely, the attempt to combine school work with the teaching of our officers. The Committee said—Each part of a naval officer's training ought to be given him under the most favourable circumstances possible, in order that when there is so much to learn there may be no want of force in learning it. Hence school work should be got over on shore, and seamanship and the detailed duties of our officers learnt afloat. It would be as great a waste of power to attempt to teach practical seamanship to school boys on shore as it is to teach elementary mathematics to officers afloat, and for the same reason.However desirable it might have been in past times to combine the two branches of education, in the present day it was impossible—first, because the scholastic education required was far more scientific; and, secondly, because there was not the same means of acquiring seamanship and general professional knowledge while serving afloat as there was 30 or even 20 years ago. Sailing vessels, especially small craft, where midshipmen frequently performed the duties intrusted to lieutenants in larger vessels, were very much reduced in number; consequently the same opportunities were not now afforded to midshipmen as formerly, when they often had charge of a watch, and were sent away for weeks together in charge of boats while suppressing the Slave Trade. All these duties, as, he might say, he knew from personal experience, 30 years ago gave a young officer a sense of responsibility. It gave him self-reliance and that readiness of decision so essential to a naval officer at a much earlier age than those qualities were to be acquired by a midshipman, the greater portion of whoso time was now spent on board an iron-clad, often in harbour. But, concurrently with losing many opportunities of acquiring seamanship and general professional know-ledge from actual service afloat, there came greater demands on the officer's scientific knowledge. The Committee reminded us that we were not living in an age when we could say, as Nelson could, that the only branches of know- 641 ledge indispensable to an officer were that "he should dance and speak French; all the rest would come by instinct." Steam, iron-clads, improved artillery, torpedoes, electricity, and complicated machinery of every description had sprung up since those times. Mr. Tims, Naval Instructor, gave us some of his experiences. Speaking of the time the midshipmen had for work, he said—I consider 12 hours a-week a good average; owing to many interruptions it was often much less.Then, as to the conditions under which the instruction had to be given, Mr. Tims went on to say—The great difficulty the Naval Instructor has to contend with is the want of a suitable place for study. Sometimes the captain will allow the use of his cabin; then matters go comparatively well. The only obstacles to study arc sea-sickness, heat, cold, and the thumping of the screw. But when relegated to the half-deck the school is held at a very insecure table, in a place about as private as an underground railway station. All noises and smells to which the ship is liable seem to be concentrated round that table.…. I have a very lively recollection of the torpedoes being charged with compressed air just ahead of our school, so that the copper tube from the air pump was led under our table among our feet. Under such circumstances privacy is impossible.In no Navy but our own was there an attempt to combine the school teaching with the professional duties of an officer. Lot him now turn to the recommendations of the Committee, suggested to remove some of the defects. First, with regard to admission to the Service, they recommended that our future naval officers be drawn from the public schools of the country; that a first selection of candidates at about the ago of 15 be made by means of the examination for lower certificates conducted by the Oxford and Cambridge School Examination Board; that the selected candidates be then specially educated; that at the age of 16 they be again examined by Civil Service Commissioners; that the final selection be determined by adding the marks gained at the first examination to those obtained at the second; that the successful candidates be appointed as cadets to the Britannia for one year; that the Britannia be moored in the Solent in the vicinity of Portsmouth, and that training brigs and one steamer be attached to her; that at the age of 642 17 the cadets join a sea-going ship as midshipmen for three years; that theoretical instruction now cease to be compulsory and be distinctly of a professional and practical character; that at the ago of 20 or 21 the midshipman, on passing in seamanship, become an acting sublieutenant, and go to Greenwich and to the Excellent much as at present. Our officers, in point of scientific education, were far behind the best educated officers in Foreign Navies. That might seem a strong statement to make, but it was one which was fully supported by the evidence of Captains Kane and Nicholson before the Committee. These officers had held appointments as naval attachés, and had, therefore, had the best possible opportunities of forming an opinion of the relative merits of our own and foreign officers. Captain Kane said—In certain of the Foreign Navies the officers from 20 to 30—that is, the sub-lieutenants and the lieutenants—are better educated, and, I think, are better officers, taking them all round, than ours are. Do you think they are more efficient as officers?—Yes; I think they are more efficient as officers—that is to say, in certain Navies.While Captain Nicholson characterizes the state of education in the Navy as "deplorable," Professor Soley, in his Report to the Secretary of the United States Navy, said—The high scientific and professional attainments of many English naval officers are not in consequence but in spite of their early education.A perusal of the evidence given by the lieutenants before the Committee certainly justified Professor Soley's opinion, for the system of education was, perhaps, more strongly condemned by them than by any other witnesses. He could not, however, refrain from reminding the House of the gallant manner in which those officers performed their duties while employed with the Naval Brigade during the Egyptian Campaign. He was sure the noble Lord opposite, his gallant Friend the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), who himself took such an active and honourable part in those engagements, would bear him out when he said that the rate of mortality among the officers of the Naval Brigade was enormously high, and that this was due to the lieu- 643 tenants sticking to their guns against overwhelming odds, and that the manner in which they died at their posts was the best evidence that in their fighting qualities the rising generation of officers were well qualified to maintain the reputation of the Service. There was another point bearing on the general re-commendations of the Committee which the Admiralty would not be able to overlook—namely, that many of the vessels they were now building, such as the fast cruisers, as noticed in Captain Nicholson's evidence, had no accommodation for midshipmen; and they must, therefore, of necessity be educated elsewhere. The Service would gain by this change, for the duties midshipmen had frequently to perform were little use to them as an education. Those duties were chiefly confined to keeping watch, often walking the deck in harbour, to seeing the decks swept, to speaking down tubes, and to seeing the ashes thrown overboard. It seemed absurd to sacrifice an acquirement in scientific knowledge for the performance of trivial duties which could be equally well performed by petty officers. Exception had been taken by some high naval authorities to the recommendations of the Report on the ground that too much of the young officers' time would be taken up by study, and that their practical education in seamanship was going to be sacrificed to mathematics; but with training ships attached to the Britannia, and with three years afloat after the ago of 17, he thought there would be ample time to learn seamanship. Lieutenant Cecil Burney, in his Paper given in Appendix 3, pointed out that the age for entry of boys in our training ships was between 15 and 16½. Surely, if this were considered young enough to commence the training of our future seamen, who would not be drafted into regular sea-going ships till they were 19 or 20, and then have practical seamanship to learn, 17 was not too late to send our future officers regularly to sea. Another objection had been taken on the ground that the age was too advanced to obtain candidates, and that when obtained they would not take to a sea life. But on these grounds the Committee entertained no apprehensions. They pointed out that boys now entered the Navy at an age when they were 644 quite incompetent to select a profession for themselves—that many, when so entered, found out when it was too late that Nature never intended them for naval officers. On the other hand, there were many boys well qualified for a sea life who at the age of 14 were prevented from joining the Navy because they were too old. The Committee were satisfied that whatever might be lost by postponing the age of entry would be more than compensated for by securing increased intelligence, and they were confident that the popularity of the Navy as a profession would secure an ample number of candidates from our public schools. They reminded them that when sea life was far rougher than it was now many officers went to sea at a more advanced age than they now did, and became excellent officers. Perhaps the most conspicuous illustration of the success of a late entry into the Navy was to be found in that of the first Flag officer he served under—tho late Lord Dundonald—the brilliancy of whose naval career he believed stood second alone to that of Nelson. Yet we were told by Lord Dundonald in the Auto-biography of a Seaman that he originally entered the Army, and did not go to sea till he was 17½ years old. Yet so impressed was Lord Dundonald of the importance of education for the due performance of the duties of a naval officer, that we found him, eight years after he had entered the Navy, employing his time while on half-pay by studying at the Edinburgh University, where, along with the late Lord Palmerston and a brilliant group of men who subsequently became famous as statesmen and men of letters, he was a student of Dugald Stewart's. He thought the critics of the Committee's Report would do well to bear this illustration in mind before condemning the recommendations as pedantic. Before bringing his remarks to a close he desired to say a word on a subject constantly referred to by the witnesses examined before the Committee—namely, the desirability of continuing the Britannia at all. For his own part, he thought a College on shore at some naval port, with training vessels attached, would be far preferable to this old hulk. It would, undoubtedly, be healthier in every way. It would give greater facilities both for study and for 645 obtaining exercise. That was the opinion of Captain Bowden-Smith, the captain of the Britannia, and Mr. Aldous, the Chief Instructor, and of most of the other witnesses. The idea when the Britannia was established was that it was desirable to accustom cadets as early as possible to a sea life. But he had always failed to understand how sea life was to be acquired on board an old hulk moored head and stern, and with no rigging but an old jury mast. He considered the system pursued at Greenwich School, where many of our future seamen were educated—although, of course, the standard of education was much lower—to be healthier and better in many respects than that on board the Britannia. But he might remind the House that this question was decided by the Admiralty more than 12 years ago, when the late Mr. Ward Hunt announced, in introducing the Estimates, his intention of abolishing the Britannia and substituting for her a College on shore. That step was approved by his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), who hold the Office of Secretary to the Admiralty in the Government which preceded Mr. Ward Hunt's, and who told the House that it was the intention of the First Lord of the Admiralty (the present Chancellor of the Exchequer) to abolish the Britannia had he remained at the Admiralty. He hoped that in his present Office his right hon. Friend would assist in carrying out this necessary reform. It only remained for him to assure hon. Members that he had only been induced to trespass on their patience because he was deeply impressed with the importance of the subject alike to the Naval Service and to the country. It was also a subject of deep interest to aspirants for naval cadetships, as well as to their parents and relatives. On these grounds he thought he was entitled to claim for it some share of public attention. There was abundant evidence that at no previous period of our history had the country been more deeply impressed than it now was with the necessity of maintaining unimpaired the efficiency of our Navy. It was because he believed that on the early solution of this question in the manner indicated by the Committee's Report much of that efficiency ultimately depended that he had ven- 646 tured to trouble the House with these observations.