HC Deb 15 March 1888 vol 323 cc1312-52
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

said, that the remarks he was addressing to the House were stopped by the clock on Monday, He did not, however, propose to trespass at any length upon the further indulgence of the House; he was quite sensible of the kindness which he had already received. He was endeavouring when interrupted in his argument to press on the Govern- ment the importance of widening the scope of their inquiry into the system of organization of the Army and Navy, and he was attempting to show how it might be included in the ordinary way in a Report on the naval defence of the Empire; its sufficiency and efficiency. In support of that argument he had ventured to quote from the proceedings of the Colonial Conference, and he had read an extract from a letter written by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), in September, 1884, in which the case was very powerfully put. He (Admiral Field) came now to a second branch of the subject in reference to which he had placed a formal Motion on the Paper, but which, he understood, the Forms of the House would not allow to be put; but before doing so he desired to refer to the want of dock accommodation in Bombay—a question which he had brought before the House in 1886, and again last year, having been struck by the fact that it had been necessary to send from India a flagship in order that she might be repaired at Malta. He looked at it as a public scandal to the Indian Empire, which this country had to guard, that we should not have dock accommodation for a first-class iron-clad at Bombay. Last year they were told that a dock was to be made, and he believed that Estimates had been furnished to the Government which showed that some £80,000 or £100,000 were all that was required to provide the necessary accommodation; but the Indian and Imperial Government had been fighting with each other as to which was to pay the cost. They were told now that the dock was to be made, and he should like to hear from the Admiralty what progress had been made in providing the necessary accommodation. He now came to the second branch of the subject—namely, the Admiralty Administration. The attention of the House and of the whole country had been called to that subject in connection with the resignation of the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford). He had no right to speak for the noble and gallant Lord, who made an admirable speech the other day; but it was not difficult for naval men to read and look into the motives of the noble and gallant Lord's resignation. They were highly honourable to the noble and gallant Lord himself; but he (Admiral Field) was satisfied that the resignation was not sent in simply on the question of the salaries of the officers of the Intellience Department. He thought the reasons for it were much deeper and wider and more subtle, and he asked the attention of the House while he ventured to explain the views which naval men took of this important question of naval administration. He thought the Orders in Council, which were alluded to in the Motion standing in his name, were at the root of the whole matter. They found no great complaints made about the administration of the Admiralty up to the year 1869; but ever since 1869 there had been continual complaints. As a matter of fact, responsible and distinguished men were appointed to the Admiralty on account of their real ability, and yet they had virtually no power whatever. He did not propose to weary the House by reflecting on the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), who was the first Minister of the Crown to introduce a great change; but it was necessary to refer to the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. The Admiralty was one of the oldest institutions in the country, and it ought to be respected on account of its antiquity. The Office of Lord High Admiral was an ancient one; it was vested in the Crown; but it was a power which could be, and had been, delegated from time to time. On a few occasions nominees of the Crown had been called Lord High Admiral; but in the Reign of William and Mary the House of Commons—jealous of the power of the Lord High Admiral—desired that it should be put in Commission, and the Act then passed had remained on the Statute Book up to the present time. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) had led the House to believe that naval men were now going in for what was called "supremacy" at the Board. That was altogether wrong; no such feeling existed on the part of naval men. All they wished was that the Naval Members of the Board should have real power and responsibility as defined by Act of Parliament. They were Com- missioners co-equal by law, but by the usage of centuries that co-equal power had ceased to exist. He maintained that their rights still exist by law, and that they ought not to be ignored by the Ministers of the Crown. The Orders in Council from 1869 and 1872 down to 1882 were all unnecessary and ulra vires; therefore they were illegal and ought to be withdrawn. He had discussed the question with eminent lawyers, and they all went