§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
, in rising to call attention to the system of administration at the Admiralty, and to move, "That the allocation of authority requires entire reform," said, he would fool grateful to the House if it would allow him to make a few remarks connected with his resignation as a Member of the Board of Admiralty; and also to make a few comments on the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), made outside the House, relative to some observations he had made to his constituents on that resignation. He trusted that nothing he would say would be construed into an attack, covert or open, on the Government, or upon his late Colleagues. Neither did he wish it to be thought that he was impugning the administration or capacity of those Gentlemen who preceded the Board in Office; but he intended, to the best of his ability, to attack the system under which they worked with all the vigour and energy at his command. It was generally believed that his resignation was based on a question of £000. That was only in part true. What he really resigned on was the question of system which existed at the Admiralty—the question of system which allowed that reduction of salaries of the Intelligence Department of the Admiralty to be made in the manner it was made. The first day he sat on the Board of Admiralty he asked the First Lord whether, if he wrote any paper which he might consider necessary for the reform of any question connected with the Royal Navy, he would ever exercise the power which he possessed of not allowing that paper to be criticized by his Colleagues? The First Lord of the Admiralty said that he did not think that very likely, as he himself had instituted the right of protest. He (Lord Charles Beresford) also said, that as long as he sat at the Board, where there were men of so much greater experience, far higher in seniority, and far higher in rank than himself, he 932 treated them outside the Board with that courtesy and respect which that higher rank called for, but that on the Board he intended to have his say level with everybody else. He had also spoken publicly on this question of the right of the First Lord. When he was in Office he spoke in the country on it, and attributed to that right the inefficiency and unpreparedness of the Navy. Even in March last year in this House he again referred to the question of that right, and objected to it. He mentioned this in order to show that he did not resign in a hurry. In public he had stated that there was no "shred of a system of any sort for organization for war before the present Board was in Office." He intended to substantiate that statement. In doing so, he would refer to the recorded opinion of the First Lord himself, as stated in his Memorandum of last year—Although many of the component and complementary parts of the Navy are in themselves satisfactory, it has long been felt by naval men of experience and foresight that, in the event of war, unless an improved system of co-operation and preparation were devised, the nation would not obtain, in the earlier stages of such a contest, the full advantage of its great naval resources. This opinion was confirmed by the experience of 1885. Confidential reports of what then occurred proved that our power of naval mobilization was most defective. A rapid concentration of strength, and an immediate and effective use of the force thus brought together, have in recent years decided within a few weeks of the outbreak of war the ultimate issue of that war…‥All well-organized. Military Powers have derived infinite advantages from a properly-constituted Intelligence Department; but the need, as I have shown, for such an organization, is greater for naval than military purposes. This country has the largest fleet afloat, yet hitherto it had no central organization by which that fleet could be thoroughly utilized in emergency.In his Statement he had stated that there was no scheme of organization for war in the Admiralty. There was a paper on mobilization, but it had never been sent to the Commanders-in-Chief; it had never been tried or thought out in order to see how it would act. The First Lord referred to the subject again in his recent Memorandum, where he stated that—New arrangements have been tried, experimentally at Portsmouth, and the Commander-in-Chief, in reporting the result, said—The officers of the various depôt ships have taken a great interest in carrying out the details of 933 the scheme, and with a very satisfactory result.… It must be remembered that in this instance the officers of the depôt ships have taken a strong personal interest in the scheme, being aware that it is novel and on its trial.In his speech the First Lord said that, as far as the present Board was concerned, the other subjects connected with organization for war were scattered and distributed among the various branches of the office. He challenged his noble Friend to produce any plan of campaign for home or abroad, any plan for coaling the fleet, any plan for the protection of the mercantile marine, or any organization for war whatever except that paper on mobilization which he described as being moat defective. He could quite believe that the clerks in the Department told the First Lord that such plans existed; but he knew, at all events, that they did not exist, because he had tried, as much as possible, to find them before he wrote his Memorandum in 1886, just after joining the Board. The question of salaries was supposed by many persons to be the immediate cause of his resignation. After the question was all settled last May he noticed in the papers which were marked to every Member of the Board, a letter from the Treasury to the Admiralty relating to the Intelligence. Department salaries. He observed that those papers were not marked to three seamen who were on the original Committee appointed to find out and settle what the duties and the salaries of the now Department were to be. He called attention to the matter by a minute. Knowing what the finding of that Committee was, he wrote on the outside of the sheet a statement to the effect that, with great respect to the First Lord, if anything was done to affect the efficiency of this Department he should resign his position on the Board, His reason for taking this step was that, first of all, he was anxious to see nothing done which should at all hamper a Department on which, he believed, the safety of the country depended; and, secondly, he was quite satisfied that he was right in doing this, because the four Naval Lords were unanimous on the point, as well as the Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty. The Committee stated that they were unanimous in making the foregoing recommendations, and also in strongly urging the absolute necessity, in the interests of the country, of the 934 appointment of the staff proposed at once, in order that the much-needed plan of organization in preparation for war may be prepared with the least possible delay. The Committee also recommended the provision of £900, in order that the Naval Intelligence Department might begin work at once. This recommendation was signed by Sir A. Hood, Sir A. Hoskins, Sir W. Graham, Lord Charles Beresford, and Mr. Macgregor. Nothing could have been stronger than the recommendations of this document. He did not deny that it was possible his noble Friend might have had some conversation with those Sea Lords. He himself had had conversations with them, and they said that they were not at all sure that the salaries were not too high. He sent for the papers again, and called attention to the fact that there was some kind of doubt. One of the best officers belonging to the Department sent in his resignation after the Department had been made inferior to other Departments by the reduction of salaries.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Baling)
That was not the ground of his resignation.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
said, he was aware that the officer in question sent in his resignation on the ground of ill-health; but that officer had told him that his resignation was due to the cause previously stated, and he was prepared to give evidence to that effect if a Royal Commission was granted to inquire into the administration of the Navy. This was in May. In November he again noticed some correspondence, and again called attention to the fact on the outside of the sheet that the Naval Lords were unanimous as far as he know. Matters went on ill this unsatisfactory state, until at last his noble Friend closed the correspondence, though he know that he would lose a Colleague, and though he saw that four Naval Lords were unanimous. He tried to re-open the question; but that was refused, and the only thing left to him was to carry out what he had put on Paper. That might be a minor point; but he said that it showed the system. The First Lord then ordered a letter to be sent to the Treasury, saying—"My Lords agree to the reduction of the salaries;" 935 but what possible responsibility had the Board of Admiralty in that matter? That was the method that was employed in far greater matters than that of the reduction of the salaries of the Intelligence Department. He confessed that that was the first time since he went to the Admiralty that his noble Friend the First Lord ever so used that power which he undoubtedly possessed. He had said the other day that there was no such thing as Treasury or Parliamentary control, and he maintained that there was not. He could not help thinking that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had seen the evidence of the four seamen and had seen the First Lord before he changed his opinion, he would have agreed to what he (Lard Charles Beresford) held out for in regard to the salaries of the Intelligence Department. The salaries were only pro tem., and he only asked that they should be kept on pro tem, until the whole of the Admiralty was re-organized, in order that the Intelligence Department might not be made inferior to the other Departments of the Admiralty. The salaries might possibly have been too high; but it was wrong to treat the Intelligence Department as inferior to the other Departments. The Treasury could only exercise control on the occasion of new appointments or the reorganization of old. But since they had I reduced the salaries of the Intelligence Department the Treasury had granted to other appointments higher salaries. The Treasury could only go by what was an officer's rank and position. There were two officers of the Intelligence Department with the rank of post Captain; they were both assistants to the head of the Intelligence Department. After their salaries were reduced to £700 a-year there were two other officers, also of the rank of post Captains, and assistants to the heads of other Departments, who were appointed; but they got an increase of pay, and higher pay than that of the two officers whose pay he contended should not have been reduced, for one received £750 and the other £950. It was perfectly clear that one of those officers was worth £10,000 a-year, or anything they liked to pay him; but he wanted to know on what principle the Treasury had acted in those cases so differently? 936 The First Lord of the Admiralty had said that every officer had undoubtedly the clearest intimation that his salary might be reduced. Such a notification as that depended entirely on the precise words used. The notification that the appointment was subject to possible future modification as to salary, and that a further communication would be made before the 31st of March next as to the tenure and terms of the office, would hardly lead any hon. Member to expect that 10 to 28 per cent would be the sort of reduction which had been made in those officers' salaries. The only notification they got was a notice from a banker telling them that they had to refund certain moneys. That was a pretty way of having business done. He thought that that one thing alone, feeling keenly about it as he did, would have justified his resigning, and since his resignation he observed that one of those marine officers had been given back £100 of the reduced pay. He would now refer to his noble Friend's Memorandum. As far as the Memorandum went, it was impossible that anything would be more clear, more practical, more able, or could give the Navy more satisfaction. It was an immense stop in the right direction, and he hoped that his noble Friend, after he had heard his speech, would make another advance in the same direction and go a great deal further. There were most important naval innovations in that Memorandum. He noticed that there was a document with his hon. Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty's name attached to it. It was a real step in the direction of reform, to make a man responsible to Parliament by putting his name at the bottom of a document of that kind. He would next advert to the document relative to the seaworthiness of the Wasp. It was on lines such as that that he and a great number of naval officers wanted to see the opinions of exports presented to Parliament. Those who were responsible for different Departments of the Admiralty ought to put their names down, as the Secretary to the Admiralty had done, and as the four seamen had done in regard to the Wasp. Then if anybody had done anything that was wrong he could be held practically responsible for it, which was not the case now. In his 937 printed explanatory statement on the Estimates the Secretary of the Admiralty said—In an Imperial Service of the importance of the Navy, which has to maintain establishments not merely for current requirements but to meet possible national emergencies, there must of necessity be a large expenditure due to the special circumstances of a national establishment, and which cannot equitably be charged to the work performed thereat.Now, the national emergencies there referred to depended of course on the policy of the Cabinet. No export wanted to interfere with the policy of the Cabinet; but the policy of the Cabinet might run them into one of those national emergencies within 24 hours, but you could not build a first class fighting ship under three years, and that might put them in the position of having to call upon the Fleet. They would be anxious as long as they did not know accurately what position their Meet might have to be in; that was to say, were they perfectly prepared for one of those occasions of national emergency? That was very much the line of debate which they took the other night when they asked to know how they stood. The seamen of the Fleet might be called upon to carry out some duty in such an emergency, and they knew perfectly well that under certain conditions they would not be prepared to do what was expected of them by the country. With regard to the Wasp, the First Lord know perfectly well that if he merely said that the Wasp was all right, his statement would be worthless; but the object of his Memorandum was to re-assure Parliament and the country and those officers and men who had to go to sea in sister ships, and therefore he got the four seamen's names to the document. He wanted to bring the same system as that which was exemplified in the statement about the Wasp right through the entire administration of the Admiralty, and through every Department which was supposed to be responsible, but which now was not really so. When all things went well under the present system the First Lord of the Admiralty spoke for the whole Navy and for every detail; but directly anything went wrong the responsibility was thrown on the seamen. All the information contained in his noble Friend's memo- 938 randum was derived, not from his noble Friend himself, because he knew nothing about it—how could he know? He know a great deal, no doubt; but how would he know all the information that he put in his Memorandum, and that he was supposed to be responsible for? It was all given by somebody else—by the heads of departments. But he found fault with the present system because there was no real responsibility thrown on those who gave the First Lord that information; each of them could say or withhold just as much as he liked. How often had they seen Ministers responsible for the Navy get up and make a statement that the Navy was all right, and prepared to do any duty that might be required of it, thus painting everything in the most glowing colours, and yet within two years afterwards, because the silent members of the Board had not been allowed to show the country what were the real facts, everything was suddenly found to be all wrong, and scare and panic immediately followed? And what was the result? Scares and panic and the most wicked and scandalous waste. On page 22 of the First Lord's Memorandum the Noble Lord said—The experience gained since last year, and the opportunities afforded during that time of making close and minute comparison between the strength of the Navy of this country and that of foreign nations, confirms my previous statement that our relative superiority is undoubted.Now, that was a very good statement so far as it went, but there was not a seaman in the Fleet who would put his name to it, because it might be read the wrong way. It represented what might be called the book-keeping way of measuring the strength of the Navy, simply adding up two columns of names in order to see whether we had more iron-clads than any other country. That was not the way to account for the Navy at all; the point to be considered was—What had our Navy got to do as compared with other Navies? The noble Lord went on to say—The conditions of naval warfare have so changed, and are so changing from day to day, that nothing but actual experience could justify any confident prediction as to how a thoroughly effective protection can be given by any Fleet to a commerce whose sea-going steam tonnage is double that of the rest of the world,939 No seaman would put his name to that either, for it was equivalent to saying "Wait till you have lost your all, and then see what you ought to have had and what you ought to have done." Again, he wished to say that he did not blame his noble Friend, but he maintained that the sentences quoted conveyed a false impression to the country. That was his point. The country must know that the First Lord was totally ignorant of technical questions. [Laughter, and cheers from the Opposition.] Well, it was perfectly true, and he would go further and say that no soldier even understood those questions—the First Lord simply got his information from his experts—and what he wanted to see was men's names put down for what they were responsible, and then it would be seen whether the Minister was giving his own opinion or the opinion of his experts. He wanted to see the name of the responsible head of the Department at the bottom of every statement affecting the particular Department, instead of being vouched by the First Lord, and then, if anything went wrong in that Department, he would try the man responsible by court-martial. Nothing of the kind could be done now, because there was no responsibility. The First Lord had often referred to the difference of opinion among experts. Just as doctors differed as to where a leg ought to come off, or architects as to the style in which a house ought to be built, so, no doubt, naval experts differed as to how the efficiency of the Navy ought to be increased, but all agreed that the thing must be done. The experts could discuss the matter, and when they came together the First Lord could then use his power [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: Hear, hear !.] But it was not done in that way. The reduction of the salaries of the Intelligence Department was done off the First Lord's own bat, and he had not, when he changed his mind, consulted his Board at all. He was not raking up these matters because he had resigned Office. He said and did the same things when in Office, and gave proof of his sincerity by declining to sign the Estimates last year. A clerk came to him in the office about 11 o'clock in the morning with some documents and a wet pen in his hand, and asked him to sign. He said—"What am I to sign?" '' he Estimates," was 940 the reply. "I? Certainly not;" he said, "I have not seen them. If I put my name to those Estimates people will think I have read them, and studied them, and am satisfied with them; whereas I have neither read them nor studied them, and I am not at all sure that I should be satisfied with them." And so he did not put his name to them. He was afterwards told that it really did not signify very much whether he signed or not; it was all right. He said that was a very bad way of doing business. With regard to the amount of savings set forth in the Memorandum, he hoped a wrong impression would not get abroad about them. They had been effected by the most excellent administration on the part of the First Lord. The noble Lord had not saved the money out of the sums voted by Parliament last year, but by looking after the details of manufacture, dock-yard management, material, and so on; and he had actually got work and more value for the money voted, although he showed a saving. Nobody could give the First Lord too much credit for the way he had worked, but not one of the points dealt with had anything to do with organization for war—that was the great point. As the First Lord knew well, he had written several letters on the question of a war organization. He was much dissatisfied with it when at the Admiralty. He called attention to the subject again and again, and he was not at all sure whether he should not think it his duty (leaving out what was called the confidential parts of those letters) to take the public into his confidence by publishing them. He was glad that the Board had seen their way to grant some slight increase of pay to the lieutenants, who were the backbone of the services, and were splendid instances of patriotism and discipline. Although they had been in a hopeless position for years, they had never growled nor grumbled, but had loyally done their duty. He hailed with great pleasure, too, the loyalty of the Australian Colonies in coining to build and equip ships in order to help us quite as much as themselves. To return to the question of war organization. The table of the distribution of the business of the Admiralty was a most curious document. No foreigner would believe it. What first drew his attention to the subject was that in the Estimates there was not a 941 single mention of war organization from top to bottom. It was not in it. It was nobody's duty to look after this important work; and, considering that war organization in every other country was, in fact, the War Office and the Admiralty themselves, the House could imagine his astonishment when he went to the Admiralty and found there was no kind of war organization on the paper at all. The present Controller of the Navy (Sir W. Graham) was a most able man, and to him was mainly duo the enormous reforms which had been carried out in the Dockyards, but it was utterly impossible for him, though he might work all day and most of the night, to perform the work he was responsible for. That being so, there could not be that efficiency in the Fleet which was necessary. The Controller had 17 subjects to look after, which was more than any one man could attend to. He had taken the Controller first because he was responsible for the money. He would take next the First Sea Lord. He had 19 subjects. His position was a most serious, a most responsible one, but he was encumbered with a number—an enormous mass—of frivolous matters and small details which ought to be removed from him altogether. The Second Sea Lord had 13 subjects, and a great deal of his work was frivolous. It might be done by a far smaller person than a Lord of the Admiralty, and he a distinguished Admiral. He had, for instance, to sign little pensions, which ought to be done by a paymaster under the Financial Secretary. Then the Junior Lord had 19 subjects to look after. For that he had received £1,200 a-year, but really he had very little to do at all. This was the position he (Lord Charles Beresford) held; but the duties with which he was charged were so trivial that he had very little to do at all, and that was why he thought the other Naval Lords, who were enormously overworked, ought to have his salary of £1,000 a-year divided between them. To show how the other three Naval Lords