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he was desirous to add his humble meed of praise to the thanks already accorded to the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) for his labours in the re-organization of the Department and for the changes he had brought about. Still, he was constrained by a sense of public duty to criticize in some degree the acts of the noble Lord and of some of his Predecessors. He thanked the noble Lord for the answer given to his Question about the want of deck accommodation at Bombay, and he hoped that that serious want would soon be supplied. It was a public scandal that the Indian Government and the Home Government should have a petty squabble as to which of them should pay for this work, which was so greatly needed. He would remind the House that there was no dock in which ships could be repaired nearer than Malta, a distance of 4,000 miles from that part of India. While at Bombay a few years ago he had closely examined this question, and all he could say was that it was a shame the work should have remained so long unexecuted. He also hoped that certain rumours which he had heard respecting the non-completion of Haulbowline Dock at Queenstown were not correct, for he was sure that naval men earnestly de-sired that that dock should be completed. Indeed, the work should have been carried out long ago. He could not pass by one or two observations which had fallen from the last speaker (Mr. Duff), He thought the contests between the two Front Benches about expenditure for naval and military requirements were very trivial indeed. The country did not complain about the amount of the money, but only wanted to get the money's worth for the money which was spent. He noticed that one or two hon. Members had argued in favour of the abolition of the Britannia training ship. For his own part he was strongly opposed to its abolition, and the substitution of a Naval College in its place; and he was also opposed to open competition for the Navy, as the present system of competition of three candidates for each vacancy was very good and useful; therefore, when it was found that 647 naval men in that House were divided on those burning questions, he hoped the Admiralty would take its own line and come to a compromise. In his opinion, the Memorandum of the First Lord of the Admiralty on the state of the Navy ought to he supplemented by a Report from each Naval Lord who was placed in charge of a particular Department. At present the Naval Lords were unable to make known to the public what their opinions were. If the present First Naval Lord, who was responsible for the personnel of the Navy and partly for the matériel, were to make a Report and tell all he knew, the eyes of the country would be opened, and salutary changes would soon be effected. Under the existing system the Naval Lords were muzzled, and compelled to confine their opinions within the four walls of the Admiralty. In 1881, at the time of the Russian scare, the condition of the Navy was such that naval men were really alarmed. He appealed to the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone, the Junior Naval Lord of the Admiralty (Lord Charles Beresford)—as a young naval officer—to say whether he was satisfied that England could have entered into that contest and come out of it satisfactorily; and if he did not share the doubts so freely expressed by older ones? The great evil in this country was the want of continuity in naval administration and policy. First Lords went in and out with one side or the other, and there was no continuity or system in our naval policy. Why, on a change of Ministry, should Naval Lords be sent about their business, perhaps just when they were becoming accustomed to their work? The Board of Admiralty was undermanned in respect of Naval Lords. It was still short by one Naval Lord of the number which Sir James Graham, the Duke of Somerset, and other distinguished men thought the right one, although the requirements of the Service were now much greater than they were in the Duke of Somerset's time. Every Naval Lord was now greatly overworked. This accounted in a measure for the blunders that had been committed. A First Naval Lord, he had heard, used to take a file of papers home from the Office and study them until I o'clock in the morning. It was true that an improvement had now been in- 648 troduced by the institution of a strong Intelligence Department. The Board would henceforth be compelled to think out a naval policy and to form plans of campaign—[Home Rule Cheers]—good plans of the right sort—he hoped, not bad ones—with the Plan of Campaign of hon. Gentlemen opposite he had no sympathy. The First and Second Sea Lords ought each to have the assistance of a Post Captain as secretary. In Franco, Germany, and Russia a rule of that kind prevailed. Fifty to 60 naval officers were employed at the French Admiralty, whilst our Service was starved for want of technical skill and intelligence. He regretted the re-constitution of the Board of Admiralty in 1869 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers). He had nothing but respect for the ability and strong will of the right hon. Gentleman, though, at the same time, he deplored the results of that strong will. But the right hon. Gentleman did not always follow up his own opinions. Before he left Office he told Sir Sydney Dacres that the first thing which ought to be done in certain events was to appoint another Naval Lord; but he did not do it. However, his Successor did, and, so far, there was something gained, though still the executive authority should be strengthened; whereas, by the unhappy Order in Council of 1869, it had been greatly weakened; before that date it was exorcised by six Lords and a Controller, but since then by only four Lords and a Controller, until 1872, when it was augmented to five Lords and a Controller. There was, moreover, this further drawback—that the Naval Lords were not responsible as formerly. The Board, whoso history dated back to the time of Henry VI., was re-constituted under an Act passed in the Reign of William and Mary, 1690, and being thus constituted by an Act of Parliament it ought not to have been made to undergo change by the operation of an Order in Council. What the right hon. Gentleman could not do directly he ought not to have done indirectly. The then existing Board of Admiralty was practically abolished by the right hon. Gentleman in 1869, and the First Sea Lord was reduced to the position of little better than a chief clerk's. This change was 649 in opposition to the views expressed by more than one. Parliamentary Committee, and notably to the views of Sir James Graham—the creator of the Board of Admiralty as it was known before 1869—who said, before a Committee of the House of Lords in 1872—It is my opinion that the Board of Admiralty never could work, unless the First Lord were supreme, and docs exercise controlling authority.…I have made it my study to make myself master of the origin of the power exercised by the First Lord at the Board, the constitution of the Board, its powers, and its legal origin; the more I have investigated the matter the more I am satisfied that, like the Common Law in aid of the Statute Law, the power exercised by the Board of Admiralty and the different Members of it rests more upon usage than upon the Patents—uninterrupted usage from a very early period; and, my conviction being such as I have stated, I am led to view with increased apprehension any great change that will supersede that usage and prescription.….I am of opinion that there will be great danger in attempting to touch the Patents.…. I infinitely prefer, therefore, upon the whole, the maintenance of the existing Patents in concurrence with the established usage of centuries.His complaint was that at the present moment there was no Naval Board really acting as a Board of Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh abolished it when he introduced his Order in Council. There was no reason for abolishing it except the right hon. Gentleman's will. They admired men of strong will in the Navy. He admired a man with a strong back—in the Navy they did not care much for weak or limp men—but whereas in the Navy a man before he could be in a position to do any harm had to pass through 20 years' training, a politician could go to the Admiralty perfectly raw, and if he were a strong man of resolute will he was like a certain animal in a china shop. He challenged the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone to deny that he was speaking the sentiments of the Navy. The Naval Lords should be administrators de facto as well as de jure, or else they should abolish them altogether and rule the Navy entirely by civilians. All they asked in the Navy was that there should be a little modesty on the part of those distinguished men who came to rule over thorn, and who were ignorant of the feelings, the traditions, and he feared sometimes even 650 of the history of the Service. He (Admiral Field) would refer to the evidence of Sir Spencer Robinson to show that under the existing system the naval element was not sufficiently represented on the Board of Admiralty, and that under former systems matters wore better conducted. If each Sea Lord or Head of a Division of the Admiralty were obliged to make a Report, to be laid on the Table of the House of Commons, the public would see what the Naval Lords thought ought to be done, and he thought that the House would then insist on the requirements of the Navy being met. They had irresponsibility now, because that odious Order in Council had made the Sea Lords responsible only to the First Lord. That Order ought to be withdrawn, and the naval business of the country conducted upon the system under which our great naval battles were fought and won. What gave force and validity to the orders emanating from the Admiralty was the fact that they were supposed to embody the views of distinguished naval men, and not the views of a civilian First Lord. Naval men believed that in time of war the present system would break down and end in disaster. The Naval Lords ought to be made responsible for their own work, not to the First Lord, as to their master, but to the House and the country. The First Lord was supreme, and they did not deny that; but, in the name of all that was fair and just, they ought not to be treated in this way by ambitious politicians. The Chairman of Committees some time ago said—"When men enter this House they ought to try and imbibe something of its Parliamentary spirit." he would say when Civil First Lords, knowing nothing of the Service, were made the nominal head of it, they, too, might try and drink in something of the naval spirit. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer, when First Lord of the Admiralty, said that whoever was at the head of that Department ought to try and carry the naval opinion with him, and he did so, and the Service honoured him for it. The right hon. Member for South Edinburgh had abolished the office of Storekeeper of the Dockyards; but the present Chancellor of the Exchequer had felt bound to restore that office. The 651 right hon. Member for South Edinburgh had abolished the office of Captain of Steam Reserve at Sheerness Dockyard, and shortly afterwards the Megæra was lost. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer restored that office, and had also felt bound to replace the Naval Lords of the Admiralty whom the right hon. Member for South Edinburgh had swept away. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had reversed many other steps that the right hon. Member for South Edinburgh had taken. But he supposed that he did not like to hit his Predecessor too hard, and therefore he did not withdraw the Order in Council of 1869, but modified it by that of 1872. He wished it to be understood that he did not desire in any way to supersede or to interfere with the authority of the First Lord. All he asked was that there should be sufficient naval men at the Board to give the assistance and advice which was absolutely necessary if the Navy was to be maintained in a continuous state of efficiency. The First Lord of the Treasury and the First Lord of the Admiralty knew the feeling of the Navy upon this question as well as any men; find he said if his brother officers were worthy to be Naval Lords let them be Naval Lords de facto, and if they were not worthy let them be turned out altogether. There were no men in the country more capable or more loyal to authority than naval men. Sir James Graham said naval officers were the very best instruments of Governments; and Lord Palmerston once stated that if he had a difficult job to get done, and was in doubt as to who should carry it out, he always sent for a naval officer. Hon. Members might ask how it was that the Naval Lords sat tamely under that Order in Council? It was because the Naval Lords were loyal to the authorities which existed. They did not like the way in which they were treated; but, like the eels that were skinned, they made no complaint—because they could not help it. They were asked why they did not agitate outside the Admiralty. The fact was that discipline was the pivot upon which the whole Service turned, and naval men did not approve of discussing these naval questions out-of-doors; and it was un-seemly, improper, and contrary to the 652 Regulations for them to write to the newspapers. The only place in which naval opinion could legitimately make itself felt was in that House. He did not pretend to set himself up as the exponent of naval opinion in that House; but if he had made no impression upon any hon. Members in the speech he had just delivered he had been wasting the time of the House. He could assure hon. Members that nothing but the strongest, sense of duty would have induced him to speak upon that occasion. The point he desired to make clear to the House was that if the Admiralty, which was the central Departmental power of the Navy, was faulty, everything connected with the Navy would be faulty. The fact was that the Naval Lords had been unfairly treated. He was on the Retired List, and so was not speaking for himself, but was doing what he could for the good of the Profession. He was on the Retired List because of the Rules of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh. He (Admiral Field) did not bear the right hon. Gentleman any ill-will for that—the right hon. Gentleman did it with the best intentions for the good of the Service. Captains in the Navy had to retire at the age of 55, but politicians thought that they could be first-class politicians and statesmen right up to and over 70; but he ventured to say that a naval man of 55 had more nerve about him than a politician at 75, and would make a better public servant in any capacity. He could not be of any service in the Navy, because the turnpike bar had been thrown across his path; but he thought that he might be of some service to the Navy in that House. He knew that he could not be an Admiral on the Active List in the Navy by the time he was 55, so he took up politics—worse luck. [Laughter.] He said worse luck, because he would tell them frankly the Navy had no great respect for politicians. He, however, had a good deal of respect for a certain class of politicians, but not for all. But, humble individual as he was, having taken up this kind of life—he had been 13 years at it now—he had stood four contests and had been successful in two of them—having once got into that House he intended to remain there for years, and do what little good he could for the Naval Service in which it was the 653 greatest honour of his life to have served. He intended to do the best he could for his brother officers, who could not speak for themselves, and he would never rest until this burning injustice to his Profession was removed. The history of the Navy covered the most glorious epoch in our national life, and its opinions and susceptibilities ought not lightly to be set aside or disregarded by politicians. He hoped, therefore, the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty would attentively consider the evidence given by Sir James Graham, the Duke of Somerset, and the others which he had quoted, and would endeavour to bring the administration of the Navy into accord with naval sentiment.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (A LORD of the ADMIRALTY) (Marylebone, E.)