with him in maintaining that nothing could alter the Act of Parliament, and that no Order in Council could take away from or add to the power which was conferred by Act of Parliament. He therefore maintained that these Orders in Council ought never to have been issued, and that they ought to be withdrawn. It was not that naval men had any notion of calling in question the supremacy of the First Lord. The First Lords of the Admiralty had always worked harmoniously with their Colleagues, and, on their part, no naval men he had ever heard of had disputed or sought in any way to undermine or interfere with the authority or with the supremacy of the First Lord, who must be a Cabinet Minister, and it was simply trailing a red herring across the scent to pretend that naval men had any such idea. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh thought all he did was right. What was wanted was strong men at the head of the Admiralty; but in regard to the right hon. Gentleman he could not help thinking that, although he proved himself politically strong, he was a very self-willed man. He hoped they might never meet with as strong a man again, but the experience and, training of the right hon. Gentleman had been obtained in the Colonies, where no respect was entertained for traditions. Naval men believed that that fact accounted for the exercise of the supreme will of the right hon. Gentleman in having these Orders in Council issued. He would quote for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman the opinion of the Legal Adviser of the Admiralty of that time, Mr. Bristow, in examination by the Chairman of the Committee of the House of Lords which inquired into the subject. Mr. Bristow—the Solicitor to the Admiralty—was asked by the Duke of Somerset— Is it not the fact that the Order in Council of 1869 is not only at variance with the Patent issued subsequently, but it is also at variance with the Common Law, upon which the usuage of the Admiralty rests?—I am inclined to think that it is. Mr. Bristow also said that subsequent Patents would annul the Order in Council. It amounted to this—that the Orders in Council, although thus annulled, had been acted on as if legal; and it was only in the House of Commons that the question could be raised, and the legality of these Orders in Council properly tested. It was difficult to expect a Minister, when he succeeded to the position of First Lord of the Admiralty, and found an Order in Council in existence which gave him supremacy, and converted his Council into mere subordinates, would get rid of that Order. He had shown that the Orders in Council were illegal; that the Naval Lords were not responsible to the First Lord; but that they were responsible under an Act of Parliament to the Board, the First Lord being responsible to the House. He, therefore, contended that the Orders in Council were unnecessary; that they were a burning grievance in the eyes of naval men; and that they ought to be withdrawn. In 1873 the late Lord Beacons-field delivered a speech in Glasgow at a time when the Navy were smarting from the rule of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh. Lord Beaconsfield said— Ask the Naval Profession whether they have not been worried. During the course of the present Government, the whole administrative system of the Admiralty, the Council which had always great influence in the management of the Navy, and the peculiar office of the Secretary were all swept away; and in spite I may say, of the nightly warnings of a right hon. Friend, who is now lost to us all and his country, the ablest Minister of the Admiralty during the present reign—notwithstanding his nightly warnings that they were so conducting the administration of the Navy that they would probably fall into some disaster, his remonstrances were in vain, till soon the most costly vessel of the State, the Captain, was lost, and the perilous voyage of the Megœra had been made, when the country would stand it no longer. They rescinded the whole of this worrying arrangement, and appointed a now First Lord to re-establish the whole system. Lord Beaconsfield was wrong. He thought it had been done, but it was not done. Lord Beaconsfield was a high authority in favour of the naval view, and surely when a man of such eminence spoke in that sense it was a condemnation of the system, and the system itself ought to be modified out of respect for the high authority which condemned it. The right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) succeeded the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh as First Lord of the Admiralty, and modified the Order in Council by striking out the most hateful part of it. The right hon. Gentleman made the Naval Lords Heads of Departments, but still left them responsible to the First Lord. That was his point. His contention was that they ought to get rid of the Orders in Council. Naval men had always respected the First Lord of the Admiralty, and had always submitted to his veto on all points submitted to the Board, in consideration for the position he occupied; but they maintained that the First Lord had no right to abolish the Board. Of course, he could do