were overworked, he need only mention that although in March last the Director of the Naval Intelligence Department brought forward a most important paper relative to the organization of our Fleet in the Mediterranean waters, the matter had not yet been touched at all. The only reason for that was overwork and bad 942 distribution of business. It was all very well to say as to some matters which had been delayed, as, for instance, War Organization, "Oh, it is all in the First Sea Lord's head." Why, if he had a head as big as a line of battle ship he could not hold it all. Then others said that they should wait to see what the enemy was going to do, but that would not answer in these days of steam. Therefore their system ought to be perfect in every detail. Their Channel Fleet, their Mediterranean Fleet, ought to be so organized—at least the Channel Fleet should be so organized—that they could concentrate without delay at Portsmouth or Plymouth or wherever it was desired. Until that was done it was idle to say that the plan of campaign or the organization was complete in somebody's head. He held that the present distribution of business was utterly unsuited to the modern requirements of the day. He should like—he should be greatly interested—to see Sir W. Graham produce one day's papers that he had to settle. He should also before the Royal Commission be interested in seeing what his Friend and very cordial Colleague Sir A. Hoskins would say if asked what would he have done in 1885 if the Fleet he was to have commanded had been ordered to assemble in the Downs and to go to the Baltic. He would, no doubt, tell them that they could not have left the Downs, because there was no organization—no coals, no ammunition, no gunboats, no torpedo-boats, or anything else necessary to enable them to fight. They would find at the end of the Estimates a list of the various Departments, and in each of these Departments they had what was only common sense, so many clerks and so many of a professional staff. But when they came to the office of the Administration of the First Lord of the Admiralty, which settled everything and determined the whole management of the Navy, they would find nothing of the sort. The only assistants there were clerks. Surely that was absurd. Surely they needed professional assistance there. No Government in the world could go on on such a system as this. He was not saying anything against the clerks individually; but they were in a wrong position. Why in the name of common sense should they not give the; Lords of the Admiralty competent men 943 to carry out the management of the Service? If they had competent men—naval officers—they would come there for a short time. [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: Hear, hear !] His noble Friend cheered that. That was so. It would enable them to carry on their work in a business-like style. There were 19 clerks with salaries of from £500 to £1,000 a-year. He said that was an enormous salary, and he said, further, that when the Royal Commission examined the salaries, and compared the salaries with the knowledge of the subjects they had to deal with and their responsibility, the comparison would be ruinous to the system. Let them have someone who knew how to give orders, and how fleets should be managed. The wonderful thing was how the Admiralty had gone on. He believed it was accounted for by the fact that so many able men had done their level best in spite of the system. If there had been a real test—the test of war—they would have broken down, and the country would have suffered disaster. He was afraid he was detaining the House. Then there was a question about signals at sea, and one clerk had to go into a naval Lord's room to ask what it all meant. A ship was lost south of the Line, and one of the men-of-war had been ordered to look after refugees on a certain island. There happened at that time to be another ship coming home, and one of the clerks suggested that this ship also should join in the search. According to the chart the island was only three or four inches out of the way of the latter ship. But the ship would have been taken 4,000 miles out of her course. He was not saying a word against these gentlemen, who were zealous public servants; the fault was that of the system. As long as they kept their system as it was, they would have the Navy as inefficient as they (the seamen) told them it was. Having found all these faults, he would make a few practical suggestions. A reform was wanted in the relations subsisting between the Navy and the Mercantile Marine. He would also like it to be impossible for the First Lord to rule the Navy without consulting the Board at all. It was quite possible now—though except on one occasion his noble Friend had never done so. Next, a total redistribution of business was wanted, especially in the Controller's 944 Department. The head of the Intelligence Department should be an Admiral. Thirdly, an alteration was required in. the appointment of Sea Lords. The Controller should be there for five years and the others only for three years, and each year one should retire, quite irrespectively of Party considerations. The present system upset everything. Besides, by this arrangement fresh blood would always be pouring into the Admiralty—men straight from sea, who knew what they were talking about. They were all good men there at present, but under the system there might be men in command who knew nothing of modern requirements, and might never have even been in a torpedo boat. Fourthly, the secretarial department ought to be re-constructed entirely, in which there should be found commanders, lieutenants, or paymasters capable of understanding the orders they might have to frame for the Fleet. These also should only stay for three years and have permanent clerks under them. The result of this would not be to give more power to the experts, but to distribute responsibility and strengthen the hands of the First Lord. There was no real responsibility now. These reforms were connected with business, but other arrangements were wanted as soon as possible for war organization. There should be an amendment in the system of training seamen, and there should be a sea-going gunnery ship. Some reforms were no doubt being effected, but they would probably take years to complete under the present system. Changes, too, were needed in the non-combatant service, and in the signal department, which should be given a warrant rank. Greater latitude should also be given to Commanders-in-Chief, both at home and abroad; and a new system of signalling between the Navy and the mercantile marine, so that vessels might change their route in time of war. At present we were liable, in case of war, to lose hundreds and thousands of tons of shipping because this was not carried out. One Commander-in-Chief had written to him that he had to devise his own plan of campaign, and had received no information as to the assistance he might expect or as to his coal supplies. To a certain extent, no doubt, the system of war organization was improving, but that 945 improvement was not going on half fast enough, and could not until the present Admiralty system was reformed. They must reform from the top, not from the bottom. Fifthly, coast defence ought to be thoroughly organized, and the second-class reserve men should be organized on the same lines as lifeboat crews at present were. Sixthly, arrangements should be made as to coaling at sea. Seventhly, there ought to be means of adding to the Admiralty in time of war. It was utterly impossible that with the present system the Admiralty could do what it would have to do in time of war. Further, the shipbuilding policy should depend on the necessities of defence without regard to Party or a popular Budget. The First Lord in one of his speeches had under-rated the value of the Intelligence Department; but his noble Friend, he maintained, was quite incapable of knowing the value of that department for organization for war. How should he? Why, even some of the officers of the Service could not always see what was necessary to win an action. How, then, should the First Lord know the value of such a department? In fact, the Intelligence Department ought to be the brains of the whole Service, and the best men ought to be in it. His noble Friend had said, that if there were any agitation or excitement it would be the sailors who would be turned out of the Admiralty and not the civilians; that was not a wise throat, or one likely to be carried out. There was a good deal of anxiety both in this country and the colonies as to the administration and efficiency of the Navy. What the country wanted was practical suggestions from the experts as to the organization of the Navy—men who knew what they were talking about. He had been asked why his colleagues did not resign with him. One reason was that they did not write M.P. after their names, The only way to get reform was by moving that House. His colleagues and naval men might write to The Times, or have their grumble in "Rule Britannia" after dinner speeches, and this they did sometimes because they were proud of the service; but that was not the same thing as addressing the House of Commons. For the first time an estimate had been produced which did give clear Parliamentary control over shipbuilding and manufacture, but it had 946 nothing to do with the efficiency of the Float, and of that Parliament had no guarantee of any sort but what the First Lord of the Admiralty chose to tell them. He had said nothing in his speech which need provoke a scare. He had not asked for any extravagant outlay. All he had asked was that the administration of the Admiralty should be conducted on business principles. He had only asked for good organization and sound business principles. A squadron on a foreign station was more important to this country than an Army Corps was to Germany, because an Army Corps might be replaced, whereas if we lost a squadron we could not replace it until it wag too late, and had lost our mercantile interests on that station. He might observe that many of the papers which he wrote at the Admiralty calling attention principally to this question of war organization, were agreed to by his Colleagues, but nothing was done. With regard to his resignation, he felt genuine regret at leaving his Colleagues, especially his chief, who was an old personal friend of his. He felt, however, that all the trouble occasioned by his resignation would have served some useful purpose if, after hearing his statement, the House consented to the appointment of a special Royal Commission to investigate the matter he now complained of, and determine whether he was right or wrong. In conclusion, he begged to move the Motion which stood in his name.
§ MR. SPEAKER
the noble and gallant Gentleman should add at the end of his Resolution some such words as "In the administrative system of the Admiralty."
ADMIRAL MAYNE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
said, he rose for the purpose of seconding the Motion, and in doing so he wished to repudiate any desire of making a personal attack upon the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), or on any of the Members, or of the Board of Admiralty of which the noble Lord was the head. He did this more particularly because he knew that it was said, even within the walls of that House, that this was an attack on the part of his noble and gallant Friend the Member for East Marylebone (Lord 947 Charles Beresford) against his late Chief and his late Colleagues, and that it was part of a scheme for discrediting their administration. So far from that being the case, he begged to say, on his own behalf, and he believed he might say on behalf of the Service generally, that the noble Lord and his present Colleagues had done great things for the Navy, although he did not think that they had always done so either with that deliberation or that consideration for others which, they might have shown. He wished to show the House that it was impossible to govern the Navy under the present system, and that it had never been done properly, and that though the responsibility ought to rest with the First Lord—and was always supposed to have so rested—unfortunately, whenever a serious difficulty occurred, the First Lord showed no anxiety to take it upon himself. What he wanted to see was that the responsibility of the First Lord should not be a myth, but that it should be given in such a way that it would be impossible to escape it by those who ought to answer for the condition of the Fleet. The noble and gallant Lord had spoken of the Intelligence Department, and if the Admiralty had had the most remote conception of what that Department ought to be—and what it must be before long—there would not have been a quarrel over such a paltry matter as the pay of the Department. The Intelligence Department was copied from Germany, but it was a bad copy. As one small example of the wonderful system which he condemned, he would remind the House that none of the authorities could agree as to when intelligence was first shown at the Admiralty. We were told by some gallant officers that it had been in existence for 25 years. On the other hand, they were told by no less an officer than Sir Geoffrey Hornby in The Times, that it did not exist to any appreciable extent when, years after that, he wished to know, at the time the country was expected to go to war, about the coaling resources of the country we were about to go to war with. That gallant officer was unable to get any information from the Admiralty, and he had to go to the War Office in order to obtain the information he required. It would surprise the House to learn what had occurred at the 948 time the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) was at the head of the Admiralty. It was found that there were no means of communicating by telegraph with any of our Admirals in command at foreign stations, because the private code books were only supplied to those officers who had the least need of them—namely, the Admirals in command of the home ports. The Commander-in-Chief in North America had found that he had no means of communicating privately with the Governor General of Canada. Sir Geoffrey Hornby strongly urged that the Intelligence Department should not be cramped in its first starting; but this was exactly what had been done, for though the scheme of salaries provided for an Admiral at the head of the Department, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would never agree to the increased amount when the First Lord admitted that a Captain was enough. He (Admiral Mayne) wished to show the House that the Admiralty had never been efficient, and that it had at no time satisfied the requirements of the country or of the Navy. When the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty talked of his taking responsibility, it was not an original notion. The noble Lord was not the first individual who had talked of the responsibility of the First Lord. Before the Special Committee of 1861 Sir James Graham claimed that he was responsible for all that went on at the Admiralty, and Sir Francis Baring, when asked if he agreed with Sir James Graham, said that he did. The Duke of Somerset being pressed to say whether he was responsible for such a detail as the selection of ships for reliefs of foreign stations, replied that he was. In the first instance, he said that the responsibility rested with him and the First Sea Lord, but that if he chose to interfere, it rested with the First Lord. That was the view which had been held by First Lords for a long time, and it was made more prominent by an Order in Council when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) was at the head of the Admiralty.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
said, he begged the hon. and gallant Member's pardon. What he did was precisely the reverse. He made the First Sea Lord responsible,
said, that the right hon. Gentleman, by an Order in Council, made the responsibility of the First Lord more definite and prominent.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, the special object of the Order in Council was to make each Naval Lord, and especially the First Sea Lord, responsible, instead of treating the Naval Lords as a small Committee.
said, his opinion and that of the right hon. Gentleman differed altogether as to the effect of that Order in Council. Although full responsibility was claimed in that House by the First Lord, in the event of disaster the blame was always allowed to rest elsewhere. He had no wish to go too far back, but the same system had been going on for more than 200 years, and he recollected no instance in which the First Lord had claimed the responsibility where there was any real danger. When Admiral Byng was tried at Plymouth, did the First Lord come forward and say that he was responsible for sending out that officer to relieve Minorca with 10 under-manned battle ships to stop a landing by the French in Minorca which had taken place before he could get there, under cover of 12 battle ships and a number of frigates? On the contrary, he allowed Admiral Byng to be tried. Why did not the First Lord say—"I was responsible, entirely responsible, for all that occurred," and save that unfortunate officer, whose gallantry was undeniable, from an unjust sentence? Then, in Nelson's time was the Admiralty satisfactory? He would not quote from the more fiery spirits then afloat, but from the courageous and noble but long suffering Collingwood. What was it that that gallant officer said? He wrote, after Trafalgar—I never hear from England The Admiralty seem to have so much business in other quarters that they cannot attend to me. If they could send me a few more ships I should not care, but I am very much pinched for force to spread over the extensive seas which I have to range. Nothing could have been more neglectful than the Admiralty had been.Jumping over the next 50 years he came to the Crimean war, circumstances attending which were in the memory of many hon. Members. It was evident that even then the Admiralty did not satisfy 950 the country or the Service. Sir James Graham was First Lord, and before the 1861 Committee claimed full responsibility and supremacy at the Admiralty; but when Admiral Sir Charles Napier came home from the Baltic, did Sir James Graham take the blame upon his own shoulders for the failure—as the country thought it—of that expedition? Did he say—" I did not give Sir Charles Napier a single gunboat which was able to get within several miles of the forts which he is blamed for not taking?" It was not until 1855 that 150 gunboats were commenced, and they were completed just in time to take part in the great Naval Review which followed the Declaration of Peace in 1850, not having fired a single shot in anger. Did the First Lord then say—"I am responsible?" No; he allowed the responsibility to fall on the Commander-in-Chief. Knowledge of such facts made the Service anxious to get vessels of the right quality and in the right quantity, because they knew that the blame would always fall upon the naval officers in command. The present system of managing our Navy which had gone on for so long a time was utterly rotten, and he hoped that the result of the Royal Commission would be to tear it up by the roots and to found a new one in its place. He felt strongly the necessity for inquiry into the system which he so condemned by a Royal Commission, and if he did not follow the noble and gallant Lord in submitting a stel[...] it was not because he had not got one, but because he thought the time of the House of Commons should not be occupied in discussing details. He was not vain enough to think that his scheme might not be improved by a Committee or a Royal Commission; but he thought it had been pointed out by the noble and gallant Lord who had already addressed the House that an entirely new system was required. He had referred to what had occurred in 1854. At a later period a Committee sat in 1861. The Members of the Board of Admiralty were divided among themselves as to their respective duties and responsibilities, and there was no kind of continuity in the policy of the Board. Admiral Sir George Seymour was asked whether and to what extent he considered himself responsible for the advice he gave, and his answer was— 951I do not consider myself in the least liable to be told to walls out of the Admiralty by the First Lord. I do not consider myself Lord Addington's nominee. I can never consider it depends on the First Lord to remove me.He was asked—Do you consider that there really was, in point of fact, a supremacy of the First Lord?And he replied—His position as a Cabinet Minister gave him a weight which one in that position should have; but I do not admit his being supreme.Sir John Pakington, speaking of himself as First Lord, said—I never did feel on the Admiralty that I had either the knowledge or the control or the responsibility which I think the Minister who is at the head of so great a Department ought to have.He added—It was hardly possible to regard the First Lord as being supreme among his Colleagues, and," he said, "he considered it a very awkward and difficult arrangement for the First Lord to assume a responsibility.With these differences it was not a matter of surprise that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh when he came into Office, having read these conflicting opinions, should have said—"The best tiling I could do is to make the matter clear." But, then, what happened? One of the first things that occurred was the appointment of a Controller of the Navy, and that was another of the many instances of want of continuity at the Admiralty. The unfortunate Captain went down; but when that ship sunk did the First Lord of the Admiralty take the responsibility upon his own shoulders of the loss of that vessel? No; neither the First Lord, nor the First Sea Lord, nor the Second Sea Lord, took the responsibility; but the First Lord wrote a Minute relating to the loss of the Captain in November, 1870, which seriously affected the reputation of Sir Spencer Robinson, the Controller of the Navy. The Select Committee on the Board of Admiralty in 1871 reported that—The combination of the two Offices of Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty and Controller placed him in an anomalous position, since he was at once a member of the Board and also serving under the Board. This arrangement has not been altogether successful.The Minute of the right hon. Member for South Edinburgh, in 1870 relating 952 to the loss of the Captain was published without having been seen by the First Sea Lord or Sir Spencer Robinson. He called attention to the existence of this beautiful system which enabled the First Lord of the Admiralty to publish a Minute without having first shown it to the officer concerned or to the First Sea Lord, who were his primary Advisers, or, to speak more properly, his Colleagues. The Committee went on to remark in their Report—Such a proceeding is quite unprecedented; but it showed the great difficulty of exactly fixing the responsibility.No doubt it did; but the same difficulty existed now as it did then.
said, he was referring to the Report of the Committee of 1871 on the Board of Admiralty, which states that on the 30th of November, 1870, "Mr. Childers wrote a Minute relating to the loss of the Captain."
§ MR. CHILDERS
What was the nature of the Committee? I have read no Report of a Committee containing those words.
said, he could not state at that moment from memory; but it was a Committee known as the Select Committee of 1871, and he should be happy to show the Report to the right hon. Gentleman. He was quite certain as to his quotations, although he might not be strictly accurate as to the date. The Report went on to say—The First Lord being himself nominally responsible for sending the ship—the Captain—to sea, constituted himself a judge of the case, and, exempting himself from all blame, distributed censure amongst a number of persons, while he placed the chief weight on the Controller, who had been by a former Board especially released from this responsibility. So, again, as to the responsibility of the other Lords. The division, matériel and personnel, appeared on a superficial view to be precise and easily understood. Almost every witness gave his opinion that the union of a seat on the Board with the Office of Controller had been a mistake.