As one of the Naval Lords, perhaps the House will allow me to say a few words on the question which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. M. Maclean) has brought forward. There are other questions which I should also like to speak upon; but the hour is late, and this subject is of so much importance that I will confine my remarks to it. For a long time there has been a general feeling in the country that the system of organization in the Admiralty is not so good as it ought to be. I will endeavour to show how it has been brought about. It is the penalty we pay for Party government—a different policy is pursued by different Parties when they come into Office One Government may think it necessary to reduce the Estimates, and the next Government, on coming in, perhaps goes on with the Estimates for the moment; but when there is a possibility of war they consult naval experts as to what is requisite, and the result is that very large Supplementary Estimates are brought in. In other words, large Estimates are necessary to pay for what the country wants in consideration of receiving it in a time of panic. The system of the Admiralty has always been based on the principle of Party government, and seamen—experts—have really had nothing to do with the government of the Admiralty. Let me explain what I mean. Take the question of shipbuilding. The men who have to fight the ships know exactly what they want, and understand modern 654 requirements—what guns they ought to have, where they should be placed, what speed the vessels should have, what coal they should carry, what horse-power is required, and what complement of men is necessary to fight the ships and take them into action. But the seamen on the Board have very little to say to it. The scheme my noble Friend has brought in is, I think, as nearly perfect as it could be. The seamen are to say what is required for a ship, and each will put a Minute on the design that will be submitted to them by the Constructor, showing where the guns are to be placed, and the are of range they are to have, and the scheme will then be passed, on to the Controller, and so each individual will be individually responsible for the ships built. It would then be referred to the Board; they would order the vessel to be constructed, and by these means the country will have a proper fighting ship turned out quickly. The construction, of a ship in this way would take two years and five months, instead of seven years, like the Inflexible, and you will get it for a considerably less sum of money than under the old régime. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Admiral Field) has made one mistake as to the Order in Council made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite he will find that the wording of the Order is that it should be rescinded, and he is wrong in thinking that the Order of the right hon. Gentleman is in force at the present moment. My noble Friend the First Lord has gone further. He has added to the responsibility of each Member of the Board of Admiralty. Every Member of the Board will put a Minute on the Paper and sign it, so that each Member will be individually responsible, instead of there being the sort of haphazard system of organization that formerly prevailed. With respect to the question brought forward by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston), some people have been good enough to give me credit for the institution of the Intelligence Department. It would be better to give the credit to the Board. In my opinion, this Department will be of the utmost importance to the Admiralty. I will give my reasons. Ships are built, and seamen are paid that they may be ready 655 in time of war. War in these days is a question of electricity. In the old days there was no kind of organization whatever. I am not blaming our Predecessors, but the system. Time after time seamen have represented the necessity for a Department such as the Intelligence Department; but there has been nothing in tills country resembling the Naval Intelligence Departments in Germany, France, Russia, and other Continental countries. An organization was required which shall enable the Navy to be prepared for time of war. When war is declared, a country like England, with a vast Empire which can be assailed at so many points, requires a complete organization, and for that purpose the Intelligence Department is of the utmost importance. With reference to this question of Party government, I will mention one circumstance which will illustrate clearly its working. The discharges of Dockyard workmen which we have heard of were the result of Party government.] One Party said they could not turn the men off because of the Vote; but the State should not make the Dockyards a charitable institution. If you had a continuation of policy, you would not get rid of the Dockyard men as you do now. It is very hard on the men to be turned off suddenly; and if there were a continuity of policy in everything connected with the Naval Service, instead of the weathercock policy that now prevails, there would be no necessity for turning men off suddenly. During the course of the debate many remarks have been made, and no doubt many remarks of a similar description will be made, as to officers of the Navy wishing money to be spent. That is not the case at all. Officers in the Service do not wish to spend money. They wish so to organize the Service that the country may not have to spend more than is necessary. What occurs at present? When war looms on the horizon, Parliament says to the exports—and it is the same at the War Office—"What do you want?" the officers then represent what they do want, and they get the credit of asking for the money which is spent, as it often has been in times of scare, in a wrong way. I maintain that each individual in the Board should be allowed the right of expressing his opinion on the large 656 questions affecting the Navy. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) made a remark with reference to seamen and shipbuilding. I am delighted to hear the remark, because I remember a publication of the hon. Member's which appeared in Macmillan's Magazine, in which he said—"Seamen must bow their proud heads at the altar of science." I am disposed to remark on that, that "Seamen have often shaken their wise heads at the altar of doubt; "because many ships have been turned out without the opinion of Members of the Board having been obtained—without the opinion of men who have to use these ships for the benefit of the country. The hon. Member for Banffshire (Mr. R. W. Duff) taunted me regarding an expression of opinion to which I gave utterance last year in the House of Commons. The hon. Gentleman has not quite gathered my meaning. What I said was this—To put the Navy in the state of defence in which the taxpayers thought it was would require £5,000,000. I elaborated this view in detail. That was my opinion in order to reduce the danger to our trade, our floating wealth, our food supply, and the defence of our ports to a minimum. I adhere to every word which I uttered on that occasion. In time of war the country would be most severely hit during the first three weeks of the outbreak, and in order to reduce the danger to a minimum, I adhere to the view I previously took on the subject. Of course, the hon. Gentleman knows that when a Member of Parliament is in Office he cannot do all that he wished when out of Office. [Laughter.] My hon. Friends laugh; but the First Lord of the Admiralty will bear me out when I say that not only in private, but in public, I have persistently put forward my ideas with the view of strengthening the Navy, and placing it in that condition in which it ought to be placed. I therefore cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite that it is all Party judgment.
§ MR. E. W. DUFF
I referred to the statement which had been made as to the condition of the Navy from 1880 to 1884, and I pointed out that the Estimate's for 1881 had been omitted.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
But from 1881 to 1884 and 1885 we were living on our capital. It is when 657 we come to a time of panic that we find so many stores which ought to have been replaced by the Estimates for the year are deficient. Recent occurrences in the Navy have been due to want of system, want of organization, and want of responsibility on the part of individual Members of the Board to the Board. An hon. Member has asked how it is that my name does not appear on the Estimates. The reason is, because the Estimates were brought to me too late. I told my noble Friend that I would not sign them. My noble Friend replied—"You must do what you think proper." And the reason why I did not sign the Estimates was because each name on the Estimates, I think, should mean that the individual is responsible for the whole Estimate, or if such individual is only responsible for his Vote, it should be clearly put in black and white for what he is responsible. Next year I shall probably get the Estimates in time to study them thoroughly, and then I will sign them. The object of the Board is to have a Fleet as efficient as it can be made, not to spend a shilling more than is necessary, and to lot the public know, as far as possible, how that money is spent. I believe in publicity. The new system which my noble Friend has inaugurated will be greatly for the benefit of the country and of the Service. It will enable the Navy to do what the taxpayer expects it to do for the money he pays—namely, to defend the country in time of war.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I should not have risen to address the House had it not been for the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex (Admiral Field), who referred to some action of mine 18 years ago. In the few remarks I intend to make I hope the House will grant me some indulgence, on the ground that I have not had time to look into matters which occurred in 1869, and have no power to refer to the Papers on the subject. With regard to the general subject before the House, I most heartily join in the approval expressed by all sections of the House as to the general construction of the Estimates, and especially of the Minute with which the First Lord of the Admiralty has prefaced them. I entirely endorse, with all the approval I can give, the improve- 658 ments which the First Lord of the Admiralty and his Colleagues have made, not only in the form of the Estimates and in the arrangement shown in the Estimates, but also in other matters which have been brought before the House by the Secretary to the Admiralty, whose speech to-night will be, I think, of great use. The hon. Gentleman has argued very forcibly on the advantage of making up year by year the waste of the Navy, and has spoken as to what that waste is and how it ought to be made up. When I was myself at the Admiralty in 1869, some figures were laid before me, and I urged on Parliament the necessity of constructing an even amount of tonnage from year to year, both of armour-clad, and unarmoured ships, and I pointed out that if we had constant changes from year to year, the effect would not only be bad for the Service generally, but also be bad economically. I am glad to find that the same idea is entertained by the present Board of Admiralty. I also entirely agree in what has been so well said as to the necessity of fixing on the type of the ships to be built after consultation, not only with naval officers and officers of gunnery, but with other officers, on whose advice, as well as that of the controller and the constructor, the design on which a ship is to be built should be determined. It is a cardinal feature of good construction in my mind, that those who have afterwards to be concerned both with the fighting and the sailing of the ship, through their representatives at the Admiralty, should be effectually consulted, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has enunciated that doctrine to-night as clearly as he has done. Therefore, as far as I am concerned—reserving the question of past expenditure, which I do not think worth carrying further at present—I cordially concur in what has been put forward by the First Lord in his Memorandum, and also by the Secretary to the Admiralty in his speech to-night. I turn next to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member (Admiral Field), who has so much amused the House, and who has gone into the history of the Board of Admiralty and its methods of administration for a very long time past. I cannot carry my memory back, as far as reading is concerned, to the Reign of 659 Henry VII.; but I do know its history since the time when the system was so entirely changed by Sir James Graham under Lord Grey's Administration. Formerly, the whole affairs of the Admiralty were really carried on at Somerset House by different Boards, which managed respectively the shipbuilding, the victualling, the store-keeping the medical service, and other matters connected with the Navy. The great change which Sir James Graham effected was to get rid of those Boards, and to establish at Whitehall one single Board for the transaction of all that business. He divided the business in this way. The Departments remained at Somerset House; but each Member of the Board was called a Superintending Lord, and in his capacity of Superintending Lord the business of each Department was brought to him, and he then brought it to the Central Authority. In establishing that system, Sir James Graham was as strongly attacked in Parliament by the naval officers of that day, as the hon. and gallant Admiral has attacked tonight what I did in 1869. The cardinal point of Sir James Graham's defence was this—that the Board could only work well, under his arrangement, if it was made as unlike a Board as possible. That was the principle on which Sir James Graham attempted to reform the old system, and to substitute one Board for three Boards. I do not hesitate to say that the system established by Sir James Graham, although, perhaps, good enough for doing the very moderate amount of business under Lord Grey's Government, utterly broke down when the business of the Admiralty became greatly increased some 30 years later. I am afraid I am the only person in the House at the present time who was a Member of the Board of Admiralty in 1864. Then, the Board met for four or five times a-week, or almost daily. When the Board met, each of the Lords of the Admiralty who was concerned in a particular Department, brought to the Board the whole of its work—that is to say, the different papers coming from the different Departments and requiring the Board's sanction, excepting, of course, very small matters. At the end of the discussion the Board's stamp was put on them, and that, without any signature, or perhaps the signature of the 660 Secretary, carried the authority of the Board. Under that system, as I know to my cost, when a Junior Lord, I had three, four, or five hours' business to do in a Board room from day to day. Under the whole system a great deal of time was unnecessarily wasted, and it was absolutely impossible that a large amount of business could be transacted efficiently. The system was very bad; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not told the House anything about the condition in 1861. He spoke of the Committee of 1861, which collected a largo amount of contradictory evidence; but there was also a Royal Commission in 1861, which condemned the system, and unanimously expressed the hope that it might be entirely altered. I was very familiar with the Report of that Commission. I had been a junior Member of the Board of Admiralty, and was not, therefore, uninformed upon these questions. When it was my duty, in 1868, as First Lord, to make improvements in reference to the Admiralty, which had been strongly urged by the Royal Commission, and the necessity for which was strongly shown by the Committee in 1867, I determined to recommend to my Colleagues a plan to moot the objections which had been put forward by the Royal Commission, and which had been so often discussed in the House. We did, at the Admiralty, the sumo thing that was done at the War Office. We divided the administration under three heads:—the first of which dealt with the military administration; the second with questions of finance. We divided the responsibility between the three heads, laying down, most distincty, the, responsibilities assumed by each—both with regard to the Minister and to Parliament. The system thus started has been in operation ever since, although, in other respects, some slight alterations have been introduced. For instance, an additional Lord has been appointed, who is a post-captain attached to the First Lord, and the first officer appointed was Captain, now Admiral, Willes. He has ceased to act, and a Controller has been appointed; but the system followed is practically that which was established in 1869, and which, I will undertake to say, has worked well. One thing has been referred to almost ludicrously—namely, 661 the signatures to the Estimates, which are said to provide a certain security. Why, I established that system myself.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood what I said. What I said was, that I objected to the signing of a document, which those who signed it did not understand, because they had not had time to examine it. It gives a false impression to the public, who are under the impression that the official by placing his name upon it has examined it, and is satisfied with it. I objected to any official signing a document unless the person signing it had thoroughly looked into everything to which he attached his name.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I think that is exactly what the Lords of the Admiralty are bound to do; and, as I have said, it was 1, myself, who introduced the system. Now, Sir, I promised the House I would only speak for a few minutes, and I hope I have kept my promise. But there is one point to which the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) referred, and upon which I should like to say a word. I was somewhat surprised to hear him speak of want of continuous employment of distinguished Admirals at the Admiralty by one Government and another, as a great vice of the now system, it is not a vice of my creating; because, when I was First Lord of the Admiralty. I offered the First Sea Lordship to the First Sea Lord of my Predecessor. He was, however, very anxious to go to sea: and, instead of so appointing him, I gave him the command of the Mediterranean Fleet; but then T offered the First Sea Lordship to the next Sea Lord of my Predecessor, for the express reason that I was anxious for the continuous character of the naval supervision. I think I have now answered the criticisms of the noble and gallant Lord. I have, I think, shown him that the change which has been made was a change rendered necessary by enquiries which had taken place in previous years. Then, when the noble and gallant Lord says—"Now that we are in a position, lot us sweep all this away," I think he will find that the Party to which he belongs was really in power from 1874 to 1880, and that they made no change in this direction. I do not think the 662 noble and gallant Lord's appeal is warranted by the facts; but I, on the other hand, appeal to both sides of the House to deal with this question in no Part}' sense, but as a matter of good administration. If any change is required, I do not object to it; because it is a change upon what I laid down in 1869. On the contrary, I shall never allow Party considerations in matters of this kind to influence me in the slightest degree.