anything with a majority at his back, and that was why the Orders in Council had been carried out. He could quote argument after argument in support of his view. It was held by the Duke of Somerset, by Sir James Graham, and by other eminent Ministers who were examined before the Committees of 1861 and 1871. There was no difference of opinion among them. Sir James Graham and the Duke of Somerset both agreed that the First Lord must be supreme, and they both laid down clearly that it was the duty of each Naval Lord to support the decisions of the First Lord. Naval men appealed to the Front Bench as the exponents and guardians par excellence of Conservative principles, and one of the cherished Conservative principles was a respect for the law as long as it was the law. They said that it was their duty to see that the law was respected so long as it was on the Statute Book. It ought to be respected, and so long as a Minister, whether the First Lord of the Admiralty or any other Minister, was responsible, the law ought to be respected without issuing Orders in Council, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh did, in an evil moment, his example having been followed, unfortunately, ever since. His view was that they ought to transact the business of the Board of Admiralty with a full sense of the authority of every Member of the Board, while acknowledging the supremacy of the First Lord. The Duke of Somerset, in the Report of the Committee of 1871, said— The Committee have failed to discover the advantage of fixing the precise duties of the several Lords by 'Order in Council.' A Minute of the Board would have facilitated some re-adjustment of the business according to the special qualifications of the Lords or ever-varying demands of the Public Service. The Order in Council, 1869, has so far disabled the Board that it is no longer fitted for consultations or for the review of naval affairs. The ancient Patent of Admiralty, qualified by long usage, had established an equality of the Lords for the purpose of suggestion and consultation, combined with the absolute supremacy of the First Lord for the purposes of action. The naval men accepted that definition. They were perfectly loyal to the supremacy of the First Lord, and the principle he contended for; but they maintained that the Naval Board should meet as it had done for centuries, although, by the usage of centuries, the supremacy of the First Lord must be acknowledged. The Duke of Somerset goes on to say— The Board of Admiralty was constituted to bring around him—the First Lord—men of high standing and long experience in the Navy. The maintenance of the Navy in a state of continued preparation and efficiency depends on innumerable details, which neither the examination of the Estimates nor the vigilance of Parliament can secure. The First Lord can only be acquainted with such matters through daily intercourse and friendly communication with officers of the Navy. It is, therefore, of primary importance that the Naval Service should be adequately represented in the Department which regulates naval officers. Naval men accepted that view also, and all they asked was that the First Lord should accept it. They were only fighting for what the law laid down. Some persons who had discussed the question, had not taken the trouble to study and read the evidence of the Duke of Somerset and Sir James Graham before these two Committees. If they would only read the evidence he was sure they would come to the conclusion that the Act of Parliament ought to be upheld. It might be said by some that if the system was as he had represented it, it ought to be altered; but he maintained that those who took that view were trifling with an Act of Parliament, and were not the proper guardians of the Service Sir James Graham was examined in reference to the Patent, and he said— I have made it my study to make myself master of the origin of power exercised by the First Lord at the Board, the constitution of the Board, its power, and its legal origin; the more I have investigated the matter the more I am satisfied that, like the Common Law in aid of the Statute Law, the power exercised by the Board of Admiralty and the different members of it rests more upon usage than upon the Patents—uninterrupted usage from a very curly period; and, my conviction being such as I have stated, I am led to view with increased apprehension any great change that will supersede that usage and prescription. I am of opinion that there would he great danger in attempting to touch the Patent. I infinitely prefer, therefore, on the whole, the maintenance of existing Patents, in concurrence with the established usage centuries. At the present moment the Board of Admiralty were guardians of the foreshore above low water mark of all the creeks and islets round the coast, and possessed rights in regard to derelict ships, &c. There were, therefore, numerous questions which could not possibly be dealt with in an amended Act, and no lawyer would be rash enough to meddle with the Act of Parliament, or the Patent, because one portion of the Act was unsatisfactory. If the Act and the Patents were to be interfered with, it would be necessary to come back to the rights of the Crown, where all power still resided. Under these circumstances, all persons were agreed that the Act could not be meddled with or the Patents altered without danger, but that what had been the custom for centuries should continue to prevail, and that the naval responsibility of the Admiralty should be made real and effective by sweeping away Orders in Council. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech delivered in that House, had pointed, out that the Naval Members of the Board should have responsibility. They ought, however, as they were conversant with the Naval Profession, to be made more responsible, occupying the position which was laid down for them in the Act of Parliament, which made them responsible not only to the First Lord, but to the country. In 1872 the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) said— Allusion has been made to frequent changes in the person of the First Lord, and consequent want of experience of the special duties with which he was charged. That was rather an argument in favour of than against a Board, because, if the First Lord was without special knowledge, he must look for high professional advice, and ascertain what were the opinions of the Profession. The Service liked to know that side by side with a responsible Minister there were others quite conversant with the details of the Profession, and who would give advice under a sense of responsibility, Lord Brassey also stated, in a speech delivered in that House in 1872— There is a tendency to neglect the efficiency of the Service, and to regard economy in Naval Administration exhibited in too many instances by the Board of Admiralty. Another error was making the Department depend too exclusively upon the First Lord, which was the more objectionable on account of the frequent changes which our Parliamentary system involved, and under such a plan it was impossible that our affairs could prosper. He would give a case in order to show how valuable the powers of the Board were, and how necessary it was to retain those powers intact. Sir James Graham cited a remarkable and historical case to show how elastic the powers of the Board were to meet great and unforeseen emergencies which no single Minister could do. Mr. Croker was ordered by the Board to go with Lord Castlereagh to Paris as Foreign Minister—after Waterloo—to confer with the Duke of Wellington. Mr. Croker was told to act on orders from the Foreign Minister in Paris, and consequently wrote to Sir H. Hotham on the Coast of France to intercept Napoleon and bring him to England, which was done in the Bellerophon. Now, that could not have been done in any other manner than by the Board of Admiralty, acting, as they did, through their organ the Secretary. The most objectionable form of administration was attempted in 1828 under the Duke of Clarence, who was Lord High Admiral, but the system utterly broke down. The Duke of Wellington had to abolish it and to revive the old Board. Under these circumstances, he asked the First Lord to have some respect for the sentiments of the Navy, and to be prepared to meet the wishes of naval men. According to Sir George Willes, the Admiralty as a Court of Appeal had ceased to exist. Then, again, the Naval Secretary had been abolished, much to the regret of the Naval Service. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, in his speech the other day, made use of some observations to which exception must be taken. Speaking at Ealing the noble Lord said— I re-arranged the business (the Naval Lords) the Executive Heads of their Departments, and I endeavoured to be accessible to them whenever they wanted to see me, and I established the practice of allowing any individual Member of the Board to record a protest against action collectively taken of which he disapproved, but which was not of such importance as to justify his retiring firm office. Under no other form of administration will the Navy be as much governed by naval men. The Naval Lords are my Colleagues and not assistants—they act as my primary and not as secondary advisers. I believe it to be for the interests of the Navy that this system should continue, but it would become at once unworkable and impossible if the supreme authority of the Civil Head is circumvented, undermined, or overthrown. There was no desire on the part of any naval man to circumvent, undermine, or overthrow the supreme authority of the Civil Head of the Board, and they were prepared to repudiate the charge. Their contention was that if the Orders in Council were abolished the authority of the Naval Board under the Statute would revive, and they asked that the Naval Lords should be invited to record their opinions and present a Report simultaneously with the Memorandum of the First Lord. The late Secretary for War had inaugurated that system by directing his chief officer to present a Report to the House. The Naval Lords of the Admiralty should make a similar Report in reference to their respective branches, and all such Reports should be laid before the House. Hitherto First Lords of the Admiralty had "burked" naval opinion, and only gave what