§ MR. CHILDERS
No such Report was ever made by a Select Committee. 953 The hon. and gallant Gentleman is entirely mistaken.
said, yet when that question arose respecting the building of a new class of frigate the First Sea Lord said he considered this a question for himself rather than for the Lord of the Admiralty who was Controller of the Admiralty, and that the fancies of the Controller need not be considered. That showed again the utterly mixed condition into which the Board of Admiralty had got as to responsibility. He had spoken of the appointment of the Controller of the Navy, and had stated that the appointment gave rise to some difference of opinion at the Board of Admiralty itself. In 1869,an Order in Council merged the control of the Navy into a Third Lord—With the view of simplifying and facilitating the transaction of the business of the Department, and more effectually controlling; the naval expenditure.But, in 1872, another Order in Council re-established the Controller of the Navy as an office "to be held for a fixed period by an officer not a Member of the Board." In 1882, it was considered desirable that the Controller should again be appointed Naval Lord, and an additional Civil Lord should be appointed "who should possess sufficient mechanical and engineering knowledge, as well as administrative experience," to assist the Controller. He mentioned these things to show that there had been no continuity whatever in the policy of the Board of Admiralty, although he was aware that the noble Lord at the head had spoken, at Baling, of the continuity of the Service being far better than that of the French Naval Service. During the 30 years following the last Lord High Admiral there had been no less than 103 changes in the Admiralty; consequently, the experience of the Lords of the Admiralty had averaged something like half a-year each. Since 1880, there had been three First Lords, seven Financial Secretaries, and 16 Lords. Taking an average, they would find that a First Lord with an average experience of two years, was financially advised by Secretaries with an average of one year experience, and in other matters by Lords of an average experience of six months. It was upon such limited experience as this that these 954 officers undertook to prepare the Navy Estimates, and he would ask the House, or any man of experience, how it was possible to perform the work satisfactorily under a system like that? The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had himself condemned the system—as would be admitted by the House when he reminded them of the answer which the First Lord gave last year to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) when he attacked the Admiralty. The First Lord on that occasion admitted that the whole system had been bad from beginning to end, until he came into Office with a Board against which he (Admiral Mayne) had nothing to say. He would, however, remind the House that if it had not been for this wonderfully able Board, with the business experience of which they had heard so much of the Financial Secretary; if it had not been for the Heaven-born administration of the First Sea Lord, and the great mastery of details possessed by the Second Lord, and the abilities of the recusant Lord who last addressed the House, the affairs of the Admiralty might still have remained in a state of chaos in which the First Lord stated he had found them. When the question was raised about the ships, they were told by the First Lord that the money had been badly spent; that the contracts for the ships had not been properly looked into; that the Administrative Department had not been properly managed; and that adequate details had not been given, and they were assured that for the first time in our naval history the details had been given. It was said that the Admiralty had been re-organized; but it had been re-organized time after time. Every First; Lord who came into Office immediately declared that he was about to re-organize it, and that wonderful things were to be accomplished under his administration; so it had been from the first, and so it would be—unless the system, was altered—to the end of the chapter. In 1861, Sir James Graham announced the reforms which were only commenced to be made last year. Sir James Graham, giving evidence before the Committee of 1861, said that all the details of the individual cost of every ship not only could be given to the House of Commons, but that the time had arrived when it wag absolutely necessary that they should 955 be so given. That was 25 years ago, and yet they were told that the reforms were only commenced last year. They were among the changes which the noble Lord the First Lord made so much of, and he thought, it showed that a system must be utterly rotten which could go on for 25 years and yet enable the present administration last year to take the first stop in building ships according to the Estimates, and spending money with advantage to the State. More than that, some of the improvements and reforms which the First Lord claimed to have effected were entirely opposed to the opinions of former First Lords, and would probably be altered immediately if, by an unfortunate turn of the wheel of fortune, hon. Gentlemen opposite should again be placed at the head of the Department. The noble Lord claimed that he had inaugurated a system by which the Lords of the Admiralty were able to minute their objections to any particular decision of the Board. But when the Committee sat on the loss of the Megœra, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh was asked by Lord Lawrence if he approved of the system adopted by the Council of India. The right hon. Gentleman said he knew very little about it, whereupon Lord Lawrence explained it to him, and the right hon. Gentleman said that he took one fatal objection to the system. That objection was one for which the First Lord now took credit. Therefore the House might rest assured that this would be altered the moment the Board of Admiralty was changed, if the right hon. Gentleman came into Office again. The First Lord said that it was sheer nonsense to talk about supremacy of the permanent officials of the Admiralty; but in the name of common sense how could it be otherwise when the First Lord and the Financial Secretary and the Naval Lords were all liable to a clean sweep whenever a change of Government took place, and were replaced by others who could not possibly know anything of the business for several months at the least. In the inquiry into the loss of the Megœra, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh made this statement—I said to Mr. Lushington this state of things ought to exist, that if the heads of the Office whose tenure depends upon considerations 956 of political character were removed, you and your heads of branches ought to have such a grasp of the business that you can carry it on until the new heads of the Office are warm in their saddles.How long it took to get warm in the saddle must, of course, depend a good deal on the pace at which they went; but evidently until that was so the permanent clerks must rule, and sometimes the Board again changed before they had had time to get warm in their saddles. Now, what had happened in the case of the present Board of Admiralty? A Naval Lord retired. Well, he had known 100 Naval Lords retire, but in this instance the First Lord considered it necessary to explain to his constituents why the noble and gallant Lord who had just addressed the House left Office, together with the differences which had existed between the noble and gallant Lord and himself. Surely, this fact showed the amount of confusion which existed in the Department. And while the noble Lord was telling one thing to his constituents at Baling, the hon. Gentleman the Financial Adviser of the First Lord was giving" quite another version to his constituents in another part of the Kingdom. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty evidently did not know the position of the Members of the Board of Admiralty, for in the same sentence he spoke of them as primary Advisers, Colleagues, and subordinates. The words of the noble Lord were—The difference between the War Office and the Admiralty is, first that the naval officers are my Colleagues and not Assistants; they act as my primary and not as secondary Advisers.Further on, he says, speaking of the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford)—If he had succeeded in forcing me to reverse my decision, not a shred of the authority of the head of the Department would have remained, and a precedent would have been established of the most mischievous character, that of the First Lord yielding to his naval subordinate on a financial question.That naval subordinate was the noble and gallant Lord, a Member of the Board of Admiralty, and the primary Adviser of the First Lord. Consequently, they were told that the First Lord had a primary Adviser from whom he got as much advice as possible, but acted upon 957 it as much or as little as he chose. It came to this, that so far as the position of primary Adviser to the First Lord was concerned, so long as there was an agreement between them, the primary Advisor was the First Lord's Colleague, but when they differed he became his subordinate. In his Ealing speech the First Lord had nothing but praise for his Board: but surely if it was competent for a First Lord to praise the acts of the Board, it was equally so for him to condemn them, and there was nothing except a sense of duty to prevent any other Naval Lord not a Member of this House from calling a meeting in Hyde Park in order to give his version of the mode in which the affairs of the Admiralty were conducted. The First Lord told the public that the present Controller of the Navy was so able and so capable that he had reduced the Dockyard expenditure by £200,000; but at the same time his financial Advisor was tolling his audience at Ormskirk that naval officers were quite unfit to control large establishments. As to the capabilities of naval officers for such positions, he would remind the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury that within a few days they had been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. B. Stanhope) that he had selected a naval officer for the command of the largest gun factory in England. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty had also said that the Report of the French Budget Committee showed that it was owing to the fact of the French having a naval officer at the head of the Navy that they had overrun their Estimates—[Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: Hear, hear !]—and that he had been superseded by a Civilian. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty said "Hear, hear !" but did he know that for the last 20 years the French had had naval officers at the head of their Admiralty, except for somewhat under two years in all, and that Admiral Krantz was at this moment in that position? If it was duo to this cause that the French had overrun their Estimates, how about our own Estimates? The Benbow cost £52,000, the Edinburgh £77,000, and the Warspite £71,000 above the original Estimates, and they were told that it was not until an entire novelty had been introduced into the 958 Department by the present Administration that our ships were over built within the Estimates. In his judgment, many things might be advantageously copied by us from the French. So far from blaming Admiral Aube, the French Budget Committee told them that they had the good fortune to meet with the greatest assistance from the administration of the Navy, Admiral Aube having, from the time of his taking office, appointed a Committee to prepare now regulations conducive to economy. The head of the Admiralty was perfectly willing to work with that Committee, and the plan had worked well. When Admiral Aube reduced the French Naval Establishments, what did he do? He induced the Committee to grant a considerable sum of money in order to prevent a cruel discharge of a large number of men in the winter. Indeed there are many things which were done in France which might be advantageously copied in this country. He had little further to do than to point out that it was most wrong to say that naval officers were invariably in favour of expenditure. What they wanted was to be governed under a proper and intelligible system, and that the money should be spent for the real benefit of the Navy and country. Under the present system officers in the Navy were, during a period of three, four or five years, almost invariably kept on shore waiting for command, while in that time they might otherwise be gaining experience for the benefit of the Service. Naval officers did not want useless expenditure; their wish was to see in the Navy a sufficient number of ships of the highest and most efficient class. He wished, in conclusion, to put to the House and the noble Lord this Question, which was the real test—Was our system economical, and did it supply us with a proper Navy? As to economy, our Admiralty Vote dealt with 62,000 men; the French Admiralty Vote dealt with 45,000 men and 25,000 Marines and Marino Artillerymen, or 65,000 men. We employed at the Admiralty, for the purpose of administering this force, 500 persons; the French Government employed 250 persons only, or exactly half that number. Again, the monetary difference was far greater, our Vote for these persons amounting last year to £211,000. But calling it £200,000, the amount of the French Estimate was 959 £51,000 only. This sum included everything properly attributable to the French Admiralty except the very slight difference between the full and extra pay of the French Admirals on the Council—3,000 francs each—and the result showed that our Board of Admiralty employed double the number of persons employed by the French, and that at four times the cost. He (Admiral Mayne) admitted that everything in England -was most costly in the matter of salaries, from the Secretary of State downwards, but even allowing for this country a charge double that of the French, the English system still cost £100,000 a-year in this Department more than the French. Then with regard to efficiency he defied the First Lord of the Admiralty, notwithstanding the post-prandial declarations of the First Sea Lord at the Engineers' Dinner the other night, to say that the Board of Admiralty were unanimous or that the majority of the Board would say that we had enough ships, either building or on the programme. He (Admiral Mayne) did not believe that the majority of the Board would say that they agreed with the policy which the First Lord had put into his Statement—namely, that of not laying down any more ironclads in 1888–9. He did not say that he had authority to state that the majority of the Board did not agree with the noble Lord; but could the noble Lord assure the House that his naval advisers who signed the Estimates of last year—he had not had time to examine the Estimate of the present year—agreed with him? The point was that the country was paying four times as much as the French were paying, bunt they certainly had not got one-third more ships, which every naval officer allowed they ought to have. It was well known that the French had four or five ships half-built, which they could complete sooner than, we could complete ours, which were not yet even designed, while, at the same time, shipbuilding in Russia was going forward. There was no naval officer who would come before a Commission and say that we had a sufficient number of ships for the defence of the Imperial interests. He must repeat that naval officers did not wish for unnecessary expenditure the feelings of the Navy were never better described than by Nelson, when writing 960 to Collingwood enclosing him the plan of fighting the battle of Trafalgar. He said—You and I can have no petty jealousies; we have but one object in view, the annihilation of our enemies and to bring a glorious peace to England.That was the object which he believed all naval officers at the present day had before them.
§ Amendment proposed,
§ To leave out from the word "That'' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the allocation of authority in the administrative system of the Admiralty requires entire reform."—(Lord Charles Beresford.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Baling)
I think, Sir, it is due to my noble and gallant Friend (Lord Charles Beresford) that I should now intervene in the debate, and take notice of the observations which he made, as well as those of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Admiral Mayne) who has just sat down I must at the outset protest against one remark made by my noble Friend and several remarks made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken. They have no right to assume that the Admiralty is not actuated by motives as pure as their own. My noble Friend distinctly stated that if the other noble Lords did not resign, it was probably because they were not Members of Parliament, and my noble and gallant Friend and the last speaker have held up to ridicule the speech of the Senior Naval Lord (Admiral Acland Hood) made on Saturday last. They have pretended that there were certain Members of the Board who altogether differed from that speech and differed from my Memorandum.
As to the wording of the Memorandum I have no authority for that. I said I defied the noble Lord to say they agreed that we had enough ships—the policy of not building more.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The theory of my hon. Friends is that the First Lord of the Admiralty ought implicitly to rely on the advice of experts. When I asked for their authority for in- 961 sinuating that the Naval Lords differ from me, my hon. and gallant Friend say she defies me to state that they agree with me. Well, they do agree. Every word of the Memorandum was sent to every Member of the Board who was responsible for any one Department, and it was because they agreed with me that I have laid it on the Table of this House. [Admiral MAYNE here made a remark.] I must object to its being intimated either by assertion or insinuation that there is a difference of opinion between the First Lord of the Admiralty and the experts on the Board which does not exist. I wish now to refer to the difference which arose between my noble and gallant Friend and myself as to the salaries of the Intelligence Department. The question is a very simple one. I have repeatedly explained it at great length, but I am afraid I must recapitulate it. Four Naval Lords in November, 1886, pressed strongly upon me the necessity of enlarging the existing Naval Intelligence Department and adding to it a mobilization side; and they stated to me that as the work was urgent the appointment of the officers ought to be made at once. I went and saw the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), and I got his assent to enlarging the establishment on the understanding that the numbers and the salaries of the Department so enlarged were subsequently to be subject to Treasury revision. That was the understanding, and on that understanding those officers were appointed, and the whole Board were consenting parties to that condition, and my noble and gallant Friend was one of the Members of the Board who consented. The salaries which were proposed by the Committee seemed to me to be high; but believing that the Naval Lords were unanimous and these salaries being strongly pressed upon me by the First Naval Lord, I sent them forward to the Treasury, somewhat contrary to my better judgment. It was never asserted that these salaries were necessary for insuring efficiency. My noble and gallant Friend did not assert it. They were based upon thestatusand comparative salaries of other officers of other Departments. The Treasury pressed for our arguments; the arguments that were put forward were demolished, as the Treasury pointed out that what should regulate 962 the standard was not the comparative salaries of other officers, but the work that had to be done, and what was the amount necessary to get the best men to do it. They, moreover, pointed out to me—and it was an argument that came home to myself—that no revision and no reduction in any Department would be possible if those officers who came in afresh were to have their salaries fixed on the highest scale which existed. I looked most carefully into the matter, and gave to it, I believe, even more personal attention than my noble and gallant Friend did himself. I saw that the salaries which the Treasury proposed were almost identical with those that were enjoyed by the Intelligence Department at the War Office, and in every single instance they were considerably above the full pay that the officers would have received. Seeing, also, that the question at issue did affect the efficiency of the Department, that the controversy had gone on for nearly 10 months, that I had ascertained in the meantime that two Naval Lords did not adhere to the original salaries which had been fixed, but thought them too high, and, feeling as I did, that there could be no greater waste of time than by the prolongation of an inter-departmental dispute, I directed a letter to be written to the Treasury, and so anxious was I that every Naval Lord should know what I had done that before I sent it to the Treasury every Naval Lord saw it and initialed it. The noble and gallant Lord did not object to it, and that shows that he did not consider that the reduction would affect the permanent efficiency of the Department. I heard no more. The letter went to the Treasury. Six weeks afterwards my noble and gallant Friend sent in a Memorandum—written in the strongest Saxon at his command—telling me that unless I chose to reverse my decision he would resign.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I should be glad to do whatever is consistent with the public interest; but whatever differences of opinion may arise on a point of this kind in a Department, obviously the Head of that Department must have some power at 963 some time of settling the question, and if ever there was an instance in which a civilian head should exercise his authority it was surely on a matter of this sort. It was not a naval question, and if anybody at the Admiralty was competent to judge what was the salary that would command the pick of the talent available for these appointments, it was the First Lord of the Admiralty. [Mr. GOSCHEN: The First Naval Lord.] No, the First Lord of the Admiralty, because he has to make all appointments above a certain grade, both on shore and afloat; and although I regret that my noble and gallant Friend resigned on that ground, there have been since thon two vacancies in that Department, and there is a probability shortly of a vacancy through the head of the Department going to sea. In every single instance where there had been a vacancy we have been able to get the very men we want, and there has never been a word of protest against the salary. The question is a small one in itself, although it raises a very large principle—namely, whether a Junior Naval Lord was on such a matter to dictate to the whole of the Board of Admiralty. I feel satisfied myself that if I had been in my noble and gallant Friend's position, and he had been in mine, he would have dealt with me in such a case in a much more summary fashion than I dealt with him. My noble and gallant Friend has, however, occupied the greater portion of his speech in raising a question with which, if the House will allow me, I should like to come to close quarters. I confess for myself that I feel very conscious of the anomaly that a civilian like myself should be at the head of the Board of Admiralty, where there are so many distinguished admirals who have served their country. But when it is suggested that a military or a naval officer should be at the head of the War Office or at the head of the Admiralty, I want the House to reflect just for a moment what that means. If the House and the country could get over the objections which I am about to state and were willing to try the system of having a Naval Lord at the head of the Admiralty, I would willingly resign my present Office to-morrow in favour of the First Naval Lord. But the most cherished principle of the Constitution 964 of this country is that when a Member of this House accepts Office he ceases to be a Member of the House of Commons and has to be re-elected. If naval and military officers were to become the heads of the great spending Departments, you would lay down the rule that when they are placed at the head of the War Department or of the Admiralty they are to be ipso facto Members of the Legislature. Is that a principle to which this House would like to assent? Suppose it did assent to it; let us pursue the matter a little further. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke second to-night (Admiral Mayne) alluded to the evidence that was given by very distinguished men before two Committees. Some of the ablest administrators which this country has produced gave important evidence on this matter. Among them were Sir James Graham and the late Duke of Somerset; and they were both examined at a time of life when they were not likely again to hold Office. Both Sir James Graham and the Duke of Somerset took this strong objection to the suggestion that I am now considering—namely, that it would result in introducing politics into the Navy without bringing additional naval experience to the Admiralty. Naval officers would have to be chosen as much or even more for their politics as for their professional qualifications. I am not sure that in France the presence of a military officer at the head of the War Department or of a naval officer at the head of the Admiralty is a source of stability to that country. My hon. and gallant Friend alluded to the French Estimates. In February last, in France, a most able Report was made by a Committee, and no charges such as those made against the administration of the French Navy had been made against the administration of the British Navy. There is an absolute concensus of opinion that the result of appointing a distinguished expert at the head of the French Admiralty has been such a rash expenditure incurred without sufficiently testing the objects upon which it was made as very seriously to jeopardize naval finance in France. Unless this House and the country are prepared to upset old political and Constitutional principles, there seems no possible remedy that can be applied, and it seems doubtful if any good would result. Now 965 such being the case, you must have a Parliamentarian at the head of affairs. If you have a Parliamentarian he must have some control over his own Office. My noble and gallant Friend is very anxious that the opinions of the exports should be laid before Parliament, so that responsibility should be concentrated on those who advise the First Lord. My noble and gallant Friend had certain Departments under him at the Admiralty, and he made very few suggestions with reference to them; but he did make a large number of suggestions in regard to the Departments of the other Naval Lords, and he proposed to make great alterations in Departments for which he was not responsible. But if those Naval Lords are to be held responsible for their opinions, and if they object to many of the proposals of my noble and gallant Friend, why are those proposals to be forced upon them? Does it not come back to this, that my noble and gallant Friend—because he happens to be in the House of Commons—is in a position to criticize the proceedings and the management of the Departments of the Naval Lords who are experts; and does it not show that as long as there are in this House men who are entitled as having special knowledge to express opinions on naval matters they will criticize statements made in the Estimates whether they come from the experts or from the First Lord, and who is to defend the exports' opinions if attacked? My noble and gallant Friend alleges that in the Memorandum I issued I made statements that no seaman would make. I utterly traverse and contradict that statement. I say that every statement in that Memorandum was carefully discussed with the Naval Lord whose Department it concerned, and the two concluding statements contained in the paragraph he quoted—and to which he took special exception—were discussed perhaps more than any others. My noble and gallant Friend says that by the present system misleading documents may be laid before Parliament; and that I, as a civilian, have come to conclusions altogether fallacious as to the naval supremacy of this country. I do not know by what means you can test the relative superiority of this country as compared with other countries, except by taking the number of ships, 966 the number of men, and the number of guns, and comparing them with the number of ships, the number of men, and the number of guns which those respective nations have. It may interest the House if I give my data for the statements I advanced; but if the House thinks we are too weak, and will press the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give additional sums of money to the Navy, I will endeavour to do my best to spend it judiciously. In the statement I am about to read, I exclude all the iron-clads anterior to the Devastation—which, in the opinion of naval exports, is a vessel worth re-fitting and re-engining—and include the Admiral and the belted Cruiser class. On March 1, 1887, the number of iron-clads was 16, with an aggregate tonnage of 127,000 tons. In addition to this there were five ships in reserve, with 44,000 tons, making in all a total of 171,000 tons. France, at the same time, had 10 ships in commission and six ships in reserve, with an aggregate of 119,000 tons; Italy had two ships in commission and two in reserve, with an aggregate of 41,000 tons; while Russia had one ship in commission and four in reserve, with an aggregate of 25,000 tons. That was how we stood on March 1, 1887; but during the past year—that is to say, the present financial year ending April 1—there have been added to the reserve 46,000 tons, as compared with 14,300 for France and 13,000 for Italy. Next year—carrying out the programme now before Parliament—we shall pass 53,000 tons, as compared with 29,000 for Franco, 32,000 for Italy, and 26,000 for Russia. In the following year we shall pass 39,000 tons, as against 20,000 tons for France, 13,000 for Italy, and 20,000 for Russia. And the result is that, whereas on March 1, 1887, we had 171,000 tons, as against 119,000 for France, 41,000 for Italy, and 26,000 for Russia, we shall have, as at April, 1890, 311,000 tons, as against 184,000 for France, 100,000 for Italy, and 73,000 for Russia. Therefore, we shall have during those years largely increased, and are still increasing, our lead. What our superiority as compared with other nations should be is a matter of dispute, but I am well within the mark when I say that we are from 30 to 40 per cent above the next most powerful naval power. That being the condition of 967 things—and we can build much faster than any foreign country—I believe our relative superiority, as far as fighting power is concerned, is established, and that if we continue upon our programme we shall continue to make a greater advance in superiority. Then my noble and gallant Friend criticized the statement in which I remarked that—When we consider the defence and protection which our commerce may require, extreme caution and reserve must be exorcised,and that—nothing but actual experience could justify any confident prediction as to how a thoroughly effective protection can be given by any fleetto our enormous Mercantile Marine. Will any single naval officer get up and answer how that can be done? I have the advantage as First Lord to come in contact with many distinguished officers going out to take commands and coming home; and I find the most extraordinary diversity of opinion as to how effective protection can be given to our enormous Mercantile Marine; and if that opinion does exist, why am I to be attacked for giving expression to it in the Memorandum? It is because there is this wide diversity of opinion that it is necessary to be careful at the present time. Then my noble Friend complains that we have not followed the French in the matter of melanite, which gave a remarkable exhibition of its power the other day in bursting in a gun, and blowing the gun to atoms. That it was a most sensitive explosive was proved by the recent fatal accident at Belfort.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