§ MR. CAINE (Barrow-in-Furness)
Mr. Speaker, I wish to address a few remarks to the House upon the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the system of Purchase and Contract in the Navy—a Report which has excited some comment in the public Press, and created great public interest. The object of this Committee, as stated in the Instruction to the Committee, was to inquire into the system adopted by the Admiralty in regard to the purchase, supply, and examination of stores, contracts for hulls and machinery, including the organization and functions of the Contract Department, and its relations with the Executive departments of the Admiralty, the Dockyards, Victualling Yards, and Medical Establishments at homo and abroad. The inquiry was called for, and I think that many of the recommendations of the Committee are extremely good; but I wish to take exception to one or two points in connection with the Report. First of all, I wish to take some exception to the Committee itself. The Committee consists of the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood); the Accountant General, Sir Gerald Fitzgerald, K.C.M.G.; Captain C. F. Hotham, R.N., C.B.: and the Members for Mid Armagh (Sir James Corry) and North Worcestershire (Mr. B. Hingley; and the Govan Division of Lanarkshire (Mr. Pearce;. It is to the appointment of the latter Gentleman as a Member of this Committee to inquire into the matter of contracts that I wish to take particular exception. I do not wish to dispute the fitness of the hon. Member himself to take part in this inquiry. We all know perfectly well he is at the head of one of the most distinguished shipbuilding firms in the world, and that his peculiar knowledge of the business which had to be inquired into fitted him very well indeed, other matters not intervening, to join in this inquiry; 663 but the reason I object to him having been placed on the Committee is, because he himself is a disappointed tenderer for many contracts. ["Oh, oh!"] I do not say that in any disrespectful manner. He was disappointed his tenders were not accepted; surely, there is no objection to an expression of that kind. He was a disappointed tenderer for those contracts which form a very considerable portion of the inquiry of this Committee. Now, Sir, it seems to me that it is most unfair to the other firms tendering and contracting, for an hon. Member of this House, a leading partner in a firm which is, to say the least, a most dangerous opponent to them, to have access to all their confidential documents, and the plans which have been submitted, with the view of securing the orders of the Admiralty. If hon. Members would take the trouble to read the evidence, I think many would agree with me that, during the inquiry, the hon. Member subjected both the late and present Advisers of the Board to a cross-examination very much more like what you would expect from the counsel of a prosecution than from one who was really in the position of a Judge. As I read the evidence, the inference to be drawn from the hon. Member's cross-examination certainly is that the Board's Advisors had been guilty of gross and wilful carelessness and neglect of the public interest. And, in my opinion, the only object of the cross-examination was to show that the firm of which he is a member—Messrs. Elder and Co.—had been unjustly set aside in favour of the contractors who received the Board's orders in question. It seems to me that it would have been the easiest thing in the world to have found some other Gentleman to have taken a position on the Committee in place of the hon. Member for the Govan Division of Lanarkshire. There was one gentleman in particular who gave valuable evidence before the Committee, and who was described by the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) as a most distinguished engineer in his profession—I refer to Mr. William Wallace, the engineer-in-chief of Messrs. Allan and Co. I think if he had been placed on the Committee, and the hon. Member (Mr. Pearce) had been called as a witness, it would have been very much more 664 in accordance with the fitness of things than that which took place. It seems to me that the Report is virtually a severe censure on the whole shipbuilding and controlling departments of the Admiralty. It is proposed by the Committee to transfer to the Director of Contracts the duty of purchasing hulls and machinery, as well as contracting for all business in the Works Departments of the Admiralty. Now, I am glad to say that one of the Members of the Committee enters a strong protest against this recommendation. Captain Hotham, a very distinguished naval officer, concurs generally in the Report, with two important exceptions. He says—I entirely dissent from the proposal to invest the Director of Contracts with any responsibility of making contracts for building or repairing ships and constructing engines. That official can have no knowledge whatever of the matter, nor can he be expected to understand the specifications on which contracts are based; and he must of necessity be guided by the opinion of the professional officers of the Controller's Department. The Controller is a Lord of the Admiralty, and he is provided with professional assistants, who may be considered, and who ought to be experts in their respective Departments; and I am of opinion that the Controller should make his own contracts (under the Board) for the supply of ships, and engines, and for repairs; otherwise delay will be caused, friction will arise between the Departments, and inefficiency will be the result. The same objection applies to the proposal to place contracts for works under the Director of Contracts.I must say, Sir, that if the recommendations of this Committee are carried out, I should expect the present distinguished Admiral, who is the Controller of the Navy, to send in his resignation at once. Just let us examine for one moment the proposal of the Committee; let us examine the mass of work which is already undertaken by that Director of Contracts. No one who knows anything of the present Director of Contracts can speak in any other way of him but in the highest possible terms. When I was at the Admiralty, I had the opportunity of watching the way in which he conducts his business, and I have no hesitation in saying that, under his management, the Admiralty buy their stores cheaper than anyone else in the world. Before I entered Parliament, I was largely engaged in buying exactly the same class of materials that is bought by the Director of Contracts, 665 and I can only say that, if I had had the services of the Director of Contracts, I should be a very much richer man than I am at the present moment. But what is the work which the Director of Contracts at present undertakes? He has to buy everything under Vote 2—Victualling and Clothing—which amounts to £1,278,000. He has to buy all naval stores under Vote 10, and these amount in value to £1,370,000. He has to buy medical stores under Vote 12, amounting to £75,000; indeed, this official has positively to see to the contracting and purchasing, examining and testing of goods to the value of £2,730,000 in the course of a year. Now, if that is not enough work for one man, I should like to know what is. Well, what is it that is proposed to be added to the work of this already overworked official? It is proposed he should purchase hulls and machinery; and, under Vote 10, the Government ask this House for hulls and machinery for nearly £2,000,000—£1,911,000; it is also proposed that he should look after the Contracts Works Department. Positively, under this head alone, it is proposed, by one blow, to add to his responsibility the expenditure of £2,464,000. But that is not all. There is now under consideration—at least I believe it is settled—that in future the Admiralty is to buy its own guns. If that is so, I suppose that that also, as a matter of course, will be added to the work of the Director of Contracts, a very serious business in itself. It will more than double his work, adding, as Captain Hotham says in his protest at the end of the Report, to his duties matters of which he can have no knowledge, nor can he be expected to understand the specifications on which contracts are based. But this will not be the end of the additional work placed on the Director of Contracts. It is recommended in this Report—and I entirely concur in the recommendation—that, in future, those things which are now manufactured in the Dockyards should be purchased outside. I have no doubt a very large saving, indeed, will be effected if that recommendation be carried out. It is proposed to give up ropemaking and sailmaking at the Dockyards. I understand it is also proposed to give up the manu- 666 facture of biscuits and so on. There are some 2,000 hands employed in these works; and the purchasing of these articles, amounting in value to £250,000 sterling, will also be thrown on the overburdened back of the Director of Contracts. But that is not even all; for in Clause 42 of the Committee's Report, there is a recommendation of fresh work for the Director of Contracts. Clause 42 says—It is most desirable that the Director of Contracts be relieved, as much as possible, of office work, in order that he may have time, subject to the instructions of the Board, to visit manufacturing districts and the Dockyards, and to keep himself fully informed as to the best centres of production and in touch with the wants of the Services.It really seems to me that anything more ridiculous than these proposals I have never seen made in a Report presented to Parliament. A justification for the transfer of contracts under Vote 11, it is impossible to find from the evidence As Civil Lord, I had charge of this Department, and I can appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), who succeeded me in that office, and who is now occupying it, as to whether Colonel Percy Smith, the Director of Contracts, is not himself capable of arranging for the various contracts under this particular Vote? Why on earth this duty is to be transferred to the Contract Department I altogether fail to discover. But, Sir, in regard to the proposal to transfer the buying of ships and machinery to the Contract Department, the Committee rest their recommendation almost entirely on the charge that in purchasing the two ships, the Renown and the Sanspareil, Lord Northbrook's Committee Board paid in the one case over £18,000 and in the other case over £17,000 more than if the work had been done by other firms tendering for the same work. I should point out to the House that these Estimates are based on the suggestion that the hulls and machinery had been purchased from separate firms, instead of under one contract. Now, what are the facts of the case? I will turn to Clause 23 of the Report, in which the Committee summarize what they think were the right proportions of the terms tendering. The Committee say that— 667Had the £S,000 proposed to be charged by the engine-makers for the additional indicated horse-power been abated by the professional officer from the accepted tenders, instead of their arbitrary valuation of £l5,000, the tenders in order of price would have stood as follows.So that the table which follows that remark is the table, as I understand it, which the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Norwood) considers ought to have been presented to the Board by the officials responsible for these contracts. Now, it shows that Messrs. Palmer and Co. tendered for hull and engines £587,854; that Messrs. Elder and Co. for each of two ships tendered £590,000; that the Thames Shipbuilding Co. tendered £593,000, and that Messrs. Armstrong and Co. tendered £590,000. So that, on the face of it, the contracts having been given to the Thames Shipbuilding Co. and Messrs. Armstrong and Co., the highest of these tenders, it does appear that the Board, of which I was a Member, had given too much money for these particular ships. But there is a great deal of suppression of the truth in these two statements. Let us examine the matter more carefully. Messrs. Palmer and Co. tendered for one ship £587,854, or in round figures £588,000: but they only tendered for a ship of 9,000 horse-power. Messrs. Elder and Co. tendered £590,000 for two ships. But if the Board had carried out the recommendation of the Report, and accepted, in the first instance, the lowest tender—that of Messrs. Palmer and Co.—there would have been one ship only for Messrs. Elder and Co., who tendered £594,500 for one ship. And yet the Committee report that Messrs. Elder and Co. tendered £3,000 less than the Thames Co., as if it were for one ship. Now, it is true that Messrs. Elder and Co. tendered for 10,000 horse-power; but they wanted, if they were to put 10,000 horsepower into the ship, to add 100 tons to the weight of the machinery, so taking away 100 tons from the rest of the carrying capacity of the ship. Now, the Thames Shipbuilding Co. tendered £593,000, and we got 10,000 horsepower guaranteed; we also got a knot extra speed in consequence. We secured the same conditions in the case of Messrs. Armstrong and Co' s tender of £596,000. I see many hon. and gallant Admirals on the opposite side of the House, and 668 I appeal, without the slightest hesitation, to any of them, whether, in order to secure an extra knot in the speed of the two iron-clads in question, it was not worth while to pay, in one instance, £3,000 more, and in the other £6,000 more, rather than accept the tender of Messrs. Elder and Co., who wanted to load the ship with an extra 100 tons of machinery; or of Messrs. Palmer and Co., who only offered 9,000 horse-power. But now let me trouble the House for a moment more in reference to the prices. I must remind the House of what some may have noticed in the public Press, that when these orders were given to the Thames Shipbuilding Co. and Messrs. Armstrong and Co., these firms contracted that if they failed to produce 10,000 horse-power, they would submit to a fine of £12 per horse-power for every one they fell short of that amount, so that I maintain that, whether we got eventually a 10,000 horsepower ship, or 8,500 horse-power ship, from these two contractors, we paid in hard cash very much less than we should have done if we employed Messrs Elder and Co., or Messrs Palmer and Co., or any other combination that it was possible to be tendering for engines and hulls. I will suppose that we got the full 10,000 horse-power from either of the three firms who wore able to supply it—Messrs. Elder and Co., the Thames Shipbuilding Co., and Messrs. Armstrong and Co. We should have paid £595,000 to Messrs. Elder and Co., for a 10,000 horse-power ship, plus 100 tons. Now, that 100 tons is an exceedingly valuable element. If you got rid of 100 tons in the engines, you can use it for coals, for armaments, for ammunition, or for a variety of other purposes, and I maintain that 100 tons space in any ship is worth an extra £5,000 or £10,000. The Thames Shipbuilding Co., were to get £601,000 for a ship of 10,000 indicated horse-power. The engines would have been 40 tons lighter than those tendered for by other firms; so that, as a matter of fact, the ship would have been 140 tons lighter or of less displacement than the ship which was tendered for by Messrs. Elder and Co., a fact which would have given a knot extra speed. There may be some comment made that Messrs. Armstrong and Co. wore £3,000 higher than the Thames 669 Shipbuilding Co. That £3,000 was required; because the engines were manufactured on the Thames, and the ship was built on the Tyne. Suppose the ships, when delivered, only turned out to be of 9,500 horse-power. The price paid to Messrs. Elder and Co. would have been the same, £595,000, and the price paid to the Thames Shipbuilding Co., on the terms of £12 per horse deduction, would have been precisely the same as to that paid to Messrs. Elder and Co; but the ship would have been minus 40 tons in the weight of the engines. Messrs. Armstrong, under the same conditions, would have been paid £598,000. Now, let us suppose the engineers had failed in their engagement to produce a full 10,000 horsepower, and had only given us 8,500 horse-power. It has been the contention of this Committee all through, that we ought to have considered, in giving out the orders, only the prices that were tendered for ships of 8,500 horse-power. the lowest tender for hull and machinery from two different contractors was £581,000. The Department object to buying the hull from one firm and the engines from another firm; and, therefore, they get one tender: That, in itself, was an objection to Messrs. Palmer and Co.'s tender of £587,000. But under the £12 fine, the Thames Shipbuilding Co. would only have been paid, if they had delivered a ship of 8,500 horsepower, £483,000, and the ship would still have been minus the 40 tons weight. Messrs. Armstrong and Co. would have been paid £486,000. So, taking these figures as you please, arranging them as you like, if you speak honestly, it is impossible to bring any charge against the Board of which I was a Member, to the effect that we did not purchase these vessels on the very lowest and best possible terms. There is a good deal in the Report of the Committee about the fancy value of a horse in a ship's engines. One authority places it at 30s.; another at £5 1s. 3d.; and another at £6 10.s. I confess I do not understand the value of a horse-power in these engines, or know how it can be arrived at; but I do understand, and every naval officer perfectly understands, the value of an extra 140 tons of space. Naval officers know perfectly well the value of a knot. It is quite possible that one knot might turn out to 670 be the value of a whole ship. I have no hesitation in saying that the charge brought by this Committee in their Report against the Board, of which I was a Member, that they bought ships at a higher price than they could obtain them for elsewhere, is absolutely without foundation. I strongly protest against the charge. If the Committee have no more basis for the charge than it has for taking away the contracting for ships from the Controller's Department, and adding it to the already overburdened Department of the Director of Contracts—if the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) does not assure me that he; will not persevere with the carrying out! of the recommendation of the Committee, I shall be bound, at as early a date as possible, to ask the House to express its opinion in the Division Lobbies.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