happened to suit them. If the country had known what the state of the Service was at the time of the Russian scare considerable alarm would have been felt. He admitted that the Government had done their best now to remove the defects which existed then. A former First Lord of the Admiralty told Parliament in 1884 that he would not know what to do with £3,000,000 sterling extra; a very short time afterwards he came to Parliament to ask for a grant of £5,000,000. What naval men wanted was that Parliament and the country should know what our defects were, and that Parliament should insist upon a remedy being, applied. Hitherto the Admiralty had kept back what it pleased, and only told the House what they deemed proper, no doubt with the object of making the Estimates popular. In. 1844 Sir William Bowles wrote a letter to Lord Haddington, the then First Lord of the Admiralty, on the defenceless condition of the country so far as naval preparations were concerned. He said that at that time there was an actual conspiracy among certain French officers to seize the British Fleet in the Mediterranean. Sir Cooper Key only last month wrote these words— I also concur in Lord Charles Beresford's view, that disaster must result if the unanimous opinion of the Naval Members of the Board is overruled. I have never known this to be the case. What was absolutely necessary was that the opinion of Naval Lords should be made known, and not overruled, as it was overruled, in the Council Chamber. Surely the country only wanted to know the truth. Very often if the truth were known a great deal of unnecessary expense would be saved. Sir George Elliott, in a letter to The Times the other day, suggested— That a printed Report of the opinions of the Naval Lords be laid before Parliament with the Estimates, so that the country may no longer be kept in ignorance of the real state of the Navy and the danger of an unprepared state for war. The position of the First Lord will be greatly strengthened in the Cabinet when his Estimates are accompanied by the independent Reports of the Naval Lords, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows they will be laid before Parliament. Sir Spencer Robinson, who was for many years at the Admiralty as Controller, said also in a letter to The Times in 1885— If each head of a Division of Admiralty were, as I have often advocated, obliged to make an Annual Report to be laid on the Table of the House of Commons with the Navy Estimates, the responsibility of each head of the separate Divisions of the Admiralty would be distinctly engaged bf fore the public. An epitome of what these Reports should contain will be found in the Annual Report of the Secretary to the Navy annually laid before the Congress of the United States. I cannot ask for space to go into details on this subject, but it is evident that, were they made a portion of the Navy Estimates and submitted to Parliament, no Cabinet Minister could suppress a truthful statement of the condition of the Navy, or shelter himself behind the character, experience, and professional ability of his Chief N val Adviser, compelled by etiquette and complete irresponsibility, whatever may be his opinions, to heart-breaking silence. In other words, every naval man worth listening to held these views. He did not care how it was done so long as it was done, or whether it was done by the First Lord of the Admiralty making a statement to the House or by issuing a printed document. What they ought to insist upon was that the naval opinion on the state of the Navy should be made known, and not "burked" as it was now. He agreed with the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone as to the importance of increasing the number of the Executive officials at the Board of Admiralty. It was very well known that the Controller's Department was very much overworked at the present moment. Why, then, should he not be granted a Deputy Controller? Then, again, the First Naval Lord was immensely overworked. Why not grant him extra naval assistance? The First Lord implied that if this assistance were provided, the officers Would soon wish to go to sea; but his (Admiral Field's) experience of the Service convinced him that there was plenty of naval ability at hand, and that many excellent officers who were now on the retired list would be willing to serve in a confidential manner, under a naval superior, to the great advantage of the State. The present system was one which could never work well, and he asked the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty to assist naval men in reforming it. In the first place he asked for the withdrawal of the Orders in Council which were a burning grievance, and for the restoration of the Naval Board as it formerly existed. There never would be any desire on the part of naval men to dispute the authority of the First Lord who must be responsible to Parliament. He was convinced that all would work harmoniously if his suggestions were carried out.

MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)

The hon. and gallant Member has repeated almost word for word the speech which he delivered last year.


Not a bit; not 10 lines of it.