said, he had complained that whilst the French had spent £1,000,000 on shells with high explosive bursting charges, we had not even made a trial with them.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I know there is a rumour of £1,000,000 having been expended; but if those bursting charges of shells are to be fired from guns on board ships, it would be wiser to finish the ships first. As the French have not money enough to do the latter, I question whether they are spending any on the former. But even supposing that the Admiralty had been a little behindhand as regarded the introduction of a higher explosive, to whom was that due? In regard to expenditure of this character, so far as 968 the Ordnance Department is concerned, my noble Friend is perfectly well aware experts are absolutely supreme; it is on their advice alone that action is taken, and it therefore seems strange that my noble Friend should find fault with us on the point. Wishes have been expressed that we should give greater authority to experts; but fault has been found because, on a question on which it would be right to be guided by the authority of experts, we have followed their lead. I believe that the principle for which the Seconder of the Motion contended is impossible. I admit that the system of civil control at the War Office and the Admiralty has been attempted to be carried on in this country for some years under almost impossible conditions. There has been an attempt, which has failed, at the War Office and partially at the Admiralty to make one branch of a Department responsible for economy and another for efficiency. I believe that to be a most baneful and unsatisfactory division; and I speak with a greater freedom because I think it has ceased to exist at the Admiralty; and the Secretary of State for War has, by the alterations he has made in Army organization, given far greater power and authority to military officers than they before possessed.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
Yes, in this respect, that they are to have control over the expenditure that is voted for the one Department of which they are the head. I say that the division was an impossible one. I believe it is to the previous want of such a system that a great many of these admitted defects and shortcomings are due. Year after year the same thing has happened; Army and Navy Estimates have been laid before Parliament involving expenditure which ought to have been cut out, as not leading to efficiency, and reductions which were short-sighted and unwise, and which ought to have been kept in; and this was due, to a certain extent, to the length of time that Parliament sits. The matter stands thus—Estimates, as a whole, are prepared in November; but the shipbuilding programme of the Navy is probably not settled until after both the Army and the Navy Estimates 969 are, to a certain extent, matured. Assume that the First Lord of the Admiralty, when the expenditure is submitted to him, says that it is too high, and that it is to be reduced; assume that when he submits it to the Cabinet he is told that the total must be still further reduced, and that the Navy expenditure must be brought within a certain limit; if he obeys such injunctions, what can the officers of the Admiralty do under the conditions? There are only a few weeks before the Estimates must be laid on the Table in due form. If it comes to a reduction, it is now expenditure that must be struck out. There may, perhaps, be a number of old items that could be struck out; but to strike them out comes in contact with personal interests, perhaps with local prejudices; and it is perfectly well known that any large reduction cannot be effected in the time available, so from year to year a considerable amount of new expenditure has been cut out of the Navy Estimates, because that has been the only means of reducing them, while a certain amount has been retained which might have been struck out if there had been more time for the revision of the Estimates. If you place Navy officers in a position in which they can combine for the purpose of promoting both efficiency and economy, I am confident there will be the greatest possible inducement to effect any economies which their experience can suggest. Our Estimates are considerably lower than those of last year; but I think the amount of work we shall be able to got out of those lower Estimates will make as good—I think I may almost say better—provision for the wants of the Navy than has been made for a good many years past. This is due to the fact that the Lords of the Admiralty and my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty have most scrupulously and rigorously overhauled during the past year the expenditure in every separate settled branch; and they have succeeded in cutting off a large amount of expenditure, without in any way affecting the amount of work to be done. If more authority is given to naval and and military experts, who to a large extent even now exercise authority at the Admiralty, I believe it is easy to reconcile the system of a civil headship of the Department, with the effective 970 supervison and economical administration of expenditure. I sympathize a good deal with the criticisms which naval and military Friends make from year to year on the Estimates. They know that, under the system in force for some time past, we do not always get the best possible return for our money. If the Navy is to be made thoroughly efficient and to be able to cope with the demands of the future, we must be prepared, to a certain extent, to break with the past. As new wants are developed, and money is found to supply them, it is quite clear that old sources of expenditure, sanctioned by usage and tradition, but not required in modern days, must disappear. If naval and military Members of this House who possess special knowledge will give the Departments the benefit of their suggestions in that direction, they will strengthen the hands of the civil heads at the War Office and the Admiralty, because the mere fact of their recommending a reduction of expenditure which they view as unnecessary will make that reduction, when effected, far more valuable as well as palatable to the respective Services to which they belong. As to war organization I must differ with my noble Friend as to what he has stated in reference to the arrangements for adapting the Admiralty to the exigencies of a time of war. There is a most exhaustive Report at the Admiralty dealing with every single question that can arise in time of war. But little or no action had been taken upon it up to 1886. But a Naval Intelligence Department was established for collecting and piecing together scattered information; and, therefore, there is now, for the first time, a Department entrusted with the responsibility of seeing that everything that relates to the transition from a peace footing to a war footing is ready and in a proper condition. It would not be fair to those who have formerly held the Office of First Lord of the Admiralty to assume that this question had not been gravely considered and thought out. When my right hon. Friend the present First Lord of the Treasury was at the head of the Admiralty in 1878, and when we passed through a somewhat critical phase, arrangements were made by which we should, at very short notice, have been able to put the Fleet 971 on a war footing. As to the suggestion that naval officers should be employed as clerks instead of civilians, there seems to be insuperable objections to it. Naval officers forget their work afloat if they are very long ashore; and if you take a number of naval officers away from their primary duty for a long time they will deteriorate as officers of the Navy. Then, should a war break out, you will require every naval officer you can lay your hands on, and at a critical juncture their places will have to be taken by those who do not know the work. The suggestion, therefore, although plausible, is not practicable. But there are certain branches into which retired paymasters and men in similar positions may be introduced. I admit that the expenditure inside the Admiralty is increasing yearly, and I am considering means by which to reduce it. But this brings you face to face with the question of pensions. All officials, not only at the Admiralty, but to a certain extent in the Dockyards, have a right to pensions; the State cannot break faith with them and there is a great dislike, which I share, to running up non-effective charges. But you do not got rid of a non-effective charge by keeping men who do little work on salaries which increase every three years; on the contrary, when they retire their pensions are so much the higher. Then, again, if you bring naval assistants into the Admiralty, as my noble Friend suggests, what is to happen to the personal responsibility of heads of Departments? My noble Friend is also desirous that those naval assistants should be employed in drawing up instructions to Commanders-in-Chief afloat, and I think he referred to a sentiment which he said Admiral Hornby expressed—namely, that the Departments which drew up the orders were not able to understand what they were writing. I beg respectfully to traverse that statement, which, if true, would show a most mischievous state of things which ought at once to be remedied. The result of the suggestion of the noble Lord would mean that employing a number of junior naval officers at the Admiralty would be that they would either be superintending the operations of their seniors at the other end of the world during a campaign, or else at such a time would have to quit their 972 civil functions and return to their ships. Then my noble Friend objects to the power which the First Lord has in speaking in the name of the Board. But the correspondence must be carried on in somebody's name; and where there is no Board it is carried on in the name of the head of the Department. Nineteen-twentieths of the letters which are written in the Admiralty never come to me. Every Naval Lord conducts his own correspondence in the name of the Board; and if no individual is to be able to speak in the name of the Board, every Naval Lord will have to conduct his correspondence in the name of the First Lord, the only result of which will be that Naval Lords will be placed in a worse position than they are now. I think I have now dealt with most of the questions to which my noble Friend alluded. The work which we have in hand we shall push on and develop as fast as we can. The time of the Admiralty Board has been much taken up in altering the form of the accounts which are presented to Parliament, which are now not alone valuable to Members of Parliament, who desire to cross-examine Ministers in respect of them, but are equally valuable as a like test in the hands of the Naval First Lord in reference to these particular Departments. I am glad to find, if I can judge from personal expression of opinion, that they met with the approval of the House. The accounts for the first time clearly distribute and allocate to every particular service the number of men and the expenditure associated with the pay of those men. I am fully satisfied that if this form of account is adopted in the future, it must tend year by year to a more and more economical and effective administration. The alteration entails an enormous mass of work, and nothing but the indomitable energy of my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty can have enabled him to overcome the almost superhuman obstacles which intervene between him and the accomplishment of his task. We attach great importance to accurate forms of account. We believe that by the steps we have thus taken, we shall insure continuity of policy and the continuous maintenance and strength of the Establishment. We have deliberately kept our programme well within our financial 973 resources. Our difficulty, and I will be quite frank with the House, is not one of want of funds, or want of shipbuilding power; it is one of gun-producing power. The object which we have in view is to keep the non-effective expenditure of the Navy as small as possible, and to keep on an improved footing our organization for war, so "that every ship, either in commission or in reserve," shall have all its requirements thought out and prepared, so that the whole available force of the Navy may be ready and effective at any given moment that it may be required. We have endeavoured to associate with the Navy the most powerful of our Mercantile Fleet, and we believe that by this association of force being brought rapidly into operation we shall have time during which we can further develop and organize the untouched naval resources of the country. It is the policy of the Government to thoroughly equip and arm our coaling stations and our fortresses, and to co-operate with the Colonies in inducing them to fortify their forts and their stations, so that the whole effective force of the Navy may be ready to take an objective, and, if necessary, to assume an offensive attitude in whatever part of the world we may be required. We cannot pretend to have perfected our plan and settled all the questions relating to organization; but we have contrived to make very considerable progress in the matter, and I believe that the object which we have in view is now within a measurable distance. If I am not assenting to the course of my noble Friend, if I believe that a good many of his suggestions are impracticable—that they will come into collision with political usages and Constitutional traditions; on the other hand, the House can help the Government, and especially naval and military Members, and we ask them to co-operate with the Government. The Government believe that by referring these Estimates to a Select Committee we may make the Committee a repository of naval knowledge which may be most useful to First Lords of the Admiralty. The Government believe, moreover, that our Estimates give a large amount of information that was not formerly given to Members of Parliament; and if my noble Friend and those who think with him will co-operate with Her Majesty's 974 Government on the lines I have mentioned, I believe we shall be able to secure a continuity of policy that will include the permanent maintenance both of establishment and stores and of those reserves which are essential to the efficiency of the Services, but, above all, to a Service like the Navy, upon the prompt and effective discharge of whose duties, in some unforeseen crisis, may depend the commercial interests and success of the Empire.
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
said, he did not know what was the ultimate intention of this Resolution; but of one thing he was well satisfied—namely, that outside the professional circles which had been represented by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Bresford) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke and Haverford west (Admiral Mayne) there was in the country very great anxiety to ascertain whether the present naval armament of the country was or was not capable of doing that which was expected of it in time of war. He would like to put to the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty a very practical question. He did not desire to split hairs as to whether the noble Lord could state, or could not state, that his Naval Colleagues were in accord with him; but would the noble Lord tell the House that in the opinion of his Colleagues the Navy of England was at the present time in a position to do that which the country expected of them in the event of war breaking out? He (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald) was well aware of the enormous difficulties in the way of gauging the relative powers of the Navies of various countries. And there were many diverse opinions as to what the country would expect in the event of war, but upon one point he believed there was no such difference. The country and the House expected from the Navy that it would ensure the arrival of food supplies from beyond seas; that it would protect our coasts from invasion; and, further, that it would, keep up the supply of raw material necessary to enable the artizans of this country to continue to earn their wages. That that was the opinion of the country he thought no one could gainsay. With regard to the question of coaling stations, hon. Members would be at least 975 aware that most of our coaling stations were not places at which, coal was found, but that they were stations to which we had to take coals for the purpose of supplying our ships.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that there is a specific Amendment before the House. The remarks he now offers are more pertinent to the general question; they do not refer to the specific question of the administrative system of the Admiralty.
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD
said, he was on the point of coming to what the First Lord has said on this point.
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD
said, in that case he would defer his observations until the original question was before the House.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, East Riding, Holderness)
said, he scarcely thought that the First Lord of the Admiralty had exactly met the difficulty indicated by the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone, and that had been shadowed forth by his hon. and gallant Friend. The question at the root of the difficulty was whether the First Lord ought to have in general policy a distinct arbitration over the remaining Members of the Board of Admiralty. His noble Friend who introduced the Motion was inclined to the opinion that there should he some umpire or arbitrator external to the Board, so that the Government might have an opportunity of ascertaining the opinions of experts. He (Commander Bethell) did not agree with his noble Friend in that matter. He was inclined to think with him that there should be some arbitrator or umpire to settle these matters; but he considered that the experts should be internal and not external to the Board itself. The Board of Admiralty was generally understood, by people who were not very conversant with it, to be an administrative Board; the general opinion was that on a question of policy the majority of the Board defined, ruled, and decided the question, but he was bound to say that in reality the First Lord had the power of deciding what policy should be pursued, whatever might be the opinion of the remaining Members of the Board. He submitted that there was no reason why the Board should not be constituted 976 on the lines he had indicated, and that there should be power of resignation on the part of Members of the Board, and, on the other hand, power of dismissal of elected Members. In that way on any particular line of policy on which the First Lord was agreed, he would dismiss those Members of the Board with whom he disagreed; and rightly, for if that policy did not recommend itself to the country, he in his turn would lose his position, nor would that have the effect of lessening his responsibility in that House. There was no reason that he knew of why the noble Lord should not be in that House the exponent of the policy on which he had decided, nor was there any reason that a censure passed on the noble Lord should not cast a stigma on the whole of the Board. He did not agree with the proposal of the noble Lord, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have the power of arbitrating on a particular question between the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty and his Colleagues. He (Commander Bethell) suggested that hon. Members should look back over the last 20 years and see whether all that had been done by the Admiralty in that time had been successful. He admitted that the country had every confidence in the noble Lord and the present Board, but it was in the knowledge of everyone that in times past there had been at the head of the Admiralty men who, however clever they might have been, had held some strong opinions with regard to the Navy which were quite out of harmony with the opinions of those conversant with naval matters. Under those circumstances it would be undoubtedly possible to force a line of policy on the remainder of the Board which would not commend itself to the Navy or the nation in general. If, on the other hand, a Gentleman at the head of the Board holding strong opinions were controlled by the remaining Members of the Board, he was inclined to think that they would have a security in future, which they had not had in the past, from many mistakes in policy which had undoubtedly occurred; so that although he differed to some extent from the noble Lord who introduced this Motion, yet it would be seen that he was going in the same direction with himself. He and his Colleagues desired that there should be 977 some means of arbitration or control in the Board of Admiralty; whereas his noble Friend was of opinion that those means of arbitration or control should be external to it. But whatever differences existed between the noble Lord and himself, they had arrived practically at the same conclusion, and he submitted to the First Lord that, however interesting his speech had been, he had not approached that part of the question which they as naval men felt to be the particular point in dispute.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
said, he had remarked, just before the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone was negatived, that there was one plain straightforward question which he hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty would answer. Would the noble Lord tell the House of Commons that he and his Colleagues, including such men as the heads of the Intelligence Department and the Director of Naval Ordnance—Admiral Hornby, Admiral Hewitt, and so forth, were agreed that at the present moment the forces of England were such as the people of this country would expect them to be when a war broke out. If the noble Lord could make that statement, it would do much to allay the uneasy feeling which existed not only in naval and military circles, but also to a large extent throughout the country. The three things which the country certainly demanded were that the Fleet should be sufficient for the protection of our shores against invasion, for the adequate security of our food supplies, and for the protection of convoys of ships conveying raw materials to be manufactured by the artizans of this country. Those he took to be the smallest duties expected by the House and the country to be performed by the Board of Admiralty. In old days convoys were protected by sailing ships, and the experience they had in navigating fleets when under sail, no doubt, added to the natural instinct of Englishmen, had made them bettor sailors. Although he did not, for one moment, say that the blue jackets, or rather the black jackets, of the Navy were one whit behind their 978 predecessors, they would, however, have many great difficulties to deal with. It was formerly necessary sometimes to rig up jurymasts, or to do something to prevent a vessel from becoming a mere hulk upon the water. Now, unless our ships had coal they would be in a worse position than a dismasted sailing ship—perfectly helpless and unable to assist a convoy and prevent it falling an easy prey to the enemy, and he did not believe that even in the wildest flight of imagination, anyone in the future would be able to invent jury-coal, although he was quite aware that the noble Lord who introduced the Amendment had himself rigged up a jury-boiler under very difficult circumstances. The First Lord of the Admiralty had given them a calculation of his own, made in March, 1887, with regard to the Navies of England and France. Before the year 1860, it was possible to gauge the value of our Navy and the strength of our ships in a far easier mariner than now, because, when a line-of-battle ship was spoken of, it meant a line-of-battle ship, and nothing else. He did not mean to say they were all equal; but that by giving the number of them which belonged to each Power a fairly near estimate could be made of the naval strength of other nations and of our own. Of course, beside that, there was the question of the nationality of the crews, and we could, no doubt, claim some superiority on that head. But the position was all changed, and the ships of the Navy were of such various designs that the wit of man could not possibly gauge their relative values. It was very difficult to get more than two or three naval experts to agree as to the qualities which should be possessed by ships of war in respect of defensive power, coaling power, engine power, manœuvring power, and so forth. There had been various methods of computing the relative strength of the English and other Navies. One authority put down tonnage displacement as the first thing to be considered; another, coal-carrying power; a third, thickness of armour, irrespective of extent; and a fourth, speed and horsepower. To show how difficult it was for an expert to gauge the relative values of these qualities, he would first take the question of displacement. If hon. Members would refer to The Navy List of the present year, they would 979 find that there were certain vessels of the Royal Navy which had not been lengthened amidships, or by the stem or stern, and yet whose tonnage during the last three months had increased. That was a very remarkable fact, and he thought that it was one which required some explanation. If the explanation was that they could increase the power of the ships of the Navy by sinking them further in the water than was intended by the designers, he said that the people of this country would not be satisfied with that method of increasing the power of the British Navy. He knew that this had been advocated by an extremely able civilian in the Naval Reserve, who for a long time occupied a seat in that House, and who now sat in "another place." He (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald) maintained that that was not a fair or just way of making a comparison between the Navy of England and the Navies of foreign countries, for by that means you might double the apparent strength of the Navy by sending it to the bottom. Whether the other modes of comparison with regard to speed, coaling power, &c., were better than that he know not. The matter was one for the decision of experts. But he mentioned this to show how difficult it was for this country to be satisfied that its Navy could do in time of need what was required of it, without the information of experts on the subject, and unless the First Lord came down to the House and declared that with that opinion of the experts he was satisfied. If it was difficult to gauge the value of British ships, it was still more difficult to do so with regard to the ships of the Navies of Euroue. It was generally considered by those who knew most on the subject that England, at the present time, stood first as regards naval power, France second, and very near to England, Italy third, and a good way behind, Russia fourth, Germany fifth, Austria sixth, Turkey last, and the other European countries nowhere. If that were correct, he would like to know in what way the relative values of the Navies of any two countries were measured, or how the relative value of any two ships was calculated. The calculation was that the English Navy was in the proportion of 100, while the Navies of other countries stood thus—France 90, Italy 50, Russia 45, Germany 980 40, and Austria 31. He asked how the relative values of the vessels forming those Navies were guaged. Ships of the Benlow, Camperdown, and Collingwood class required to be taken largely on faith by outsiders like himself. He thought he was right in saying with regard to this class of vessels, that a skilled authority had declared that, if these vessels which were only to have their sides protected, had their un armoured ends shot away, although it was possible they might float, he absolutely declined to express an opinion as to which part would float uppermost.