Mr. Speaker, I regret the Forms of the House do not enable me to raise the issue which is involved in the terms of the Motion I have on the Paper—namely,That this House will not proceed to the consideration of the proposed expenditure for the Navy without having first learnt what steps have been taken to improve the system of Admiralty Contracts.The particular Services to which the Motion I have read would direct the attention of the House are dispersed over a number of different Votes, and therefore it is impossible to discuss the question, except at this particular stage. This is a question of very great importance, and at the present time it is attracting a great deal of public attention. But were it not so, the fact of the amount of money involved under these Contract Services would secure for it considerable attention at the hands of, at any rate, a large section of the House. Now, Sir, on the present Estimates the amount under these Services is nothing like as great as it has been. On the Estimates now presented, the sum of £3.288,000 under one Vote alone will show the extent to which those charges go. But that is only under the original Estimate. The experience of the last year tells us this will probably be supplemented, as the original Estimate of last year was supplemented, by something which will raise the total considerably above the figure I have men- 671 tioned. Last year's figures will let the House see what the immense sums are which are covered by those Contract Services. In the 7th section of Vote 10, for the year 1885–6, on account of Machinery and Ships building by Contract, the original estimate was £2,126,000. The expenditure went up to £3,555,387. But the other section of the same Vote is hardly less involved, for the amount taken under it in Committee of Supply was £1,511,000. This is far from meeting the entire liability connected with timber, materials, coal, and other naval stores, which really amounts to £2,155,000. So that, on the whole, we have expended during a single year on this Vote £5,710,771. That includes £700,000 on account of the hire of armed cruisers and their appurtenances; but it does not include a still larger item on account of hired transports, which amountsto£ 1,113,000. This, with the sum I have mentioned, makes a total of £6,824,000 in round numbers. But oven that immense sum does not represent the entire expenditure on Contracts in a single year, because it is dispersed over a number of items, which go to swell this total to something over £7,000,000. Therefore, it will be seen that the question which my Motion will raise is one, not only covering a large sum of money, but affecting a number of Services under the control of the Naval Authorities. The very easy way in which the authorities at Whitehall deal with these contracts is exemplified in a comparatively small matter which occurred during the period to which the figures I have quoted refer. It will be in the recollection of the House that some time ago Her Majesty's Government took it into their heads to occupy Port Hamilton. It has since been ascertained that this place is in-capable of defence, except at a great expenditure, and that it is also of very little practical value as a coaling station. Under these circumstances, the Admiralty magnanimously resolved to surrender it to its rightful owners. But already a considerable expense had been incurred in connection with it. In view of the difficulty with the Russian Government on that and other accounts, it was thought necessary by the Admiralty to have telegraphic communication between Hong Kong and Port Hamilton 672 in the first place, and, in the second place, between England and Port Hamilton. When this little piece of contract work was made known by the Admiralty to the Treasury, the submarine requirements for the service had already been purchased, at a cost of £218,000; the cable to Port Hamilton had actually been laid to the place which was subsequently abandoned. The other cable, however, still lay on the premises of the contractors', coiled up, ready for orders as to what should be done with it. What was done with it? It was not used. I do not know whether the House will recollect it or not, but it was sold at the first favourable opportunity, and the proceeds went to diminish the net charge on the Vote of Credit. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope), standing at the Table the other night, emphasized what we had already read in the Statement relating to his Department, and declared to the House that the appropriating of the proceeds of sale to the reduction of Votes was a dangerous system, and one which ought to be discontinued. The same system which has obtained in the case of the Board of Admiralty has obtained under the War Office. The price obtained for the cable is lumped with the proceeds of other stores sold, one of the principal items of which is the coal furnished for use at foreign stations, and which, of course, at some time or other, will have to be replaced at considerable expense to the country. The next point to which I ask the attention of the House I take from the clever and interesting Memorandum issued to Members as explanatory of the Estimates which we are now asked to consider. It will be seen, at pages 5 and 6 of the Statement, that in 1885 the Government, recognizing the insufficiency of previous arrangements, entered upon an expenditure, in addition to that of the ordinaryship building programme, of no less a sum than £3,100,000 in the building of ships by contract in private yards. Besides this, £1,600,000 for guns was to be added to the Ordnance Vote, which is included in the annual Estimate of the expenditure for the War Office the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we are told, estimated that this outlay would be spread over five years, 673 ending on the 31st of March, 1890. The Expenditure for 1885 was to be £800,000; for 1886–7 it was likewise to be £800,000; while the balance was to be taken in 1887–8, 1888–9, and 1889–90, at the rate of £500,000 a-year, thus making up the £3,100,000. But what has really happened? In 1885, instead of £800,000," the Admiralty spent on this business over £1,000.000 sterling. In the year which is now within a fortnight of its close, instead of the second £800,000, they have spent £1,320,000: and instead of taking only £500,000 for the coming financial year, the First Lord tells us that he wants £997,336—or, in round numbers, another £1,000,000—and thus, before three years of the five years have expired, the Admiralty has expended more than £250,000 over and above the total sum stipulated for during the entire period. But, Sir, although the money has been spent, or will have been spent in a very short time, the work has not been done. Of the five belted cruisers included in the programme which the £3,100,000 was to cover, not one single cruiser has been delivered. The six steel torpedo cruisers included in the programme have been delivered; but we are informed that there has been some trouble in the preliminary steam trial, and their completion is, in consequence, delayed. Now, passing from that subject, I say that one of the points which must forcibly strike anyone attempting to elucidate the relations between the Admiralty and the fortunate contractors who happen to have dealings with them, is the very great indulgence which is sometimes extended to the contractors, especially when it suits the convenience of the naval authorities. For instance, we have it officially reported to the House that, last year, the contractors for some machinery had received advances to the amount of £38,140 beyond the sum which they were entitled to receive according to the strict terms of their contracts; and, in the same way, the contractors for shipbuilding had received, over and above what they were entitled to receive, the amount of £50,490. Similarly, Armstrong & Co. received £199,950 in respect of gun mountings for various ships in course of manufacture for the Admiralty, although, in the arrangement entered into with that firm, no 674 provision for such advance had been made; and the curious feature of that particular case is, that of the immense sum so improperly advanced, £67,000 was paid on the very last day of the financial year—namely, the 31st of March, 1886. Of course, it is very easy to see that by so accommodating the contractors, the Admiralty were enabled to dispose of a large sum of money which, if they had kept it over to the following morning, they would have been compelled, under the law, to surrender as an unexpended balance. Again, under the arrangement of April, 1885, Messrs. Whitehead & Co. contracted for the supply of 200 torpedoes, to be delivered free on board at Fiume for £300,000. Fifty of these were to be delivered within six months from the date of contract, and 25 during each succeeding month. According to the contract, they ought to have delivered, by the end of March, a total of 175 torpedoes; but, as a matter of fact, only 100 were delivered, and they were paid for. But, besides the £30,000 to which the contractors were entitled on account of the torpedoes which they had delivered, they were paid the sum of £21,000 more on account, although the torpedoes were not delivered according to contract, and the contractors were actually in arrear with the delivery. We may usefully contrast this treatment with that we find to be the conduct of the Admiralty in respect of contain other persons who do not happen to be so favourably regarded as the particular individuals I have referred to. In order that I may not be considered as speaking without book, I confine myself to what is reported by the Committee specially appointed to inquire into the Contract Business of the Admiralty. That Committee was presided over by-the hon. Member for the Govan Division of Lanark (Mr. Pearce), and his selection as Chairman was a very admirable one; because, at the time it was made, the Gentleman had not had time to allow all his good intentions to evaporate. The three Members of this House who were upon that Committee, whatever may be their professional occupations, are not only men of unquestionable ability, but men of unquestionable character; and I am bound to say that, although they sit on the other side 675 of the House, and are opposed to me in politics, as I am opposed to them, I should feel positively ashamed if I could think myself capable for one moment of alluding to one of them as "a disappointed tenderer." I heard, with a feeling of disgust, that expression applied to the hon. Member (Mr. Pearce), than whom, I am perfectly certain, there is no more straightforward, honest, and useful man in this House, and I tender my hon. Friend the expression of my personal respect, having had, on many occasions, opportunities of judging of his qualities as Chairman. This Committee reported, among other things, upon this particular point—that more expedition is requisite in passing contractors' claims for ships and engines, the delays in connection with payment being at present unreasonable That is the story, and it is a true story, with regard to the conduct of the Admiralty in certain cases. There is unreasonable and undue delay in certain cases; but in the case of other contractors, as I have shown to the House, there is no delay, but, on the contrary, they have given largo sums of money before payment of those sums was due. The Committee, unquestionably, found itself compelled to point out what they termed many and grave defects in the general administration and system pursued at the Admiralty with regard to the matters referred to their consideration. I will not dwell upon the blots indicated in regard to the administration, such as the want of cooperation between the different Members of the Board; neither will I venture to go into matters which, as a layman, I do not profess to understand, such as specifications being complete or incomplete, alternative designs, and so forth; but in this Report there are things which any man of ordinary intelligence can understand; and certainly, I am surprised to read, as I do in page 19, that notice is taken of the apparent absence of a thoroughly practical Engineering department, the result of which is that there is no one at the Admiralty competent to design engines, and to bring the latest engineering science to bear upon designs. Anyone can see that there must be something very unsatisfactory in the administrative system at Whitehall, when it can be reported that large 676 contracts were made in 1885, prior to the appointment of the present Controller of the Navy; that when a large number of contracts were concluded, in many cases the lowest offers were not accepted, and that designs were adopted quite at variance with the specifications sent out; that tenders were sent out for ordinary compound engines, and that designs had been accepted for those of treble expansion. We are told, further, that it has all through been the custom, after tenders have been received, to discriminate between the offers, on the ground of a supposed difference between the relative reputation and ability of the parties tendering; and when, presumably, they have only been invited to tender after the Admiralty had satisfied themselves of their capability for the work, elements of uncertainty have been introduced into the awards which have been based on personal feeling. That is rather a peculiar sentence to read; but, after the exhibition we have had to-night, there is probably some ground for it. "This, no doubt, is prejudicial in the minds of contractors and shipbuilders to the impartiality of the Admiralty." When such a system is adopted, it is no great wonder that the results obtained correspond with the system. One of the results is shown in the case of two vessels, the Renown and the Sanapareil. Tenders were invited in the early part of 1885 for hulls and engines to those vessels jointly, the holds to indicate 5,500 horse-power by natural draught, and 8,500 horse-power by forced draught, with a request for alternative designs. I will not read through the figures and details; but the end of it was that after some differences with regard to horse-power, and after several different firms had tendered, Messrs. Elder and Co. offered to provide this additional horse-power without extra charge; and Messrs. Palmer and Co. also proposed to increase the guaranteed power to 9,000 indicated horse-power free of cost. Ultimately, however, both by reason of the discussion with regard to horse-power, and the modification of the proposal originally put forth, and from the fact that the hulls and machinery were regarded separately, an offer was accepted from Sir William Armstrong, Mitchell and Co. for one 677 ship at £18,500, and another from the, Thames Iron Works Company for the other ship at £17,500, in excess of the proposals made by other firms for the same work. That is the way in which the money of the country is squandered. The further payments on account of the increased horse-power are put on page 11 of the Report. The Report, after speaking of the first contract for engines, goes on to say, that six months after it was concludedTenders were invited for engines of a facsimile character with boiler?, to produce the same power for the Nile and Trafalgar. The lowest offer was from