I am afraid that he has given us more, at any rate he has favoured us with a réchauffé of what he said the other day. Now, I feel very reluctant to repeat what I said in reply to the hon. and gallant Member last year, and I am, therefore, desirous of compressing my remarks into the very smallest compass. The hon. and gallant Admiral seems to be entirely ignorant of what took place in this House, and elsewhere, before the changes effected under the Order in Council of 1869. There had been endless debates in this House on the question of Admiralty organization. There had been a Royal Commission upon it, which had reported precisely in the sense of the Order in Council. There had also been a Committee of this House which took a very large amount of evidence on the subject and made no Report at all; and there had been in the year 1867–8, when Mr. Corry presided at the Admiralty, a Committee of this House which sat during the whole of the Session. I was a Member of it, and I drafted and carried the Report. That Committee heard a great deal of evidence, and, so far as the Controllers' Department was concerned, questions of Admiralty organization were fully gone into. When, therefore, the hon. and gallant Admiral says that there was no complaint about Admiralty organization before 1869, all I can say is that at the time the hon. and gallant Member was a Commander afloat, and, no doubt, the question did not come under his notice; but those who were then and for 10 years before Members of the House had to discuss the question over and over again, and used to hear complaints from month to month and year to year. I had the responsibility of drawing up the Report of the Select Committee of 1868; and when I was entrusted with the responsibility, as First Lord, of setting this long controversy about in the Admiralty organization, I considered it absolutely necessary to put into effect what appeared to me to be the view of Parliament, and the Order in Council was the result of the duty thus imposed upon me. Perhaps I may be allowed to explain to the hon. and gallant Admiral and to the House what the question of responsibility was which had been brought before a Royal Commission, two Select Committees, and had to be settled by the Board of Admiralty in 1868. The hon. and gallant Admiral is entirely mistaken in thinking that any new arrangements were brought in force by the Order in Council which were not entirely concurred in by the Board of Admiralty which then took office. They had the question fully under their consideration, and they fully accepted the terms of the Order. I will give the hon. and gallant Admiral, in as few words as possible, the reason why that Order in Council was passed. It had nothing to do with the paramount powers of the First Lord of the Admiralty. No question had ever arisen in anyone's mind, except possibly in that of Sir George Seymour, that the First Lord, as a Cabinet Minister, had absolute power. No doubt, Sir George Seymour, in giving evidence before the Committee, did object to the power of the First Lord; but, with the exception of Sir George Seymour, there never was a doubt as to the absolute power of the First Lord as a Cabinet Minister. Again, the hon. and gallant Admiral is entirely mistaken in thinking that there was at that time any right on the part of any Member of the Board to protest against a decision. There never had been such a right.


There was originally.


I beg the hon. and gallant Gentleman's pardon. That was never the case, but I will not enter into a long argument upon the point. The question was raised and settled, when a Naval Lord become restive, when Sir John Pakington was First Lord of the Admiralty. I, for my part, am much in favour of Members of the Board having their names attached to important papers for which they are responsible, and I myself introduced the practice of the Estimates being signed as they now are. And now let me tell the hon. and gallant Admiral what was the effect of the Order in Council in 1869. Before 1869 it was impossible to fix upon any one of the Naval Lords the responsibility of any act. The Naval Lords were virtually in this position—I cannot tell how it was brought about, but they had occupied the position for some years—they had, in fact, come to be treated and looked upon by the country and Parliament as a small Committee of distinguished naval officers sharing the responsibility for naval, and especially professional, decisions. By the Order in Council this lax system was put an end to, the First Sea Lord was made absolutely responsible for the naval business of the country as a quasi-Commander-in-Chief, the Controller, as Third Lord, for all questions of shipbuilding, and the Financial Secretary for finance. Again, what the hon. and gallant Member (Admiral Mayne) had urged was to a certain extent done. For instance, there was attached to the First Naval Lord in that year a very distinguished officer, now Admiral Willes, who had the title of Chief of the Staff, and who acted as a sort of Assistant to the First Sea Lord. If Captain Willes, as he was then, had not been a sufficient Assistant to the Naval Lord, I should not have hesitated to appoint another. The main object of the Order in Council was—as I have said—to get rid of joint responsibility, and I think that I have now cleared up the point raised by the hon. and gallant Admiral. I have no wish to carry the debate further.