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD
That was the class of vessels by which the Navy had been increased, and it became all the more necessary on that account for the noble Lord to reply to the plain matter of fact question which he had put before him. Every country had sacrificed something in order to make some feature supreme. France had adopted great defensive power, having heavy guns mounted in ships with tremendous armour; she had sacrificed for enormous strength and weight, the coal-carrying power of her vessels. Italy, on the other hand, had sacrificed everything for speed, giving their vessels little protection, but high speed, and guns of great offensive power. England had adopted, as he gathered, the medium between what France and Italy had done; but there was one point with regard to England which did not so much enter into the calculations of other countries, and that was—the desperate handicapping of English ships with regard to the amount of coal-earning power necessary for them. He thought he was right in saying that France allowed about 7 per cent of coal-carrying power to line-of-battle ships; but English naval officers averred that, having regard to the duties which would be expected of the English Fleet, 14 per cent of coal-carrying power was necessary at the very least to enable the Navy of this country to do its work in any future war. That is to say, we had to allow to our enemy in, say a ship of 10,000 tons, 700 tons, which he might take out in guns, armour plates, or torpedoes. English vessels would thus be greatly handi- 981 capped, for while for other countries it was of less importance, the tracts of ocean over which English vessels had to go made it necessary for them to have a larger coal-carrying power. If it was go difficult a subject for them to ascertain the relative fighting capacities of various countries in respect of their Navies, it pointed to the moral that they should allow a very large margin for possible failures. But the consequences of failure were not the same in all cases; to no other country would failure be of such desperate importance as to England. In other nations there were enormous Armies for their protection and for aggressive purposes; but England alone trusted to her Navy. The destruction of the Navy of France, Italy, or Germany, although inconvenient, would be to those countries no more than a small and temporary inconvenience, whereas the destruction of the Navy of England would be the downfall of the country, which, without her Navy, would be like a watch without the mainspring. She must stop short and suddenly in her career, as surely as an animal in whose veins the blood ceased to flow. She would be incapacitated, and unable to retain her position among the nations of the world. It was nothing short of madness that the House should consent to go on an hour longer without it being determined, once for all, by experts at the Admiralty, whether or not our Navy was sufficient to protect our coasts, and ensure the protection of the food supply from abroad and raw material for manufacturing purposes at home. He believed—and the House believed—and trusted that the British sailor of the future would not be inferior to the British sailor of the past. The superiority of the English as sailors in the old days was due to the fact that, being enormously superior in numbers to the enemy, they were enabled to keep the sea on all occasions, and, at the same time, keep the enemy's fleet in their ports. When a fleet was kept in port the seamen got no practice at sea in seamanship or gunnery, and hence one cause of our superiority in the last French War, when, while we blockaded the enemy's ports, we ourselves kept the sea, and gained experience and practice in respect of seamanship. Would it be possible for England to keep the sea and blockade 982 the enemy's ports in the future as she had done in the past? One thing was perfectly certain—namely, that at the outbreak of the next war it would be necessary for England to take a definite and clear part, particularly with regard to the Mediterranean. If war were declared to-morrow, say with France, would the First Lord dare to take away from the Channel Squadron a single ship, and send it to the Mediterranean, or to any other part of the world where our Possessions or interests were attacked? Was the Mediterranean Fleet large enough to repel an enemy from Malta and Gibraltar, supposing no succour could be sent? If it were not, those two places must capitulate if they were attacked by a superior fleet, as we should not dare to detach a single vessel from the Channel Squadron; and no First Lord would be held guiltless if he did so. Besides this, in the event of a war such as he was considering, our Admirals would be sending from all parts of the world for supports. It was clear, in the first place, that Russia was steadily advancing on India of set purpose. It was perfectly clear also that if we desired to defend India, we could only do so by being in a position to attack Russia at some other point than Herat. That was to say, we must strike Russia somewhere else than at Herat if we wished to save Herat. If that were so, then the only means of striking such a blow at Russia was by European alliances; but was there any possibility of this country being taken into alliance by any other European Power? Was our Army or Navy of sufficient strength and usefulness to induce any European Power to enter into an alliance with us? He did not think so. If the state of things were otherwise—that was to say, if our Fleet was sufficiently strong for us to be of any use to other European Powers—he believed such alliances might be formed. He believed that all it would be necessary for this country to do in order to prove of essential service to a foreign ally would be to send a Fleet to the Baltic and another to the Mediterranean. Such fleets, it was estimated by competent authorities, would be worth 500,000 men to a central Power of Europe in the event of an alliance. As it was, however, we were not strong enough for any foreign Power to seek an alliance with 983 us. We stood almost alone, and at the outbreak of war it would be necessary for this country to make up its mind to take one of the three proverbial courses. The first course would be to take our place again amongst the nations of Europe, and bear the burdens and reap the benefits of such a course, giving up the short-sighted policy of saying that we would fight only for English interests. What were English interests—where did they extend to? We heard sometimes that it would be better for us to stay at home and mind our own business; but where was our home? Did it not extend from Australia to Canada, from New Zealand to the Cape of Good Hope, from Gibraltar to India, from the British Channel right across both hemispheres? Was that not our home, and was it not our business to defend our home in every quart or of the globe? The first course, then, which this country could follow would be to take her place amongst the nations of Europe. The second course would be to declare boldly that England wanted no allies, and was prepared to fight by herself. In that case, it would be absolutely necessary to double our present Navy, and largely increase our Army, especially in India; then, if they liked, we might sit down and wait for Russia—Russia, perhaps, backed by France—whenever it was convenient for her to attack us. The only other course was one which would hardly commend itself to England—namely, to go drifting on, sacrificing our position in Europe bit by bit; until some war panic came and frightened the country into building something like a sufficiently powerful Navy for the defence of our shores, The country had acted under the influence of panic before, and that, too, in quite recent years. If it had not been for the Penjdeh incident we should not have had the belted cruiser class of vessels. He trusted the first of the three courses to which he had referred would be the one to commend itself to the House. He believed it would be the least expensive. It would be much less likely to give rise to jealousy than the course of doubling our Navy and saying—"We will only fight for English interests." It would be no menace. It would be, in his opinion, the most straightforward and Imperial policy that England could carry out. At all events, 984 nothing could be more unfortunate than that we should have to rely for the strengthening of our Navy upon war scares and panics, at which times we had to pay largely increased prices for our ships and warlike stores. Our experiences in our last war with France, to which some reference had been made, were extremely valuable, and should be borne in mind at this time. Some people wanted altogether to break with the past; but, to his mind, they should learn from the past what would be useful to them in the present. Was it not a fact that in the last French War our Elect was nearly double that of France, although we had to defend a much smaller Empire than the one we now possessed? Was it not also a fact that though the English Navy was in those days double that of France and Spain put together, it was barely adequate to save our shores from invasion. At the commencement of the war in 1793 our Navy, as he had said, was certainly double that of France; at the peace of 1801 the proportion of the two Navies was as 6 to 1, and yet in the last year of that war we lost 3 per cent of our commerce, captured principally by French privateers, and that was a very remarkable thing when we came to compare the Navies of the two countries. Here was a still more striking circumstance. Between the commencement of the year 1793 and the end of the year 1795, when France alone was our enemy, we lost 3,000 vessels, or about 6 per cent of our whole Navy. Let the House remember these figures, and remember that our naval strength was double that of France. [An hon. MEMBER: Under sail.] Yes; but it would take proportionately quite as strong or even a stronger convoy of steam vessels of war to escort a convoy of steam merchantmen as it took sailing war ships to escort a fleet of merchantmen under sail in the old days. If what he had referred to had occurred when our Fleet was double as strong as that of its enemy at one time, and, at another time, six times as strong, he could enforce with some chance of success the question he had put to the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty. But he had another thing to say in reference to our last war with France. In 1805, we had three Fleets. Nelson had left Europe, and was hunting Villeneuve. He followed him to the West Indies, 985 but never fell in with him. He hunted him back to Europe. When Villeneuve got back to Europe he fell in with Sir Robert Calder, who was in command of a second Fleet off Ushant, while, south of that squadron, was another in charge of Admiral Collingwood, of the Burlings at Lisbon. As it afterwards turned out, Nelson, who had succeeded in sailing up level with Villeneuve, but had never managed to get within sight of him, was in Gibraltar with his Fleet. And what happened? Vileneuve fought an action with Sir Robert Calder, who was subsequently tried by court - martial for not annihilating a fleet very nearly twice as strong as his own. At that very time, the country had two other Fleets for the protection of the Mediterranean, and the protection of our commerce. What chance were our Admirals going to have in the future, if they were to be dealt with like that unless we put them in as good a position in regard to ships and guns as our Admirals were in in former times? Well, he (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald) thanked the House for having listened to him. There was just one point he desired to emphasize—he almost wished he had dealt with no other topic, so important did he conceive it to be. Would the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty—and he asked this with all respect, for he considered the noble Lord had done wonders already at the Admiralty, and he hoped he would continue in the same line—come down to the House, and tell the House, and through the House the people of the country, that the experts with him in office were satisfied that the present and prospective state of the Navy was such that it would be capable the moment a war broke out—if it should be at 9 o'clock to-morrow morning—of protecting our shores from invasion, and the lines of route by which raw material was brought for our artizans to work up, and food was necessary to be supplied to our people without which there would be a famine, the like of which, perhaps, was never seen? Would the noble Lord say that was the opinion of the experts? If he did not, it should be the signal for the breaking out of the people into a necessary and wise panic. They would be justified in viewing the present condition of things with alarm, and in demanding from the Government an answer to such a question.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)
said, he rose to offer a few comments on the very able statement of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty. But before he did so, he wished to say that when he remembered the brilliant services of the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), he could not help regretting that those services were no longer at the command of the Admiralty. It was always desirable to have at the Admiralty young officers who had themselves seen service; and that was particularly the case when the Navy was daily being revolutionized by science. It was not for him to say whether the noble Lord was justified or not in doing as he had; but he (Mr. Duff) had no doubt, however, that in resigning his noble Friend had acted purely from patriotic motives; and he would have loft the question there but for some observations made by his noble Friend, which appeared to reflect not only upon the present First Lord, but upon his Predecessors. The noble Lord had told them that when he went to the Admiralty he found to his utter astonishment that there was not a single shred or shadow of organization for war purposes. [Lord CHARLES BERESFORD: Hear, hear !] That was a very extreme statement, and one which reflected upon all who had been at the Admiralty; and he did not think that statement was justified by fact. The noble Lord said that the first thing he did, being a man of business, was to ask for the Papers bearing on the subject. He (Mr. Duff) also when he went to the Admiralty, as a man of business, asked for the Papers containing information on that point, and he was shown a set of Papers—he was not going to reveal confidential documents—which he did not think his noble Friend could have read. These Papers contained a complete organization for calling out the Coastguard and the Naval Reserves; and, so far from there not being a shred of organization for war purposes, he believed they could have called out the First Class Reserve in four days. That, at all events, was the opinion of his naval Colleagues. The noble Lord had stated that the Commanders-in-Chief of naval stations had had no information given to them of the number, character, and position of the foreign men-of-war on their respective stations. That statement was 987 altogether inaccurate, because he (Mr. Duff) could positively assert that when he was in Office every Commander-in-Chief at every naval station had the fullest information supplied to him with regard to every foreign man-of-war, with their respective guns and men that were under their command on the station. If the noble Lord's statement were true, every First Lord of the Admiralty in recent years ought to have been impeached, and every Naval Lord cashiered. No doubt the intention of the noble Lord in making these statements was all that could be desired; nevertheless, it was certain that he had permitted his zeal to carry him too far. The noble Lord had done good service at the Admiralty; but any one who had listened to the noble Lord's speech would be led to believe that no one else had over effected any reforms at the Admiralty. Now he came to the speech of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty. The noble Lord had doubtless made many useful suggestions; but he had not given them any practical plan for the reorganization of the Board of Admiralty. With many of the suggestions which the noble Lord had made, however, he (Mr. Duff) entirely agreed. For instance, he quite agreed that the Admiralty were in the habit of withholding information that might very properly be given to that House. Thus, in one case, the Admiralty had withheld the Report of a Committee appointed to consider the question of providing coal for our coaling stations. From what he had gathered from the speech of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Charles Beresford), he understood that the noble Lord had no objection to the First Lord of the Admiralty being supreme, provided he never used his own head, but always adopted the suggestions of the Naval Lords. A great deal, it was true, might be said against the theoretical working of the Admiralty; but he believed it worked well in this way, that no man who had intelligence to become a Cabinet Minister would be so intensely foolish as to go and interfere with his naval Advisers in technical matters; but, at the same time, it would not do for him, under our present Parliamentary system, to inform his Cabinet that they could not take a particular course on Imperial questions, because the Naval Lords had raised objections to it. In matters of 988 Imperial concern, therefore, the First Lord must necessarily be supreme. The noble Lord opposite had claimed the credit of having created the Intelligence Department of the Navy; but if the noble Lord would refer to the Navy Estimates for 1886, he would find that the sum of £2,000 was put down for the expenses of that Department, which was then under the same officers as it was now. He did not desire to deprive the noble Lord of the credit of having greatly extended the operations of that Department; but, as a matter of fact, the Department was a considerable one 25 years ago. On the other hand, he freely admitted that whereas, at one time, it would have taken four or five days to have got out our First Reserve, it could now be done in 48 hours. The noble Lord the present First Lord of the Admiralty deserved the thanks of the House for the new form in which he had brought out the Estimates, which was a great improvement upon the old form. He did not, however, think that the remark which the noble Lord had made at the conclusion of his speech—that the country had no cause of complaint with regard to our ships, men, and guns, was borne out by the statements he himself had made in the course of his speech. No doubt, the noble Lord's statements with regard to ships and men were sufficiently accurate; but the noble Lord himself had said that there had been considerable delay in the delivery of guns for the Navy, the result of which was that many iron-clads were awaiting their armaments. He would, moreover, take the case of the Collingwood. After the accident to the guns on board that vessel, new guns were ordered to be placed on board her in May, 1886, and the War Office promised to supply her with new guns in October of that year. Would the House believe that guns of the same pattern as those which had burst some time ago were still on board that ship? He could not help asking the question, whether, in the comparison which had been made between our Navy and that of France, the Collingwood, which dare not fire one of her guns, had been included as forming part of the defensive force of the British Navy? The fact that we could not got now guns supplied in 15 months would be a very alarming one in the event of our going to war. He wished to know 989 what was the exact position of the New Naval Ordnance Department? He had ascertained, by a Question which he had put to the Surveyor General of the Ordnance last year, that out of 22 new guns which had been ordered to be supplied during the 12 months, only 10 had been delivered. With regard to the conditions upon which we were to obtain our naval ordnance in the future, he should like to know whether the Admiralty were to be at liberty to go into the open market, and obtain them were they thought fit? He understood from the noble Lord, the First Lord, that one of the chief difficulties in the way of that plan being adopted was that of ascertaining the various amount of stock which was held by the Naval and Military Departments; but in his opinion the interests of the country ought not to be allowed to suffer in a matter of such supreme importance as the arming of our ships by reason of a financial question having arisen between the War Office and the Admiralty. He could not understand why the Admiralty should not go into the open market and get their guns as Foreign Governments did. They should follow the example of France in that respect, and do all they could to encourage private firms. With regard to the Ordnance Department, he did not like the divided responsibility. Admiral Hoskins, in his evidence before the Royal Commission, said that the only good plan was to have the supply of guns for the two Services separately provided. If the Admiralty had the courage to adopt that policy, he thought that naval ordnance would be placed upon a more satisfactory footing. He questioned very much the policy of putting these enormous 110-ton guns on board our ships, especially in view of the great development that had taken place in recent years in quick-firing guns. There were two of these guns on the Benbow; each of them cost £20,000 without the fittings, and the cost of each shot was £190, while the gun only fired once in 10 minutes. He could not find anybody who was in favour of these guns, and the evidence given before the Commission was to the effect that the result was hardly equal to the expenditure. He hoped the Admiralty would reconsider the determination to put these guns on board other vessels. He quite admitted that the present Board of Ad- 990 miralty were not responsible for the guns; but he would point out that since the ships that were to receive them were designed, some five years ago, there had been, as he said, a remarkable development in quick-firing guns, and the position was now somewhat altered. He understood that the Admiralty had sufficient gunpowder to enable them to fire 15 rounds of the Benbow guns, and he congratulated them upon that fact. They were very much in want of guns for the land forts, and he suggested that the 110-guns should be used in that direction. If he might make a general criticism upon the Estimates, he would say that in his opinion the noble Lord had taken too much money for ships and not enough for guns. At the present moment they were ahead of their shipbuilding programme and very much behind with guns. Under those circumstances, he urged that they might very well postpone some of the vessels which they intended to build by contract, and employ the money in getting more guns. Then, with regard to ammunition, Admiral Hoskins stated to the Commission that they ought to have 85 service rounds for each gun and 150 rounds in reserve. Instead of that, the Admiral said they had not got a half of 85, and there were none whatever in reserve. It was no use spending money on ships if they had no guns and no ammunition. He hoped that serious attention would be given to this matter. In the First Lord's Memorandum he referred to the Council of Education. He (Mr. Duff) would like to ask the noble Lord whether the Admiralty intended to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee? In his Memorandum the First Lord of the Admiralty referred to the provision for coaling at home and foreign stations. He (Mr. Duff) failed to find in the Estimates, however, any provision for carrying out the reccommendations of the Committee. They ought not to entirely neglect this subject. He entirely approved the policy of the Admiralty in recognizing the claims of lieutenants, because he thought the position of those officers was a very hard one.