Messrs. Harland and Wolff £78,234 for each ship, or equal to a reduction of £1G,500 for the two sets of engines from the prices above statedThe tender of Messrs. Harland and Wolff for these engines was not accepted, though in submitting a list of the firms to be invited to tender—amongst whom was this firm of Messrs. Harland and Wolff—the professional Advisers of the Admiralty remarked—These are the principal engineering firms of the country, and comprise all to whom it would be, in our opinion, desirable to entrust the construction of such important machinery.The tenders were one for £94,000 and one for £78,215—the former being from the same firm who, in August obtained, by negotiation, £112,000 for that which in the February following they offered to competition at £94,000. I cannot understand why the contract was not given to Messrs. Harland and Wolff, who were willing to do the work for £78,000 odd. Having road the paragraph bearing on this matter, I thought it necessary to put myself into communication with a gentleman perfectly well acquainted with the firm, and a number of other firms throughout the country; and I enquired of him whether, as a matter of fact, there was any good reason why Messrs. Harland and Wolff should not have the contract, and whether they were really capable of performing the work. His answer was short and emphatic. "Most unquestionably," he said, "they were perfectly qualified to do the work." Under those circumstances, and looking at the matter from a public point of view, I cannot understand why, when a contractor has tendered to do certain work for £78,000—a contractor who has done work for the Government, and who is recognized 678 as thoroughly qualified for such work—the contract should be given not to him but to another firm paid £94,000 to do it. So we see how payments in advance are made, even though they are not due; while in other cases, there is blameworthy delay in meeting claims which have fairly been put forward for work actually done; and so we see, also, that firms perfectly competent to do the work are passed over, and the tenders of other contractors are accepted at a very unnecessary increase in the cost to the public. But, Sir, even when tenders are accepted, are contractors bound to the terms on which they tender? It would appear from paragraph 27 of this Report that they are not—or, at any rate, not always. The paragraph is this—A serious discrepancy was shown by the evidence before us to exist in some cases between the terms arranged with the contractor for engines and the conditions eventually embodied in the contract in regard to penalties and payments for extra indicated horse-power.Well, Sir, this is the way in which the contract business of the Admiralty has been conducted in the past, and it is not a matter of wonder that the Committee report as they do in paragraph 39—It is inexpedient that purchases amounting to something like £50,000 a-year should be negotiated by the Director of Contracts without superior authority.I will not enter into the question of whether the Director of Contracts ought to be the solo purchaser on behalf of the Admiralty, though, I believe, the system has worked well in respect of the Army Services—at any rate, so far as the Director of Army Contracts is concerned. I do not see why it should not work equally satisfactorily in the Naval Service. But, surely, when the Director of Contracts can purchase on his own authority to the extent of £50,000 a-year, there ought to be some kind of check upon him—there ought to be some kind of higher officer who ought to be competent, at any rate, to look at the details of these contracts both before and after they have been entered into. I do not, for a moment, pretend to think that the system of contracts ought to be curtailed or diminished. It is equally true of the Navy, as it is true of the Array, that the Admiralty authorities are not able from their own Establishments to supply the needs of the Service 679 even in time of peace. The War Office Establishments cannot supply in times of peace more than.30 per cent, of the requirements, and the Navy authorities, I suppose, find it difficult to provide even so high a proportion. It is, therefore, clear that the wants of these two great Services must be dependent to a large extent upon supplies by contract. And the more they are dependent on the contractors, I think, the better, because you cannot expect the contractors, if the sudden demands of war should come upon them, to be prepared to furnish what is required for such low charges and on such reasonable terms as they would if the demands regularly made on them during the time of peace were such as to make it profitable for them to keep efficient and sufficient machinery. Therefore I am by no means desirous of seeing the system of contracts curtailed; but I do say this, that there is evidence not only in this Report, but in the Reports of the Government itself, and in the Statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and in the Reports made by the Comptroller and Auditor General to this House, with regard to proceedings in connection with contracts in the past—there is abundant evidence to show that the whole system of contracts under the Admiralty authorities does require a very complete overhauling. That has been recognized, but I submit that the Minute that is placed at the beginning of this Report, and signed by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, is altogether short of the requirements of the case. What he says is—Since 1885 new regulations have been adopted, and a series of reforms initiated in the Comptroller's Department, which will, I hope, go far towards attaining the objects the Committee have in view, and for the accomplishment of which they have made numerous and practical suggestions.That is all very well so far as it goes; but the House will probably wish to know how far it goes, and what does it mean? What are the regulations that have been adopted in order to prevent the blots and defects the Committee have pointed out, and how does the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty propose in the future to avoid these things which I have mentioned, and which certainly, in some cases, amount almost to a scandal?
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
The discussion commenced by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) and continued by the lion. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. A. O'Connor) is one of very great importance, and if it had been commenced at an earlier hour of the evening I should have felt justified in going at length into it. I am quite aware, however, that the noble Lord has to take the first Votes to-night, therefore I will confine my remarks to a very few minutes. I should like, however, to say that I entirely—or almost entirely—agree with the remarks that fell from the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness, leaving, of course, out of consideration some rather personal remarks which fell from him, and which, I must say, I did not agree with. I endorse the opinions he expressed when he declared himself entirely opposed to the policy of leaving the giving of contracts to the Director of Contracts. I think it a most mischievous thing to overload these officials with such affairs. I quite agree with what has been said by Captain Hotham in this matter; but does not this discussion raise a very important question in our minds for consideration? Is it worth our while, or is it right, for us to go so largely into this system of contracts at all? Why is it that with our magnificent Dockyards, where we can produce everything required in the Navy, that we go so much into the open market and spend large sums of the public money on these contracts? Sir, I must protest, in the interests of economy, against the immense sums that are being squandered by the Government in this matter of contracts. It seems to me in the highest degree un-business-like that, having spent enormous sums on our Naval Dockyards, and having spent millions of money in setting up plant with which to build our ships, we should not make proper use of that plant, but should go to private yards to get work done which could be equally well done in our Royal Dockyards. I have only to turn to this Report of Contracts to find a useful illustration of what I am urging. We are told that in the case of certain iron clad ships certain tenders were given. Well, one tender is, I think, £18,000 lower than the tender that was actually accepted; and are we to suppose that no profit is made by the contractors who 681 build those ships for us? I know we are sometimes told so. I go into a shop sometimes to purchase an article. I complain of the price; and the shopkeeper tells me—"Oh, I can assure you we do not get any profit at all on this article; on the contrary, we are great losers by it." I would as soon believe a statement of that kind on the part of a shopkeeper, as the statement that the contractors who build our ships do not make a profit out of the work. Such statements are all nonsense. Of course, a profit, and a large profit, is made by the contractor. I do not suppose the owners of the shipbuilding yards who are called on to build the ships on which we spend £500,000, would attempt to go into such an extensive business as that without getting a profit of something like 10 per cent. Well, if you take the profit we may suppose to be made by such tenderers as Messrs. Harland and Wolff, and add to that £10,000 or £18,000, which we are giving to Messrs. Armstrong, Mitchell, and Co., we have a sum of something like £60,000 which we are giving away for the manufacture of these ships over and above what we might have given if the ships had been built in the Royal Dockyards. But this is not the only reason why I say it is mischievous and a mistake to build these ships so extensively in private yards. At the commencement of this evening's debate I remember an hon. Gentleman—I think the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed)—rather surprised us by stating that all our designs for ships that were being obtained from private dockyards were made public property—that is to say, that the designs for our ships, which, we do all we can to keep secret, and to keep from falling into the hands of Foreign Powers, in the case of ships built in private dockyards are made perfectly public property. Anyone can buy them for almost anything he likes. That is a serious consideration, and it is a thing which cannot happen in the case of ships which are built in Public Dockyards. Now, in the statement which the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) has laid before us, he has told us the allowance which ought to be made for the depreciation of our stock in ships. I wish he had carried out the same principle as regards the value of our stores. I think it would be a very im- 682 portant thing, and a very excellent thing, if, in future, he was to give us some idea of the nature and value of our stock and stores in hand. We are told what is required to buy stores for the year; but we never have a valuation of all the stores in the Service—for instance, of the timber, metal, and so on. That item is a very large one; it is something like £500,000 or £600,000. I see there is a very largo decrease made this year in that item. I wonder why that is. Is it because the stores were depleted last year? In another item we find a corresponding increase, so we never know exactly whore we are. It has often been the case that Boards of Admiralty, finding that their shipbuilding is rather running down, and wanting to get more money from the House of Commons to make up for the deficiency, deplete the stores, and the House of Commons knows nothing about it. It is sometimes the case that the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty will come down and astonish the House by saying he has done more than his Predecessor in the way of increasing the Navy; but, at the same time, he hides from us the fact that the stores are depleted, and that if another Board of Admiralty came in they would have to spend a great deal of money in getting the stores up to the required amount, and that in consequence of having to do that they could not spend the necessary amount of money in building. I hope that in future the First Lord of the Admiralty will be able to give us some idea of what stock of stores we have in hand. Now, I should like to make a few remarks upon the personnel of the Navy; it is quite as important as matériel. At the commencement of the evening, I asked the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty what he intended to do as regards carrying out the recommendations of the Duke of Edinburgh's Committee concerning the pensions to the widows of our seamen. The Report of the Committee was sent in two years ago; but the recommendations it contained have not been acted upon. My noble Friend very courteously and kindly stated that if I would come to him he would tell me the reason why the Committee's recommendation had yet not been carried out; but this is not a matter which can wait. I think the noble Lord should have told 683 the House to-night, as I think I can tell them, what the reason is. I believe he will not deny the fact that the whole of the Board of Admiralty are unanimously of opinion that this recommendation should be carried out, but that they cannot got the small amount of money which is required from the Treasury. I believe that if the noble Lord were to ask the House of Commons to back him up in this matter—it is a small matter as far as the amount of money goes, but a very important matter to a great number of poor deserving people—the House of Commons will have no difficulty in providing the money which is necessary for these pensions. One word in regard to our warrant officers. Many years ago, during the time of the Crimean War, it was thought a great shame and a hardship that our warrant officers, that our seamen were the only seamen, in the world who were never able to got a commission, never able to rise to the rank of officers. That was felt to be a hardship, and an Order in Council was made that our seamen should be allowed, under circumstances of long servitude, or of bravery in action, or for other special services, to rise to the rank of officers. Now, will the House believe that from that time to this not one single seaman has ever been given the commission of an officer?—they rise to the rank of warrant officers, but beyond that they cannot go. The matter was fully discussed some years ago, and the then First Lord of the Admiralty—I am not sure it was not the right hon. Gentleman the present Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers)—thought he would get over the difficulty in this way. He said, well, we will give some warrant officers commissions. Now, what are those commissions? Instead of being called gunner or boatswain or carpenter, they are called chief gunner, chief boatswain, and chief carpenter, and they are asked to believe they are commissioned officers; you may just as well tell a cabby that he is a coachman to Her Majesty the Queen. Well, that is the way the difficulty was got over. I think it is a great shame; and I submit to the House that it is a standing disgrace to this country that the Navy, which we always look upon as the finest Profession in the world, is the only profession where a common man before the mast cannot in course of time, if he shows himself 684 worthy of it, secure the uniform of an officer. There are supposed to be difficulties in the way; I do not see any difficulties at all. There are supposed to be social difficulties, but social difficulties should not exist; the warrant officers do not ask to be lieutenants and put in rooms with other lieutenants on a ship. There is no occasion for it. There are hundreds of appointments in the Navy where they need not come in contact, if they do not like it, with the other executive officers of the Service. There is the whole Coastguard open to them. There are appointments to gun-boats and the torpedo service, and many other services which I need not mention, where these officers might be very usefully employed as lieutenants. Again, they argue if that cannot be conceded to them, why should they not, after they have served their time in the Service and come on retirement, receive the rank of lieutenant on retirement. That looks a small matter, but it is not. It is one of great importance to them and to their families. These are the only few remarks I shall make with regard to the personnel of the Navy. The noble Lord, would do well to take this matter into consideration. If the noble Lord would do something towards offering commissions to our seamen, and also in helping our men to make provision for their widows, he would do a great deal more to perpetuate the Queen's Jubilee than is to be done in spending largo amounts of money on statues and the like.