§ SIR JOHN COMMERELL (Southampton)
said, there were one or two points on which he should like to say a word or two in regard to the present organization of the Board of Admiralty. He did not agree with everything his 991 noble and gallant Friend the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) had said; but there were one or two points upon which he did agree with the noble and gallant Lord. As to the organization of the Board of Admiralty, he (Sir John Commerell) was one of those who believed he was expressing the opinion of a large body of naval officers when he said he was certainly against a naval officer being First Lord of the Admiralty. They wished to see the First Lord in his proper place, and they wished to see him a Cabinet Minister. At the same time, he believed that the Civil Department had an idea that naval officers as a body were opposed to the influence which they exercised at the Admiralty. He could assure the House that that was not the case. What they desired to see was that the First Lord should be thoroughly strengthened in his position, and holding unquestionably supreme power at the Admiralty. At the same time they desired that the opinion of the experts and Naval Lords should be taken, and, when taken, should be properly recorded. Now, so far as the Naval Lords were concerned, there was one great defect in the present system—and it applied to almost the whole Board. The great defect was that the Naval Lords were constantly going in and out. Since 1880 they had had four First Lords, one of them—the present First Lord—having been twice in Office, and, therefore, being counted as two. They had had 14 Sea Lords during that time, and seven Financial Secretaries. He certainly hoped that in any reorganization that might take place, so far as Naval Lords was concerned, there would be no question of politics brought to bear. It would be far better that the Naval Lords should be appointed for a certain time. He would not say for too long a time. He thought four years would be quite long enough. They should come in fresh from sea, and the system—which, he was sorry to say, had been too much practised in the past—of changing them from one home employment to another, should not be continued. What they wanted were naval officers fresh from sea—fresh from naval experience, and he was perfectly certain that some time in the future the system he advocated would be adopted. The naval officers did not for a single moment wish 992 to interfere with questions of finance. They did not for a moment doubt the responsibility of the House. There was no doubt in the world that the House must have complete control more especially over the financial questions. But he would ask, could the finances at the Admiralty be conducted properly if they had seven Financial Secretaries in five years? Each of them, he had no doubt, came into Office with the most natural and laudable idea that he was "the only Joe," that he was the only man who ever knew anything about the subjects dealt with by the Departments, and that before he came in everything had been altogether wrong. He had no doubt that if he were to become Financial Secretary he should think exactly the same. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) had been rather hard on naval officers the other day. He (Sir John Commerell) said it without the slightest ill-nature, but it certainly seemed to him that the hon. Member must have been reading Captain Marryat's novels, and that "the fool of the family" had had something to do with bringing the hon. Member to his present views in reference to the Navy. Matters had very greatly altered since the old days. The House might depend on it that naval officers from the earliest period of education were brought up to take command of large bodies of men. They were taught from the earliest days that discipline was the great thing, and it was their duty—a duty he believed they were perfectly capable of discharging—to teach discipline to those under them. Naval officers did not, as he had said, wish to interfere in the financial part of the business. They left that to the House of Commons and the Financial Secretary, and he had no hesitation in saying that under the present First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) they had quite as much naval control as they ought to have; but they desired to guard the question for the future. He (Sir John Commerell) must say he looked on the Intelligence Department with a good deal of favour, although he thought the name altogether a misnomer. He thought they ought also to have joined with it the term "mobilization," because that was the first great point to which the Intelligence Department had to turn. No 993 doubt, in time of war the Intelligence Department should communicate as rapidly as possible with the officers commanding stations; but he had no hesitation in saying that if he were Commander-in-Chief on any station when a war broke out he should carry out his own line of conduct oven at the risk of his commission, so long as he believed it was for the benefit of the country. They must not think that in the future they were going to carry out wars from the end of a telegraph wire. If they thought that they would be making the greatest mistake; but he hoped no such thing would be aimed at by the Intelligence Department. The noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), when he stated that the Intelligence Department had not had a certain amount of influence in the past, was in error; but, at the same time, he had no hesitation in saying that he thought it had been very much improved. Two and a-half years ago, when he was Commander-in-Chief of the North American and West Indian Stations, when the Russian scare took place, as no plan of campaign had been communicated to him, he should have been left, to a considerable extent, to his own resources, and he should not have been sorry for it. When Commanders-in-Chief had received all the information which could be given to them, it was much better to leave the charge in their own hands. Officers had no right to be placed in command of stations if they could not be trusted, and when they trusted officers let them be truly trusted. There was one point on which he might congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen). He had no doubt that, after the speech of the noble Lord to-night, they would be remarking a notice in the paper declaring that the Chancellor of the Exchequer acknowledged from some unknown donor £2,000 conscience money. He had been a Junior Naval Lord for some time, and he must say he found he had enough to do from half-past 10 o'clock in the morning until half-past 5 o'clock or 6 o'clock in the evening. Much of it was work which he did not very much care for, as it embraced too many small matters of detail and too much minutiæ, such as the settlement of small sums of money, things which it would have been much better 994 not to have been left to the Naval Lords of the Admiralty. Their time, he maintained, would have been much better employed in going into larger questions of shipbuilding and armaments, which were the subjects naval officers who had attained a certain position should be called upon to deal with. Such work as was at present given to the Naval Lords prevented them doing that sort of work which they ought to do. He had much pleasure in congratulating the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty on the programme he had laid down, with one exception. He regretted to see that the noble Lord did not propose to lay down any more iron-clads. No doubt, it was easy to compare the Navies of the different Powers; but the question was as to the enormous amount of work we should have to do in the future as compared with the French or any other Navy. When note was taken of our Colonies, our enormous trade, our geographical position, and, above all, the Suez Canal, he thought it was perhaps an unfortunate thing that the First Lord had not determined to lay down, say, two more iron-clads. For himself, he had been always very strongly of opinion that we had not a sufficient number of fast, powerful cruisers; but he thought that now, in place of one or two fast cruisers and three or four small vessels, a commencement might have been made with one or two iron-clads other than the Nile and Trafalgar. We ought to take into consideration the number of iron-clads that were really passing out of use and which it was not worth while to repair, because they could never take their place in line of battle. The vessels which he alluded to as being out of the running were vessels of the Swiftsure class, which had never been perfectly good, which were excessively unstable without 200 or 300 tons of ballast in them, and which tumbled first to one side and then to the other, going by the name of "the naval wobble." They should remember that they had a quantity of these iron-clads which were of no use, and let them do their best to replace them as soon as possible. The rapidity with which vessels became obsolete showed that we ought to proceed with ships which were commenced and finish them as rapidly as possible, seeing that at the quickest it took no less than three years to finish 995 one. For the reasons he had stated he should have been glad to have seen a couple of iron-clads laid down. And now to return to an old subject which had been dealt with once or twice already—namely, the question of the Warspite. He was sorry to see that that vessel had cost £632,000, which was an enormous sum when they compared it with the expenditure upon the Nile and Trafalgar, which were two of the most powerful vessels in the Navy, and when also they compared it with the Hero. Then, as to the vessels of the Porpoise class of which the Navy was to be provided with half-a-dozen. He did not agree with making a large number of the same class of vessel, for if a mistake were made it was repeated in all, and then all had to be altered. He believed a mistake had been made with the construction of the Porpoise to such an extent as to destroy one-half of her utility. With all her weights on board she would draw one foot seven inches more than was intended, and the result was that her lines had been altered. He was glad to see that an increase had been made in the pay of lieutenants; he was glad to see that this hard-working "silver coinage" of the Navy—as he might call it—had received attention at last. It was only just that something should be done for these men, considering the work they had to do and the number of years they had to serve in bad climates. When the House thought of the education these men had to pass through, and that only two out of nine could arrive at the rank of commanders, and of the early ago at which they had to retire—in many cases almost brokenhearted—hon. Members would agree that it was necessary that something should be done for them. The change which had been made in the case of the lieutenants was one which would be received with gratitude; but still it was heartrending to see how many old officers there were without the slightest hope of advancement. He thought the list of lieutenants, however, was utterly inadequate to the requirements of the Service. If a war were to break out and we had to mobilize to-morrow, and we found it necessary to have one or two squadrons, such as that we had in the Channel, he did not know where we should get our lieutenants from. He was told that in time of war we should 996 have to reduce a ship's complement of lieutenants from four to three, and from five to four. It certainly appeared to him an extraordinary thing that, at a time when calling upon their vessels to do four times as much work as ordinarily, they should go and reduce the complement of lieutenants, who were really the men who had to do the beat part of the important work. He hoped the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty would take steps to increase the list of lieutenants, although he knew very well that it would not help lieutenants in the future, as in peace time there would be more men wanting employment and not getting it. It was the duty of Parliament, however, to consider the requirements of the Service, and place those immeasurably above those of a personal character.
§ SIR EDWARD REED (Cardiff)
said, he did not think it was quite fair to the Government and to those who had only had the Navy Estimates in their hands for a few hours to attempt to discuss the Estimates to-night. He did not intend to discuss them, but desired to take the opportunity of making one or two observations. He thought that the present Board of Admiralty deserved a good deal at the hands of the House. In the first place, they had proved themselves the first Board of Admiralty that could ever be induced to perform the commonsense operation of going quickly on with the ships they commenced, and that was a business procedure which no Board ought to have been capable of neglecting, and which every Board had systematically neglected until 1885. He remembered very well that in 1874 Mr. Ward Hunt—who was then First Lord of the Admiralty—promised that during the term of office of the then Conservative Government they would take care that they did not give the country ships upon paper. That Government held Office for six years—during part of which time the right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) was the First Lord of the Admiralty—but during those six years they never completed a single iron-clad. He (Sir Edward Reed) did not think that Liberal Administrations had been very much better. For another thing he thought they owed a great debt of gratitude to this Board. In 1885, practically the present Board of Ad- 997 miralty took in hand the question of improving the condition of Dockyard labour. Under the old system a gentleman at Whitehall—namely, the Chief Constructor—had the power of altering ships just as much as he pleased, and nobody was there to call him to account. The present Board, or, at any rate, the Board of which the noble Lord the present First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) were the heads, took that question in hand, and they did a very wise thing. They took the whole management of the Dockyards out of the hands of the Chief Constructor, and put it in the hands of a highly qualified officer—(Professor Elgar)—upon whose appointment he heartily congratulated the Government. In his opinion the present Board deserved great praise for yet another thing. During a long course of years the Controllers and Constructors of the Navy took it into their heads—it might seem a strange thing to say, but it was nevertheless true—that the right way of protecting a ship was to put the armour inside of her. For a long course of years they pursued the abominable and foolish practice of putting about two-thirds of the armour-plating devoted to the protection of ships inside the ships, where it could not possibly be any protection to a ship at all. When they came into Office this Board took upon themselves the responsibility of utterly condemning that foolish system, and of putting a stop to it, and it was within his knowlege that one, at any rate, of the advisors of the First Lord said, in 1885, through the then Controller and Constructor of the Navy, that the ships which they had been completing for years were a disgrace to the British Navy, and unfit to put beneath the feet of British seamen. Why did he mention this? He mentioned it because the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty—apparently with no indication that he was doing anything unusual or open to exception—stated to the House that the only way to measure our naval strength was to count the number of armoured ships and the guns we possessed. He (Sir Edward Reed) asked if it was to be tolerated for a single moment that Governments should build as armoured ships ships which posi- 998 tively had no armour at all above water? Fortunately the present Board was not responsible for the construction of any of these ships, and he was not making these observations in a hostile spirit to the Board at all. But there had been many indications in the country and in the House of what he had begun to discredit—namely, an anxiety about the naval strength of this country. There was certainly a disposition to appreciate our naval situation. Let him, therefore, point to the state of matters with regard to that class of vessels known as "belted cruisers," which had their armour wholly under the water when they had their coals on board. A very able and, he thought, an extremely interesting speech was made to-night by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald), and in that speech the hon. Gentleman suggested some very important considerations touching the coal supply of ships; but he (Sir Edward Reed) hardly thought he need say that the men-of-war, with the limited coal supply which we allowed to them, must be viewed from the point of sea-going condition. What the country wanted to know was, what was the state of our men-of-war when they left our ports? He remembered a distinguished Member of a former Board of Admiralty, who—and he had too great respect for him to mention his name—once said to him—These ships are not armoured ships at all when they leave our ports with their coal on Board, but they burn their coal out when they get to sea, and is it necessary they should be fit to tight directly they get out of our own ports?It did seem to him (Sir Edward Reed) a most extraordinary proposition that our ships, the ships of Great Britain, the ships upon which we depended, were not to be expected to be fit to fight when they left our own shores. Last Saturday he was in Calais, and one hour afterwards he was in Dover—that illustrated the distance apart of the two countries. It appeared to him that one of the fundamental propositions as to which no reasonable man ought to admit of a doubt in his mind was that our ships must be the most prepared when they left our own ports and went out into the British Channel. That was the very first thing required. Would the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty be good 999 enough, either to-night or on some later occasion, to explain to the House how it was that he was able to stand up, and with all his responsibility upon him reckon in his calculation of the armoured ships of this country the seven bolted cruisers which had not an ounce of armour at all above the water line, or within six inches of the water line when they had all their stores and coal on board? He could hardly see that there was any use in debating. If it be from any cause a matter of indifference whether an armoured ship had her armour wholly under water or not, why build armoured ships at all? He noticed that the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty stated, in response to a question which he (Sir Edward Reed) was perhaps rude enough to put to him during his speech, that this description of ship was included in those he was reckoning as iron-clads, and the noble Lord added that some Italian ships with side armour were also included. He (Sir Edward Reed) hoped that no one in the House would infer from the fact that the Italians had certain ships without the necessary armour that, therefore, it was a matter of indifference whether our ships had their armour under water or not. The Italians pursued a specific policy. Their probable enemy was France. France had a powerful Navy with which Italy could not hope to compete; and, therefore, she had to decide for herself by what means she could produce vessels which might give her, not the power of entering into close engagements with France, but of doing as much annoyance and injury as she possibly could to French vessels. And so Italy went to work and designed vessels which had for the period for which they were designed immense steam power and immense armaments. They confined themselves to as much protection from armour as would enable them to work the powerful guns on board, and to work their engines and boilers in comparative safety. There was not a shadow of doubt that the designer of these ships was perfectly well aware that he was not producing vessels such as were fit to take the discharge of any vessel's guns at close quarters. But was that our position? The very tiling we had to do was to hold the entrance to the British Channel, and to do that we must he there and be 1000 prepared to fight any enemy who might come against us; because to abandon the British Channel was to abandon the national life, and bring on this country a famine worse than had ever been known in the records of the world. He passed on to another class of vessels, and as he had ventured to ask the noble Lord to tell them how it happened he could count the so-called belted cruisers amongst armoured ships, so he should like to know how the noble Lord could reckon upon vessels of the Admiral class? He (Sir Edward Reed) was sorry to see that anyone who discussed this question laboured under the disadvantage of having a state of facts that were so extraordinary, that were so alarming, if accepted in a pure and simple character, that men's minds only turned from them and supposed there must be some explanation. Yet his right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) was sitting by his side, and he very well remembered what had happened in his period of Office. He was afraid the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex (Admiral Field) was about to make an attack on his right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) for his conduct as First Lord—was about to use him as an illustration of certain principles of Admiralty administration. Before he mentioned what occurred in the time of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers), he would desire to state what occurred in the days of the Duke of Somerset, because there was a great deal of talk now-a-days about a naval officer managing the Navy. In the first place, he (Sir Edward Reed) did not at all understand that the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) proposed or desired that there should be substituted for the responsible Cabinet Minister, who was a politician as well as First Lord, a naval officer. What he understood the noble and gallant Lord to mean, and what he entirely agreed with, was that there should be a re-arrangement of business at the Admiralty, and that there should be such a re-arrangement that when the First Lord had occasion to act against the judgment of his professional advisers, the latter's views should be made known to the country. In that he (Sir Edward Reed) 1001 most entirely agreed with the noble and gallant Lord, but he should disagree with him if his proposition was to displace the First Lord of the Admiralty by a naval officer. This was what happened under the Duke of Somerset—and he commended the fact to the attention of the hon. and gallant Admiral below the Gangway opposite (Admiral Field), because it occurred before that change in the Administration which the hon. and gallant Admiral so deplored. There was a meeting of the Board of Admiralty, attended by the whole Board, including himself. The Controller of the Navy was not then a Member of the Board. The meeting was to consider whether Her Majesty's ship Bellerophon should be built. The Duke of Somerset heard all the opinions of the Naval Lords, and afterwards put a series of questions to them, and then came to the conclusion that the objections of the Naval Lords were not well founded; that the ship, if built, would necessarily be in a large measure successful, and that it was, on the whole, to the advantage of the country to build the ship. The Duke of Somerset decided entirely against the judgment of all his Naval Advisors except the Naval Controller. The Naval Secretary to the Admiralty was against the ship, but the ship was built, with the result that there was a saving to the country of £106,000 on that single vessel, and a like saving on every other vessel of the same type that was built. Then came the question of the American monitors, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) was the First Lord of the Admiralty who decided to build the first ship of the mast-less type—namely, the Devastation. He was bound to say that with the exception of the Naval Controller, who was appointed by the First Lord as a Member of the Board—with the exception of the opinion of this gentleman the Devastation—a totally new type of ship, which had been since highly approved of—to a large extent was adopted by the then First Lord against the advice of his Naval Advisers. He (Sir Edward Reed) thought that he could show by other cases when there had been critical situations, and when an authoritative judgment was required, that if they had a political First Lord, who was a good man of business and a man 1002 of strong sense, he would certainly get all the opinions of his Naval Advisers, and would give them due weight; but it was often desirable in the public interest that such a man should decide against technical advice. He (Sir Edward Reed) wanted to say a little more about the state of the Navy, and he did it in no spirit hostile to the present Board of Admiralty. Of course, the time was now past when he had to fight an uphill battle in the House with respect to certain ships, because they now had in the Minutes of the noble Lord of last year the facts about these ships stated, and the only question upon which they were justified in calling the First Lord to account was, how it happened that he went on calling all these ships of the Admiral class iron-clad ships, and comparing them with ships of other Navies, when he must know that they had no more armour out of water than was represented by the height of a book upon the Table, and that only for about a third of their length; and when he must know that the slightest inclination on one side imperilled the lives of the seamen and officers on board of these ships. It would be most disgraceful treachery to send men on board these ships into battle, because they were not armoured ships at all. He desired to know why it was that the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty took upon himself the responsibility of fathering these ships, and of not giving an inquiry concerning them? It was a most singular circumstance about these vessels that an Administration had never been found which had been willing to make any experiments for the purpose of testing them. There were now experiments made to discover whether steel or compound armour was the better, and the House would remember that in the case of vessels of the Inflexible type they were told they were to be made safe by cork. Did they not know that when they let water into cork it got sodden and ceased to perform the functions of cork? There was now a suggestion about cellulose, and that was the point at which they had arrived. When the First Lord told them there was no necessity to lay down more iron-clads, it became his duty to give them fuller information about those ships. In the case of the Inflexible, there were indepen- 1003 dent men on the other side of the House—and he was pleased to see there were now—who would not be silenced in their demand for an inquiry, and statistics about the vessels were got out. He asked the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty to take some steps to ascertain the stability of these vessels and their action when wounded. If the noble Lord would do that he would relieve himself of a great responsibility. The noble Lord was not responsible for the design, but he was responsible if he did not give the House full information. He (Sir Edward Reed) did not speak without some reason. He was told that if this country became engaged in a war and the Admiralty intended to send the Admiral class of ship into action technical objection would be taken, and the First Lord would be prevented sending any of them into battle by the objections of technical men in his own employment. What were the figures about these vessels? There were five ships of this class which cost the country £3,750,000; there were seven ships of the belted cruiser class, which had no armour at all above the water line, which cost £2,000,000; then there were the Impérieuse and the Warspite, which were in pretty much the same predicament, which cost another £1,000,000 sterling; and there were four other vessels which were as dangerous—he referred to the Ajax class. When the Inflexible controversy was raging he received letters from men inside the Admiralty, from draftsmen employed on the vessel, asking him to got an inquiry, because there were defects in the vessels making them dangerous. They had spent £9,000,000 sterling on a series of ships which if they went into battle would be lost almost as readily as if they had no armour, and would be only saved by their engines and boilers. So far as their stability and power to keep afloat when injured was concerned they were just as if they had no armour at all, and he objected, as an Englishman and a Member of that House, to the First Lord getting up and jeopardizing the interests of this country by counting these among the armoured ships of the Navy. The Navy did not believe in these ships, and he heard a former Naval Member of the Board of Admiralty say publicly— 1004I quite agree with the objections that have been brought against these ships; and I am confident—I was a Member of the Board which ordered these ships—that no such ships would have been allowed if the Board had known of the coming in of the small quick-firing guns.Mr. White had been quoted as saying that there was no disposition on the part of foreign Governments to use heavy guns. They did not need heavy guns to destroy vessels of the Admiral class; any gun was good enough to destroy them. He would like the House to consider that statement—with any limitations it pleased—and ask itself whether, under such circumstances, this country was safe? His right hon. Friend near him said the other evening that in France the Navy was as much complained about as was our own Navy. That was very true, and he must say that the position of this country would be very critical if it were not so. But the objections to the French Navy were not of that kind; they were founded on the slow progress of the ships, and that was the reason why they considered themselves weak. Those facts showed that some change in the allocation of the public duties—of some alteration in the performance of them—was very much needed. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) had shown considerable interest in these and other technical matters, but the position of the House was this—that it had nothing but what the First Lord gave it about those matters. There was nothing in the Minutes of this year about the vessels of the Admiral class, and if he asked the proper persons about them he supposed the reply would be that it was ancient history. He felt unequal to discussing in any degree the Estimates for the year. He did not like to say anything in favour of their arrangement until he had studied it. But he did think it was rather a strong thing for a Government—even such a one as this, strong in strength not its own—to give the House Estimates on Thursday night with the view of discussing them on Monday night. Why should not the noble Lord give them some knowledge about those ships? Why were they to be kept in ignorance? He was told that on the Board of Admiralty the anxiety about those ships was even greater than that he had expressed. The apprehension of the water getting into the unarmoured parts of the vessel 1005 and dashing about was very great indeed. Whatever were the defects of these vessels they were absolutely unnecessary, and might easily have been obviated. There had always been a wanton disposition to put the armour in the interior instead of outside. England was so safe with many of her principal ships with their armour under water, and with every facility for going to the bottom so soon as the enemy's light guns touched them, that the present Admiralty did not think it necessary to put down any more iron-clads. But they were going to put down two belted cruisers, laid down for no better reason than that they were part of the programme put before the United Service Institution by himself. He proposed, however, that these vessels should be of 7,000 tons, and steam 20 knots with a belt of armour. Instead of that the Admiralty made them of 5,000 tons, and of less speed, and so they had these ineffective and dangerous vessels. Now the Admiralty were going to lay down two cruisers of 9,000 tons, and to steam 20 knots; they were, however, refusing to make them bolted cruisers; the armour was to be put inside. The system of putting armour inside was very dangerous in the sense that the vessels did not require to be much injured to be certain of capsizing. He desired to give the present Board all the support he could because it had done, and was doing, thoroughly good service. In conclusion, he would say that if he were right in his views, and if hundreds—he was going to say thousands—of naval officers who agreed with him were right, this country was in great danger in the event of a naval war; if they were wrong it ought to be in the power of somebody to show that they were wrong.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. FORWOOD) (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said, he thought the present Board of Admiralty had not a word to raise of objection to the tone that this debate had assumed. He thought the general character of the speeches made in reference to the propositions of the Board had been of a most friendly tone, and had left little for him to answer. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) had devoted the principal part of his speech to animadverting on a class of ships known as the Admiral class. He (Mr. Forwood) had very little to say 1006 in reply to that, except that it was another evidence of the maxim that the doctors did often differ. Those vessels of the Admiral class were laid down and constructed by the predecessors of the present Board, and he presumed that before the First Lord of that day accepted the design he had the Report of his Naval Colleagues and the naval designers at the Admiralty. He could not imagine that any person, be he layman or First Lord, would have laid down five or six cruisers of the belted class, unless he had been fully convinced by his Naval Colleagues and the designers as to the quality of the ships beforehand. There were competent naval officers who did maintain that those ships were powerful ships and useful ships. There were elements in their design intended to counteract the difficulties that might be encountered in the case of quick-firing guns above the water line. Those vessels had been built on the cellular principle, but no one could foretell the effect of the explosion of a shell inside. Again, he would say that those vessels were pronounced by competent naval authorities—he did not express an opinion himself—to be good, powerful ships, and at the recent naval manœuvres there were no ships which naval officers more preferred. This brought him to a point which was a little personal to this discussion. He had been twitted by several of his hon. and gallant Friends with regard to some remarks he had made as to experts. There was no one who had an higher opinion than himself of the Naval Service and of naval officers, but he had made some remarks in reference to the value to be set upon the opinion of experts, and he did so with the knowledge that men who were experts in any special department constantly differed largely from one another, and he could not better illustrate this than by referring to what they had heard in the course of the debate. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose-Fitzgerald) had asked the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) whether he would state that our Navy was sufficient for the protection of our coasts, our food supply, and our supply of raw material in time of war. He (Mr. Forwood) ventured to think it would be a bold thing for a naval man or a civilian to say what ex- 1007 tent of naval force was necessary to guard against all these contingencies; but this he would say—that the statements they had made were rather with regard to our position in relation to the force or combination of other nations. The information laid before the House by his noble Chief was information which he believed the House could thoroughly rely upon. It had been given on a careful analysis of the comparative strength of each vessel. From another Report which he himself had from Naval Authorities, he felt sure that the estimate of the relative proportion of the marine strength of England, as compared with other nations, fully confirmed the statement which the noble Lord had laid upon the Table of the House. The hon. Member for Cambridge had further confirmed the theory generally held as to the difficulty of getting experts to agree. The hon. Member said it was very difficult to get naval men to agree as to the relative values of armour, coaling, and manœuvring powers in the case of ships, and he (Mr. Forwood) felt that it would be very difficult to bring experts to hold any one opinion on those matters. They had to hear all sides of the case, and to determine on the course which they considered best for the country, to put it in a position to defend our ports and coasts. The hon. Member for Banffshire (Mr. Duff) had made some comments in reference to the coaling arrangements, particularly on the recommendation of the Coaling Committee with regard to Portland. He was not sorry to think that so little had been done with regard to Portland, for the money that had been spent had not been wisely expended. The coal shipping arrangements had been placed in a position at which vessels a great part of the year could not lie. The new hydraulic arrangements put up by Sir William Armstrong on the recommendation of the Committee were at such a part of the harbour as to be useless a great portion of the year. If that was a criterion of the value of the whole Report, he was of opinion that the House would be glad to hear that the Admiralty did not intend to spend much more money in this matter without a farther inquiry. Some inquiries were being made into the subject, and they hoped to prepare 1008 such plans this year for the coaling of vessels at Portland, and the other home stations, as would give satisfaction, and insure a proper supply of coal in times of emergency; but he could say that a large amount of money had been provided for barges, which were one of the best means for coaling vessels, as was shown by experience in the case of merchant vessels. Some 20 large barges and two steam barges were being built, capable each of carrying 150 tons of coal for home service, besides others in course of construction for our foreign stations. This, he thought, was an earnest of the desire of the present Board of Admiralty to improve the coaling arrangements for the Fleet. Then the hon. Member for Banffshire alluded to the question of the Board taking over the Armament Vote from the War Office, and he spoke of the divided responsibility. He (Mr. Forwood) would point out to the House what was the exact position of the Admiralty in regard to that Vote. They had not differed in the way which had been suggested with the War Office, as to the amount the Admiralty were to obtain from them on the transfer. They had simply asked the War Office to furnish the particulars of the stock and materials they had in hand—on shipboard and in reserve—so that they might form an opinion as to what it would be necessary to provide in future The War Office were preparing a list of these things, and when the next Estimates were before the House the Admiralty would be better able to state to the House what it would be necessary to be done to place the reserves of ammunition in the position in which they ought to be. But he wished to say, with reference to the further remarks of the hon. Gentleman, in which he suggested that they ought to take more money for guns and less for ships, that they had taken as much for guns as the manufactories of the country could turn out, and in proof of that he might say that the War Office would have to return to the Treasury a very large amount of the money which they had taken for naval armaments this year, and which they had been unable to spend. It would be, therefore, idle on the part of the Admiralty to take an excessive amount, knowing the difficulty there had been in expending the money asked for last year. Then, with regard 1009 to the 110-ton gun which the hon. Member had referred to, he (Mr. Forwood) believed the feeling at the Admiralty was against building any more of that class of gun. But in the ships laid down for the guns, all the important mechanical and hydraulic gear was provided; the mountings were ready, and the guns were being constructed, and to pull the ships to pieces and to undo all the work that had been accomplished would, in his opinion, and also, he thought, in that of the House, would be to go back to the system of waste which had been going on for so long at the Admiralty. As to the remark of the hon. and gallant Member as to not building more iron-clads, the First Lord promised the House last year that no more iron-clads should be laid down until he had laid the particulars before the House. He would have the House bear in mind that they had still in hand a considerable amount of iron-clad vessels to finish, and he would find in the Estimates this year that they were practically going to renew the Thunderer and the Superb. The vessels were to have new engines, and were being re-armed, the effect of which would be practically to make them almost as good as two additional iron-clads to the Fleet. The First Lord never stated that the Board were going to cease building iron-clads, but said that they would not lay down any more until the House was taken into their confidence. It was impossible for the Admiralty to meet all the demands made every year. Their programme this year provided for a large amount of fast cruisers to protect the commerce and the food supplies of the people, to which the hon. Member for Cambridge had alluded. Having, as he believed, dealt with all the points raised by hon. Members, he expressed a hope that the House would consent to the Motion now before it, seeing that there would be an opportunity for general discussion of details when the Committee stage of the Estimates was reached.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he hoped he should not put the responsible Ministers to any inconvenience by intruding upon the kind attention of the House for a short period. If it were the wish of the Minister in charge of the Estimates that the debate should be now adjourned, he (Admiral Field) would be only too delighted. If 1010 not, he would beg to call the attention of the House to a few remarks in the able speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), when he pointed out that there were 178 officers in the House connected with the Services. That remark had been received by derisive cheers from the other side of the House, and he (Admiral Field) knew what those derisive cheers meant. He wished to point out to those who had raised the derisive cheers that out of these 178 officers only seven were connected with the Navy. He would ask the attention of the House and its forbearance, reminding it that he had not spoken once this Session, though they had had a military debate for two nights, and that only one naval officer had taken part in it. Judging from the debate which took place the other night, the impression amongst military men seemed to be that the Army was the first defence of the country. He had always been of opinion, and was still, and would continue to be until he became fit for a lunatic asylum, that the Navy was the first line of defence of our Empire. The safety of the country depended upon the Navy, and not upon the Army, for, with all its merits, the Army could not go and fight a battle for the country unless it was carried to the scene of action by the Navy. Now, they had the Navy Estimates, or rather the Memorandum of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), laid before them, and they had had interesting speeches from both sides of the House, some of which he agreed with, and others with which he disagreed. He assumed that the Naval Lords approved of all that was in the Memorandum, though he should have liked to have been assured of this by seeing their names at the bottom of that Memorandum. He thought that the names of the Naval Lords should appear on those documents, although it seemed that the First Lord entertained a contrary view. He would discuss that matter with the noble Lord later on. The noble Lord, in his Memorandum, had at last done tardy justice to a most admirable class of men—namely, the lieutenants of the Royal Navy. He had done what most of them thought ought to have been done years ago—that was to say, he had raised the scale of pay of lieutenants of eight 1011 years' standing 2s. a-day, and the same amounts to lieutenants of 12 years' standing. But the Admiralty had given with one hand and taken away with the other; and in making these remarks it must be remembered that he was not only speaking his own sentiments, but those of the branch of the Service interested, as a deputation of very old lieutenants had done him the honour to wait upon him on this question. The lieutenants were grateful for the concession which had been made; but, as he pointed out, the Admiralty had given with one hand and taken away with the other. They had given this 2s. a-day to men of 12 years' standing, but had coupled with it a condition which it was almost impossible to fulfil—namely, six years' service in a ship of war at sea. If the noble Lord would remember that formerly, when the 2s. for lieutenants of 10 years' service required only three years in a ship of war at sea, he would find that that would work out about one year's service in a ship of war at sea for each three years' standing. It was now three years in a ship of war at sea for lieutenants of eight years' standing. It should be four years in a ship of war at sea for lieutenants of 12 years' standing to work out a fair proportion. He was told that there were no less than 30 lieutenants on the list who would be excluded from the benefits of the scheme of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty. It was not the fault of these lieutenants that they had not been six years in a ship of war at sea; many had been kept on half-pay when promoted, or appointed to Coastguard ships against their will, which did not count as sea time. He would, therefore, ask the noble Lord to give careful attention to this matter. It was only a small matter; but it seemed only fair that the order should not be made retrospective. One word in reply to the hon. Member for Banffshire (Mr. Duff). He (Admiral Field) had great regard for the hon. Member's criticism, and liked to see Estimates criticized from the Opposition as well as from the Ministerial side of the House. The question of these Estimates was not a Party question; and he was, therefore, glad to see the Estimates discussed from a non-Party point of view. Well, the hon. Member had criticized the transfer of the Ordnance Vote from the Army to 1012 the Navy Estimates. It would be remembered that he (Admiral Field) had associated with others in order to force this policy on the Government in the Session of 1886. Fortunately, they had found the Government willing to be forced, and the transfer was carried out. It was rather hard for the hon. Member for Banffshire to criticize the change, for when he was in power with his Board of Admiralty, and with his own intense interest in the question, he did absolutely nothing.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
said, he begged to acquaint the hon. and gallant Gentleman with the fact that the late Board of Admiralty, which was presided over by Lord Ripon, before it left Office prepared a Minute to the effect that the Admiralty ought in future to order their own guns, and ought to take over the whole responsibility of procuring the naval ordnance.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