§ MR. HOOPER (Cork, S.E.)
At this late hour (1.10) I will not trespass very long upon the attention of the House. But what I wish to bring before the House is, in the words of the Motion, which I regret the Forms of the House will not permit me to move, that the Government should take more energetic steps to bring to completion the works at Haulbowline Dockyard in Cork Harbour, in order that the large expenditure already incurred there may at the earliest possible date bear useful results to the Navy and the Public Service. In order that I may correctly place before the House the usefulness of this work, I have to refer to the early history of the undertaking. It was preceded by a very long agitation, beginning, I believe, at the time of the Union, for the construction of this dock was one of the bribes held out to the Irish people to consent 685 to the Union of the two countries. But I shall begin with the year 1864, at which time a Committees was appointed, on the Motion, I think, of a predecessor of mine in this House, Mr. John Francis Maguire. That Committee was asked, on public grounds, and also on the ground that a fair share of the Imperial taxation should be expended in Ireland, to recommend the construction of a dock in Cork Harbour. I mention that fact lest the hon. Gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House should imagine my moving in this matter is entirely or mainly the result of any desire to obtain Imperial expenditure in my locality. A mass of evidence was produced before the House; and among others who gave evidence in favour of this project was the Duke of Somerset who has been already mentioned by—various speakers as closely allied with the Administration—Captain Godfrey Green, Captain Stuart, and Roar Admiral Mill. Rear Admiral Mill stated that—Probably in time of war you would have ships disabled which might make for Cork, and it would be as well to have a dock there to meet cases of emergency, more especially at the present time.And then he gives his reason, to which I especially ask the attention of what I may call the non-professional Members of the House—In consequence," he says, "of the introduction of machinery there are many little derangements which take place, so that ships require to he docked much oftener than they used to be formerly.The Committee also received evidence from Mr. Maguire, and he said that he had heard several naval men give their strong opinions in favour of the establishment of this dockyard. Sir George Sartorius stated before him the necessity of having a naval dockyard at Cork Harbour. Sir George Sartorius was of opinion that there should be a naval dockyard and arsenal on the West Const of Ireland, because it was very unwise to have the defences of the country intrusted entirely to the Dockyards in England. The Committee in their inquiry felt the full force of the advantage to the Fleet of a first-class dock at Cork, and they advised the immediate construction of a first-class dock in some convenient spot in the Harbour, and also, if practicable, the deepening of the existing docks for occasional naval re- 686 quirements. The Admiralty at that time acted on the Report, and they proposed to spend a sum of £150,000 in the construction of a dock in the course of six years. Well, Sir, for some reason or other that sum of £150,000 has been raised to something like £700,000 or £800,000. That large expenditure may seem to make the House a bit weary of this undertaking; but it is no detriment to my argument at present so far as there is practical result. This large sum is practically thrown into the sea, and therefore it behaves Parliament to see whether by some vigorous effort the dock cannot be turned to some useful account. But the work has been in abeyance for some time, owing, as it has been said, to the unfortunate circumstance that the Government cannot get a sufficient number of convicts for the work. Undoubtedly the proximity of convict labour at Spike Island was an inducement to enter into this enterprize; and while the convict establishment existed there and while convict labour, which cost the Government so little, was to be had, there might be some cause for dragging this work slowly along. But that state of things no longer exists, the convict establishment has been removed to Galway during the last two or two-and-a-half years; and now whatever money is to be spent—that is, if this dock is to be finished at all—and surely it ought to be finished when £700,000 or £800,000 has already been spent upon it—it will have to be completed by paid labour. I have quoted the reasons for which the dock was originally entered upon; and I ask any hon. Member of the House who is acquainted with the progress of affairs since that time to say whether those reasons have now less or more effect than they had at that time. I think it will be admitted that the reasons have greater effect now, for with the increased power of projectiles the chances are far greater that vessels in Her Majesty's Navy will require more docking, and will require to have more docks in which they can find refuge. I also call attention to the fact that the length of transport vessels has greatly increased since that time. The right hon. Gentleman was shocked to find that he could not take one of Her Majesty's ships into Malta; but what would happen if one of these splendid cruisers were to get damaged? If the arrangements at 687 Cork were complete, you would have a dock that you could take her to; and I may mention that Cork would be an excellent place from which to send troops. If one of the ships is disabled, how are you going to deal with her; is she to be brought to London for repair and then taken back again? I believe the whole history of naval administration shows that you use enormous sums of money which you might save if you had kept your Dockyards in an efficient state. In the time of the Crimean "War I think there was something like the worth of £1,000,000 in the work done in private dockyards, because the Government Dockyards were overworked, and if such a time were to come again. I say it would be of the greatest consequence to the country to have the dock at Cork in a working state. If Her Majesty's Government are wise they will take this work seriously in hand, and that soon, and for this reason among others, that I see, with the greatest regret, that the shipping industry of Cork Harbour has been declining for years past, and that the trade is almost threatened with extinction. There are still some first-rate workmen left there, and the sooner they are saved from extinction the better. Apart altogether from that, I suppose that Her Majesty's Government are not altogether free from the apprehension of war at no distant period. Franco is not at the moment on the very best terms with England; on the contrary, she is the close ally of Russia, and perhaps the alliance which exists may be more friendly hereafter at a time when the Irish Coasts might not be free from attack. Under these circumstances; I say it would be well for the Government to have a harbour at Cork with all the appliances necessary for docking ships. It is a very capacious Harbour; there are splendid forts there mounted with the best artillery, and altogether it is the best position in which Her Majesty's ships can be placed. I will now remark that after all the money spent in the last 27 years, a new stage has been reached, and we are told that 80 men per week are to be discharged in June next. I ask the noble Lord whether it is his intention to allow the £700,000 or £800,000 which has been spent to lie waste, and whether he will not give these men some other work, which he can do very easily? Finally, I thank the 688 House for the great courtesy they have shown during the time occupied by these remarks; and I ask the Government to consider carefully whether some now departure should not be taken to make this large sum of money immediately productive, and to provide, as soon as possible, on that part of the Coast a place in which Her Majesty's ships can be constructed and repaired alike in time of peace and war.
§ MR. PEARCE (Lanark, Govan)
The speech of the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) seems to me to have had two points. In the first place, he vindicated a very pernicious system of contracting which had been going on for some years, especially during the term he was connected with the Admiralty; and, in the second place, he made a personal attack upon me, because I consented to act on the Committee of Contracts. He culls me a "disappointed tenderer. "I am not a "disappointed tenderer," because years ago I discovered that the partiality existing amongst the professional advisers of the Admiralty was of such a character that it was not to be expected that I should get a contract under any circumstances whatever. I have tendered because I wished to remain on what is known as the Admiralty List; if I were not on that List I should be precluded from tendering in foreign countries. That is the sole reason why I was on the List—it was not because I had an idea of getting contracts. The hon. Member has also referred to me as cross-examining a professional officer. I simply asked that officer eight questions, and I ask the hon. Member if, out of those questions, he can point to one which was indiscreet? He cannot do so. As a professional man, I was supposed to ask questions of a technical character. I was solicited to act on the Committee, and it was pointed out to me that my professional knowledge would be of great service to the Admiralty. I think, in a case of this kind, the hon. Member should not make a personal attack on any Member of this House for doing what he considered to be for the public good. Now, I may state that I was not prompted, nor was any Member of the Committee prompted, to inquire into the question of the Sanspareil and Renown, on account of the firm to which I belonged having tendered for 689 them. But the Committee were induced to inquire into the matter from the fact that the engines were given to a firm which has at the present time has 100,000 horse-power under construction. If the hon. Member tarns to the Appendix of the Estimates, he will find that this firm, has received orders for the engines for the Trafalgar, Anson, Howe, Rodney, Collingwood, Mersey, Severn, Renown, and Sanspareil. These represent 100,000 horse-power, and, roughly speaking, £1,000,000 sterling; it represents an amount of work greater than all the engineers in the country have in hand for the Government; and, that being so, we concluded that something was going on which it was desirable to find out. The hon. Member endeavoured to show that these two ships were obtained at a cheaper price by deducting the penalty which he said might be deducted if the engineers did not give the horse-power they had contracted for. But, as a matter of fact, in this contract there is no penalty at all. If the hon. Gentleman had read the evidence a little more carefully, he would not, I think, have made the rash statement which he did make, or have spoken about the suppression of the truth. Here is a suppression which he made in giving his version of the case to the House. With regard to the Belfast firm which offered to do the engines of the Nile and Trafalgar at a cost of £:M,000 less than the Government are now paying, there was no reason that we could discover why they should not have had the contract. We were told that they were thoroughly competent to have the contract, and, when we asked why the Admiralty had invited the firm to tender, we were told that at the time there was great talk about justice to Ireland. There has been a great deal said about giving the Director of Contracts a great amount of power. When the Director of Contracts came before us we asked him. Whether he had anything to do with the contracts on these ships, and he said he had had nothing whatever to do with them. Well, Sir, when we found that this pernicious system was going on, which has been backed up by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness. We considered that it would be desirable to have a man of commercial mind to elucidate the system of contracts. I 690 conclude that the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness was formerly installed at the Admiralty on account of his commercial knowledge. I believe that the firm with which he was connected contracted with the Government for certain materials. [Mr. CAINE: Never.] Then I beg the hon. Member's pardon; I have been misinformed. But he has been in the habit of making contracts with large firms—my own firm, for instance—and I should have thought that he was a man of commercial mind. I have nothing further to add than this—that my opinion with respect to the system of contracting is embodied in the Report of the Committee.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
At this hour (1.40 A.M.), and at the close of a not unsatisfactory discussion on naval matters, I feel it is not necessary for me to inflict a speech on the House; but as a number of questions have been put to me relating to several matters which are not referred to in the Memorandum, it is, perhaps, desirable that I should say a few words in reply. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Cork (Mr. Hooper) raised a question as to Haulbowline Dock, and seemed to be under the impression that there was an intention on the part of the Admiralty to postpone the operation of those works. I have not had the advantage of meeting the hon. Gentleman in connection with the subject. When I was over in Ireland I received a deputation of local gentlemen in regard to it, and I stated to the gentleman heading that deputation the course we intended to pursue. I told him that the amount of money we should spend in the succeeding year would be as much as we had spent the year before; but I added that, inasmuch as we should be completing a portion of the work, it would be necessary to discharge some of the workmen from time to time. In June next these discharges will have to commence; and, in arranging the time, we have been guided by a desire to get rid of the men at a period of the year when it will be the easiest for them to get other employment. It must always be remembered that we shall only be getting rid of the men because the work on which they have been engaged is being completed. As 691 to the dock, I hope it will be ready to receive vessels in the course of the year, and that it will be found as valuable for naval and commercial purposes as the hon. Member anticipates. There has been some discussion with reference to the Report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the system of making contracts at the Admiralty. I regret very much that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) introduced a personal element into that discussion, and I can assure the House that it is not my intention to imitate his example. What I would say on the subject is that, when last year it was suggested that a Committee should sit and investigate the question of the making of contracts at the Admiralty—a suggestion which originated with an Admiralty Departmental Committee—I asked the Secretary to the Admiralty to undertake the task to preside over the inquiry, and associate with himself, in the duties of investigation, three Members of Parliament in addition to other Admiralty officers. We were very anxious to have as a Member of that Committee some gentleman of commercial experience, who had a knowledge of that particular class of naval stores that the Admiralty were in the habit of contracting for. The proposition was made to the Member for the Govan Division of Lanarkshire (Mr. Pearce) that he should servo on the Committee, and he assented. I believed, at that time, as did the Secretary to the Admiralty, who had the management of the inquiry, that the question of contracts for engines and hulls only would not be investigated; but the old Chief Constructor of the Navy, Sir N. Barnaby, came up to give evidence as to the last contracts that had been made in reference to certain vessels and engines. In the course of his examination, Sir N. Barnaby stated the principle on which he had recommended certain tenders; and it became apparent to the Committee, as I say, that some error had been made. I have not had time to road all the evidence; but I have no doubt that a mistake was made by an Admiralty official, and I base my assertion on the fact that, in last year's Estimates, it will be found that engines were contracted for for the Nile and Trafalgar, both of which are larger and heavier vessels than the Sanspareil and 692 Renown, at a price lower by £10,000 and £12,000 than that paid for the last-mentioned vessels. It is clear, therefore, that the contracts made in the first case were much more beneficial to the contractor than those made in the second. So far as I can make out, the mistake, arose from the Admiralty officials knowing that a certain penalty was attached to every horse-power falling short of the required power. They assumed that that penalty was the price, and deducted that sum from the total amount of the tender, by which process they brought the tenders for the greater horse-power to a figure apparently lower than those for the higher. Those who read the evidence will see that one of the late chief officials admitted that he had made an error and an oversight. These contracts were completed under circumstances of great hurry, which is a fact which should not be lost sight of. It was in the year 1885, when it was considered not unlikely that we might be forced into collision with a great European Power. When the Report was presented and put on the Table of the House, a short Minute accompanied it, pointing out that the officials who now hold the position of Controller of the Navy and Chief Constructor were not those who were in Office at the time the contracts were made, and I pointed out that I believed that certain arrangements had since been made which wont in the direction of meeting certain of the suggestions made by the Committee; but, at the same time, I can undertake on behalf of the Admiralty, that we will do our best to give effect to the purport of the suggestions made by the Committee. There may, however, be some controversy as to the advisability of transferring the making of contracts from the official upon whom the duty now rests. There is a reference to the matter in the Blue Book published two days ago, and the Report speaks of those re-commendations. I believe we shall be able to arrive at some satisfactory conclusion which will prevent, in the future, any recurrence of what I believe to have been an error on the part of the technical officers of the Admiralty. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Captain Price) asks me if we can give an estimate of what is the value of stores at the end of the year, and he pointed out that there is a decrease in the amount of timber. I would 693 say, in reply, that this decrease has been deliberately made, as we find we have enough timber on hand to last us three years. The House must boar in mind that in regard to this question of naval stores the circumstances of the country have greatly changed in recent years. The great storehouses in our Dockyards were established and set up at a time when the productive power of the country was comparatively small, and when railroads were not in existence. In those days it was necessary to accumulate large quantities of stores for cases of emergency; but nowadays, should an emergency arise, we should find no difficulty in procuring large supplies of stores such as the hon. and gallant Member refers to at very short notice. I have no doubt, thanks to the agencies of electricity and steam, that now, on the shortest notice, large quantities of stores would be obtained from outside, and laid alongside the ships more quickly than they could be taken from our storehouses. The hon. and gallant Gentleman put two other questions to mo—one, concerning the proposal to provide pensions for widows; and the other, in reference to the promotion of warrant officers to be executive officers. I must point out that, in this matter, you have to deal with the question of half-pay, and that warrant officers under the system proposed would find it difficult to live; and I have also to point out that no warrant officer could assume the position referred to without undergoing a certain prescribed examination which is an examination that I do not suppose many warrant officers would be able to pass. With regard to the pension fund, the question is a difficult one. My hon. and gallant Friend is aware that strong opposition has come from the men themselves, so much so that a certain portion of the proposals with regard to pensions we have been obliged to abandon. I have not been able to go thoroughly into the matter myself; but I think it will be necessary to substitute some other arrangement for that proposed by the Committee. Then, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Eastbourne Division (Admiral Field) drew attention to certain Orders in Council which, he said, have inflicted great injury and wrong upon naval officers who form part of the Board of Admiralty. "Well, Sir, as was pointed out, 694 tho first Order in Council was repealed 15 years ago.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
I know that; I stated it. I do not want to be misunderstood. It is well known that a now Patent of the Board of Admiralty rescinds the previous one. The Order in Council of 1872, no doubt, rescinded the one of 1809; but the one of 18G9 is the parent of the one of 1872.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) wished to put the Board of Admiralty into the position of the Treasury Board, and he stated so. He desired to make the Naval Lords subordinates and assistants. That Order was rescinded, and the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) substituted another Order in Council, which put the Naval Lords of the Admiralty into their old position, making them Colleagues of the Board. What I have endeavoured to do, since I have held my present position, has been to increase as much as I could the individual power of the Naval Lords, and make them, as far as possible, responsible for their Departments, whilst, at the same time, giving them the opportunity of rendering themselves cognizant of the policy the Board as a body is pursuing. My noble and gallant Friend (Lord Charles Beresford) objected to attaching his name to the Estimates, because he had not had time to examine them. The desire is to make the Naval Lords share in the responsibility, and they accordingly feel it part of their duty to consider the Estimates, going carefully through them so that they may have no hesitation in attaching their signatures to them. Then, the question of naval education has been referred to. In two sentences, I will tell my hon. and gallant Friend who raised the point, how far we can agree with him, and how far we feel it impossible to agree with him. We are prepared to increase the ago of entrance, and we have made arrangements for rendering examinations as general as possible. We have appointed a Council of Education to consider the whole subject; but we are not prepared to assent to the proposal of the Committee by which the age would be raised from 12½ to 16 years, nor are we prepared to assent to the system of unlimited open competition. I am perfectly satisfied that the 695 proposals of the Committee in this respect are impracticable; and I am afraid they have made a mistake in the matter by drawing an analogy between the system in force in the Army and that that exists in the Navy. The proposal of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, if accepted, would have the effect of diminishing the amount of competition. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) pointed out that, as my Minute stated, certain of our iron-clads were much more deeply immersed than had been anticipated; and he went so far as to say that, in consequence of this defect, the vessels in question were useless. I think he quoted a remark made by the hon. Member for Southampton last year, in which he expressed a very disparaging opinion as to the utility of the Impérieuse. Well, since the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southampton spoke, the Impérieuse has been thoroughly tested. The officer who went out in command of the vessel was the hon. and gallant Gentleman's own flag captain on the North American Station, and he gave a most favourable account of the ship. The statement I myself made I gave after consulting the naval technical advisers—namely, that, not with standing the deep immersion of this and other large vessels, though there has been some miscalculation as to their draught, are amongst the most powerful iron-clads afloat. As to the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Maclean)—who expressed some doubt as to whether, hereafter, there was to be any statement on the Navy Estimates, and who is doubtful as to the operation of the proposed depreciation fund—I would point out to him that, on page 16, there is a statement in about half-a-dozen lines—a summary of the present condition of naval finance. We are spending this year £ 1,000,000 of money more than we should spend in an ordinary year, to carry out the programme of Lord Northbrook; but we are spending £138,000 less than we ought to do to make good the annual depreciation fund. If you deduct £1,38,000 from £1,000,000, you will have £860,000, the difference which is the margin upon which I think hereafter reduction or retrenchment can be made. The depreciation fund will give an annual sum to be expended on new construction, which 696 will keep up the Fleet at the strength and efficiency it is estimated it should reach. [Mr. R. W. DUFF: How about the coaling stations?] There is an inquiry still going on as to them. There is no doubt that the facilities which we have for coaling are deficient, but experiments are being made. A certain apparatus was set up, which I have no doubt the hon. Member is aware of, which has been found quite inoperative; and until we are convinced as to what is the best method of shipping coal, we do not propose to incur large expenditure on this matter. Still, it is a question which must be attended to. I hope I have answered all the questions which have been put to me. It is satisfactory to find that the experiment of publishing a printed Statement has proved a success. This is shown by the fact that the discussion to-night has been much more germane to the subjects contained in the Estimates than previous discussions. I hope the Speaker will now be allowed to leave the Chair, so that the 1st Vote may be taken.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
If we allow the Speaker to leave the Chair, and the first Vote to be taken, I trust the Government will permit the general discussion to take place on the Victualling Vote in the same way as is done in connection with the Army. I have been anxious to make several observations; but I have not been willing to interpose during the discussion on the special subjects with regard to which Notices of Motion were put upon the Paper. It would have been very inconvenient if I had interposed to-night. Therefore, I hope that if the Speaker leaves the Chair, there will be no objection to discussing the question of general policy on the Victualling Vote.
§ MR. LANE (Cork Co., E.)
I do not wish to intrude myself for very long before the House. I have sat hero very patiently, for eight hours, for the purpose of supporting the Resolution which was put on the Notice Paper relating to the Haulbowline Dock. I am as deeply interested in the question as if I were the Representative of Queenstown; but I do not wish at this late hour (2 o'clock), to do more than merely tell the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) that the Irish Members do 697 not intend to put forward their claim in regard to this dock in any ad misericordiam sense. We speak the unanimous opinion of the Irish Members, and we are determined to press this matter forward rather upon the basis that Queenstown Harbour is a most suitable site for a Royal Naval Dockyard, and that a Naval Dockyard is a necessity from our point of view; that we contribute upwards of £1,000,000 of the money spent on the Navy, and that some of that money ought to be returned to us in the way of expenditure in Ireland. Those are the two grounds upon which we make the claim that the original plan for the construction of docks at Haulbowline shall be carried out. I sincerely hope that before it is within our power to refer to this subject again, the First Lord of the Admiralty will see his way to modify the declaration he has made—that the Admiralty cannot at present proceed with the work. I am persuaded that, turning the matter over in his mind, the First Lord of the Admiralty will see that the Irish people have a very strong claim on the Admiralty for some portion of its expenditure. But it must not be supposed that we merely claim that this work shall be proceeded with in order that we can get back our money. We believe that money expended on a Royal Dockyard in Cork Harbour will be money wisely expended for the benefit of the Empire at large.
§ Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.