said, he did not care twopence about Minutes. He preferred action to Minutes. The hon. Gentleman knew that he (Admiral Field) had spoken to him upon this question, and had got him to assist hon. Members in this matter. He would know that in 1885 he (Admiral Field) spoke as a young Member on this question, but received no response; and it was all very well to talk about Minutes, but what was wanted was to see the Admiralty do the work. And now a word as to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed). The hon. Member advocated inquiry into the state of the Navy. He (Admiral Field) would deal with that later on. The hon. Member wanted further information, as did the House, and as they all did. The hon. Member spoke of ships which were dangerous for battle, and which cost £9,000,000 sterling. When a man of the reputation of the hon. Member spoke in that way—a man who had been Constructor of the Navy—his words required very serious attention, and those words might be used as an argument in favour of the proposed inquiry. He would now deal with the policy laid down in the noble Lord's Memorandum. As to the noble Lord's observations in that document, he said—That owing to the exceptionally large outlay in the past three years it was possible to associate a reduction of expenditure with an increase of naval efficiency and strength.1013 It was a very funny thing to say that by a decrease of expenditure they could increase efficiency and strength, and he, therefore, wanted to know what the noble Lord's words meant? Did the noble Lord mean to tell them that he ignored the Vote of December, 1884, of £5,500,000 to be spent in five years, in addition to the ordinary Estimates—of which £3,100,000 were for new ships? He (Admiral Field) begged to tell the noble Lord, with all respect, that that Vote was not given to enable First Lords to reduce future Estimates. It was demanded by the country, and it was voted unanimously by the House, because past Administrations had not had the courage of their convictions. They knew what the Service required, but when they came to that House they did not ask for that amount which they knew was necessary to put the nation in a proper state of defence. It was only when the defences were reduced to a state of danger that this money was asked for and voted during the Russian scare; and now the noble Lord came down and told them that he was able to show a balance of £905,000, which, presumably, was to be handed over to the Treasury. He (Admiral Field) declared that he was not satisfied, and that no other naval man would be satisfied, to see this money handed over to the Treasury in reduction of expenditure. If the noble Lord had that balance it ought not to be paid back, but should be expended on more armoured cruisers—such as the noble Lord the Member for Marylobone (Lord Charles Beresford) had declared the Service required. All naval authorities agreed in the declaration that we wanted a large increase to our naval force in order to make the country safe. He knew it was always difficult in that House to advocate an increase in the expenditure; but naval men know what they were talking about in those matters. He would quote some authorities on the subject. Admiral Sir Cooper Key, who had lately passed away, in a letter written by him to The Times on 3rd February last, said he was far from being satisfied with the condition of the Navy, either as regards matériel, personnel, or organization, but he believed it to be superior in all respects to any other Navy, and that it was improving year by year. That was the opinion of a high authority; but he 1014 (Admiral Field) did not believe that the measure of our requirements was the requirements of any other country. The measure of our requirements were our necessities—the enormous commerce we had to protect, our food supply, our Colonies, and so on. Sir Cooper Key went on to say that disaster might result if the unanimous opinion of the Naval Members of the Board of Admiralty was overruled. On this subject of the reduction of expenditure by £905,000, he (Admiral Field) maintained that the noble Lord did not prove his case, and the highest naval authorities in the country would have the House to pause before they accepted such a policy. Naval men ought to have their arguments heard in that House, although they might not be so powerful in it as out of it. Well, Admiral Hornby, Admiral Symonds, and Sir George Elliott, as well as other able men, were all of his view in this matter; and he only mentioned that in order to back up the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) and others, who had pointed out that the Navy was not up to the requirements of the Empire. If the noble Lord argued that we did not want any more belted cruisers or other ships built, how, in the name of common sense, could he justify his action in taking up merchant vessels and arming them? These ships might be valuable as auxiliaries in time of war, but they were not war vessels. They were simply egg-shells. Their engines were above the water-line, and a single shot from the enemy's cruisers would render them hors de combat if it struck them above the water-line. In one of the Secretary to the Admiralty's (Mr. Forwood's) able speeches—and the hon. Member made a good many speeches, some of them good and some of them bad, like that at Liverpool—he said we required £2,070,000 per annum to keep up the war strength of the Navy. If that were so, how was it possible that the sum of £905,000 could properly be paid back into the Treasury? The fact was an inquiry was required into all these matters. The Government had granted a kind of inquiry as to the system of organization, but he did not know what it meant. All that naval men wanted—and he believed soldiers wanted the same thing—was an inquiry as to whether or not our forces were sufficient for the country. If the statement of the hon. 1015 Member for Cardiff were true, that ships which had cost £9,000,000 sterling were unfit to go into battle, a case was at once made out for inquiry as to the state of the Navy. He (Admiral Field) was going to call some powerful witnesses in support of that view, and the first witness he would take would be the Colonial Conference. If hon. Members would study the Report of that Conference, they would find a remarkable statement in the second Report of the Commission on Coaling Stations. They would find it laid down in the Appendix that the question as to how far the Navy was able to discharge the duties alluded to in the Report was one which could only be answered by comparing the strength of our Navy with that of foreign Navies, and with the estimate of the relative fighting power of each ship. That was a vital point. Our insular position had freed us from the necessity of competing in large standing armies with other nations; but the efforts other nations were making to increase their strength at sea, in the opinion of this authority, called for a corresponding effort on our part to increase the fighting power of our Navy. The Commission on Coaling Stations was deeply impressed with the evidence which had been produced, and expressed the opinion that, looking at the action of other countries, the fighting strength of our Navy should be increased with as little delay as possible. That was a very strong opinion to come from the Colonial Conference. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), when speaking on the subject of expenditure, said that some people might think that we were spending too much money on the Navy and the Army. He (Admiral Field) would say nothing about the Army. Some people thought that we could do without one, but he was not one of those people. If we had a land frontier, we should require a much larger standing Army than we had, and might have a Conscription; but as we had only the water around us, what we wanted was a powerful Navy to protect our commerce and our food supplies. What he wanted to point out was that in the case of a war now-a-days, the Commander of a Fleet would have ten times greater anxiety than Commanders had had in the days of Nelson. In the days of Nelson an Admiral in 1016 command of a Squadron might be led away from the Channel in chase of an enemy for a long distance, and would have been able to do it without feeling that the supplies of the country might be cut off at a moment's notice, and the people left to starve. Naval men had to face that danger nowadays. Well, what did the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer say last year in the speech to which he (Admiral Field) alluded? He said—He wished the House would make tip its mind once for all how much it would spend on the Services; if expenditure was excessive, let it be reduced to what was absolutely indispensable for the defence of the country.''But how could they make up their minds on these questions unless they knew the facts? A powerful statement in support of a searching inquiry into the state of the Navy was made in a letter written by a right hon. Gentleman in 1884, and he (Admiral Field) did not know that the condition of things had very materially changed since that letter was written. The letter was dated the 23rd of September, 1884, and was written to The Times, and it referred to a Motion which had been made in the House by Admiral Sir John Hay, praying for an inquiry into the state of the Navy—and he (Admiral Field) might follow this up with the remark that the hon. Member for Cardiff had, from their own side of the House, pressed the Government to grant an inquiry into the state of the Navy. He (Admiral Field) had always blamed the hon. Gentleman for not pressing the matter home by a distinct Motion. In the letter to which he referred, the right hon. Gentleman said—Early last Session Sir John Hay asked the Government to grant a Committee of the House to inquire into the state of the Navy and its inadequacy to protect the interests of this country in the event of sudden war with a Maritime Power. Although I insisted on the complete and sole responsibility of the Government of the day for the defensive forces of the Empire, I strongly urged upon them the expediency of granting the inquiry, as, notwithstanding the repeated assurances of the Admiralty, there was a sense of insecurity in the public mind which could only be allayed by a full and impartial—not necessarily a prolonged—examination of the facts by a body independent of present and of past Governments, but whose verdict would carry with it the confidence and the respect of the nation. The controversy has continued and has increased, and the feeling of alarm and insecurity has widened and deepened, but the Representatives of the Government evade 1017 the real issue, and satisfy themselves by piling figures upon figures in order to prove that they have at least done as well as those who preceded them in Office. This is not, I venture to think, a question about which the public at large care anything at all. They want to know whether our own shores and our Colonial Possessions are safe; whether we have a fighting fleet which can dispose of any probable combination of forces which could be brought against it in battle; whether our food supplies, our trade, and our commerce are reasonably secure from interception by an enemy; whether, in point of fact, we are strong enough to make it in the highest degree improbable that an attack shall be made anywhere, and impossible that such an attack can be successful.The writer was an ex-Cabinet Minister then, and he was a Cabinet Minister new.These are questions which are being asked on all sides, and with increasing frequency. They are not Party questions, for they are being urged with the greatest vehemence by warm supporters of the Government, as well as by Liberal organs—notably by The Pall Mall Gazette."It was now as then—And unless they are dealt with exhaustively and immediately by such a Committee as I have indicated, disquiet and anxiety will increase and swell until some little incident will turn it into a panic.It was only in 1884.There is an impression gaining ground that our system of Government by Party is not conducive to good administration, and the thoughts and energies of our statesmen are devoted rather to the game of checkmating their opponents than to the less sensational but more anxious and laborious duties of administration; but if it comes to pass that the vital interests of the country are sacrificed to the paltry exigencies of Party warfare the demand for a radical change in our system will become irresistible. It will, perhaps, be said that this alarm is most mischievous, and may tend to bring about the very evil against which we wish to guard; but it is imbecility to suggest that Foreign Powers do not know the condition of our forces of every kind at least as well as every Minister of our own Government, with the exception, perhaps, of the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty. If these Powers are our allies or our friends they will rejoice to see England awake to the duty of self-preservation, and if they are secretly hostile they will not be more disposed to attack us because we are placing ourselves in a condition of comparative security. Our neighbours take pains to acquaint themselves with the facts; our Ministers do not care to know more than is convenient on such a disagreeable subject." Will the Government give the inquiry when Parliament meets in October?He (Admiral Field) and his hon. and gallant Friends now asked if the Government would extend the scope of the 1018 inquiry which they had consented to grant?It might be conducted by a Committee of the House of Commons or a Joint Committee of both Houses; but means must be found to satisfy the country that in these days of restless ambition our Navy is strong enough, or will forthwith be made strong enough, to protect it from aggression and to secure to the Empire of Great Britain peace and tranquillity.Who was the writer of the letter? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House—the First Lord of the Treasury. He (Admiral Field) did not think he could bring forward more powerful argument in support of naval opinion in favour of a searching inquiry into the state of our Navy. The letter he had quoted was written in the Autumn of 1884. The Conservative Government came into power in June, 1885. They were turned out in January, 1886. Naturally enough nothing was done in that short interval of time—between June and January, six months—and one could not judge them harshly for that. Another Ministry assumed Office in January, 1886, but Parties again changed places in the following August, so that nothing could be done in 1886. But the Government which took Office in August, 1886, had been in power through 1887 up to the present time, and now, when an application was made for a searching inquiry into the condition of the defences of the country—military and naval—the applicants were met from the Front Bench, not with approval, not with assent to a searching inquiry or an inquiry wanted by naval and military men; but with the offer of an inquiry into the system, or organization, whatever that might be. He asserted that the offer of the Government would not satisfy the feeling of the country as expressed to-night by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose-Fitzgerald), the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed), and by many others. The country wanted to know that it was safe and secure; it could not feel safe and secure unless it knew its naval power was so great and powerful that no combination of other Naval Powers—such as France and Russia for instance—could possibly overpower us, or interfere with our food supply or hamper our commerce. The First Lord of the Admiralty had said tonight he found a diversity of opinion 1019 amongst naval men—that he had never yet been able to ascertain that anyone had proposed an effective method of dealing with the great question of how protection was to be given. That only went to show the great need for a searching inquiry. If the noble Lord could not find men to agree as to what the nature of the defence or protection of our commerce or food supply should be—how many squadrons we required, and what cruisers we should have—he had made out a case for a searching inquiry. The measure of our requirements was our own necessity. Now he came to allude to the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford). He desired to express most sincerely his regret at the noble and gallant Lord's retirement. The noble and gallant Lord was a most valuable man at the Admiralty, because he was a Member of the House. Speaking for himself, he regretted they had no longer the connecting link between the House and the Admiralty which the noble and gallant Lord formed. He knew some persons argued that Naval Lords had no right to be Members of the House of Commons. He believed the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty shared that view. A very strong opinion against such a view was expressed by Sir James Graham in his evidence before the Duke of Somerset's Committee. As he (Admiral Field) had before said, owing to the noble and gallant Lord's resignation they had lost a valuable connecting link between Parliament and the Admiralty, and for that reason he regretted the resignation. He had no right to criticize the noble and gallant Lord's action; but he could not help saying he thought that in the interest of the Service the noble and gallant Lord made a great mistake in resigning, though, of course, he resigned for reasons highly honourable to himself. Now, he (Admiral Field) desired to allude to a remark or two made by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty—in a speech he delivered at Ealing. He would not like to criticize unfavourably anything that he had said, because he was mindful that the noble Lord was compelled to speak to his constituents in reply to the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone, and that probably he was led into saying things he would not otherwise have said about 1020 naval officers. He regretted that, although in some parts of his speech the First Lord of the Admiralty spoke in complimentary terms of his Naval Colleagues, in another part he spoke of them in a threatening tone. The noble Lord might, not have meant to threaten; but he certainly did, for he indicated that if there was a difference of opinion the Naval Lords would have to go. It was quite unnecessary to make that threat. It was quite unnecessary for one in such a high position as the noble Lord to offer a word of caution on a public platform upon that question, and especially as the Naval Lords of the Admiralty could not possibly reply to it. Discipline alone would prevent them criticizing the action of the First Lord. Certainly it would have been better if the First Lord had not criticized beforehand the possible action of his Naval Colleagues. At the same time he thanked the noble Lord for the compliments he paid his Naval Colleagues, and he would set off those compliments against the adverse criticisms of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) at Liverpool. The First Lord, speaking of the Naval Lords, said—The three great merits of the system are, first, by placing naval officers in positions of Executive responsibility as heads of departments, real power is conferred on them, and their habits and training specially and admirably qualify them for Executive administration.But what did the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty say upon the point? He said—From a business point of view, it would be most unwise to hand the control of the Services to Admirals or Generals, who were called experts. An expert was usually a dangerous man; he was generally imbued with some special idea of his own, which conscientiously he considered it his duty to push.He (Admiral Field) supposed an expert was right in pushing his idea if his conscience prompted him to push it.No two experts ever agreed upon a common plan, and in no profession, not even in the medical, was there greater divergence than among seamen and naval constructors as to the best type of war vessel.So there was difference of opinion amongst architects. There was great difference of opinion in the House amongst politicians, and he did not think the Secretary to the Admiralty 1021 need be much surprised that naval men did not always agree upon nautical questions. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forwood) went on to say—The Service regarded the Admiral as the expert, and no doubt he was in regard to navigation, drill, naval tactics, and gunnery; but he had no opportunity of studying the technicalities of shipbuilding, nor could he on a quarter-deck become an adept in the control of huge manufacturing establishments employing 25,000 workmen or more.Of course, he could not when he was kept afloat; but he would when he was put ashore. The hon. Gentleman went on—The suggestion to hand over the Army and Navy to professional officers because they were supposed to be experts ''—no one even proposed it—it was the hon. Gentleman's heated imagination which led him to think so—would fail to secure an effective Service or effective Parliamentary control.No one even proposed it. The hon. Gentleman was raising up a phantom of his own creation to knock it down. The hon. Gentleman went on to say—The present system worked well.What a lot the hon. Gentleman knew about it—Both State and Service had their due weight in administration.That was the hon. Gentleman's opinion; it was not his (Admiral Field's) and his hon. Friends. Now he came to a delicious part of the hon. Gentleman's speech; it was really lovely. This hon. Gentleman, the Member for Ormskirk, the Secretary to the Admiralty, who certainly knew something about Steamship Companies and Steam Navigation Companies, expressed an opinion upon the French naval administration. He said—France had tried an Admiral at the head of her Marine, and had just replaced him by a civilian.Then he went on to give what he thought was the reason—A reference to the Report of a Commission of Inquiry on the French Navy Estimates of 1887 did not show that an Admiral or expert was so very successful as an administrator that we ought to follow suit.Well, that was complimentary to his (Admiral Field's) profession. Then the hon. Gentleman went on to say—In the one year's work it was found that the estimates for vessels laid before the French 1022 Chambers were wrong to the extent of over 10 per cent—that ships represented to cost £2,800,000 had their estimated cost increased after investigation to £4,100,000.The hon. Gentleman argued that a civilian had been appointed because the estimates were exceeded, as if under our system Estimates had never been exceeded. In his speech last year upon naval matters, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) pointed out that the Estimates for four ships had been exceeded, in one case by £100,000, in another case by £200,000, in another case by £150,000, and in another case by £60,000; and yet this hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty spoke about the Estimates for the French building programme being exceeded because an Admiral, and not a civilian, was at the head of affairs. He (Admiral Field) drew a different conclusion. He believed the reason was that France was afflicted with extreme Radicals as we were in this country, and that Radicals in France squeezed the Government and endeavoured to displace naval men who knew their business and put in their place scheming politicians who know nothing about the business. That was the explanation of a civilian having displaced an Admiral as Minister of Marine. To show he was right in his contention, and that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forwood) was wrong, that there was not an atom of foundation for the hon. Gentleman's argument, he might say that within three days of the delivery of the hon. Gentleman's speech the Minister of Marine—a clever civilian—was turned out of Office and an Admiral put in his place. Yes; and he was a retired Admiral if they pleased. [Laughter.] He thought that would create a laugh. He (Admiral Field) was a retired Admiral too. The French Government thought more of retired Admirals than the Government of this country did. He hoped he had answered the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty; but he asked the First Lord of the Admiralty to utter one word of caution to his subordinate. It was as well that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forwood), when he made a speech in the country upon naval questions, should abstain from criticizing Admirals of whom his own Chief the First Lord of the Admiralty spoke in terms of praise. It was not 1023 seemly; it was not conducive to naval discipline that the Secretary to the Admiralty, who was the servant of the Board, should get up on a public platform, and before a popular audience lampoon naval officers who were his superiors and his masters. Now, he had put upon the Notice Paper an Amendment, and he regretted that by the Rules of the House he was precluded from moving it. He had desired to call attention to the executive administration of the Admiralty, and to show that the root of the evil of the present system was that the Orders in Council that were passed in 1869, again passed and issued in 1872, and again issued in 1882, were Orders which undermined the authority and impaired the responsibility of the Naval Lords of the Admiralty, and that those Orders in Council were in themselves mischievous, and should be cancelled.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
said, he would appeal to hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House to assist the Government in taking the Vote early on Thursday. It was absolutely necessary that the Vote should then be taken.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Thursday.