CAPTAIN COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)

said, he had no desire to enter into the question of the constitution of the Board of Admiralty, or to take part in the controversy between the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down and his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex (Admiral Field). This fact undoubtedly remained—that under the present system they were never able to fix responsibility upon any particular man. That was the whole case. Before offering some broad considerations to the House, he wished to congratulate the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) and the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) upon the now form of Estimates. They realized the truth of the remark of the Duke of Somerset, that the first step in economy was precision of accounts. He thought the House would now be able to see the decisions to which the Admiralty arrived, and what was being done by the Board. The Secretary to the Admiralty, in the speech upon which the hon. and gallant Admiral had commented, spoke rather captiously, and altogether unnecessarily, of the value of experts. He (Captain Colomb) was not going to follow the lead of the hon. Gentleman; but, as the hon. Gentleman was himself an export in mercantile business, he would draw his attention to the one fact that was clearly brought out by the new form of Estimates—namely, that we were spending nearly £500,000 a-year in paper, pens, and ink, and the men to use them, out of the total cost of our Navy. The Admiralty Office itself cost £300,000 a-year, and for six Admirals employed at the Admiralty there were 450 clerks, or about 75 apiece. Notwithstanding, the Admiralty was really deprived by the system of expert assistance. The point he wished to draw attention to was the system of administration as judged by its results. There was a passage in the First Lord's Memorandum last year in which this remarkable statement was made—that although this country had the largest Fleet in the world, there was no central organization for utilizing the Fleet on au emergency. Now, "emergency" meant war, and central organization meant Admiralty; and yet, under the existing system, there was no means, 12 months ago, of utilizing the naval force of the country; and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, or anyone who had been responsible for the administration of the Admiralty, whether he was satisfied with the condition of things, which must have brought about disaster upon us if a war had unhappily broken out? The Naval Intelligence Department had been a burning question, and the circumstances arising out of it had caused the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) to resign. Everyone regretted the noble Lord's resignation and severance from the Admiralty. He (Captain Colomb) certainly did, on the broadest possible ground, because he considered it essential to the Service that the Board of Admiralty should be in direct touch with the young naval school. It was on the new school, rather than on the old, that the future of the country, as regards its naval safety, depended; and the great blot of our Admiralty system was that there were a handful of Admirals administering, and hardly any young officers coming in to learn how to perform the work of administration. There was evidence that the Admiralty itself was really averse to the creation of the Intelligence Department. It was an extraordinary thing that until 1882 we had nothing approaching a Department to collect and to utilize naval intelligence. What had been the experience of the noble Lord? He went to the Admiralty, and he had told his constituents a good many things connected with the experience he had gained; but the pith of it was contained in the passage in which he gave his conversation with the officials, shortly after he joined the Admiralty. He (Captain Colomb) read in The Times of 5th February the following statement:— Could the saddle be placed on the right horse, it would be found that the recent doings at the Admiralty had not been initiated by the noble Lord or the Treasury, and that the real inspiration must be sought for elsewhere. It is an open secret that from its birth the Intelligence Department has encountered undisguised opposition from more quarters than one, and that there are those within the Admiralty who would gladly see it strangled altogether. That was a letter written by Colonel Poé toThe Times,who was actually in the Naval Intelligence Department himself, and it throw some light on the working of the system as it now existed. He asked the leave of the House to draw attention to the fact that nothing which had been stated by exports, or in the Press, justified the assertion that there was any proposal to do away with Parliamentary control, and to substitute for Parliamentary control and the responsibility of a Cabinet Minister a Board of Admirals. Such a proposition was absurd. What they did assert was that, under the existing system, responsibility could not be fixed. He appealed to the First Lord to say whether that was not true, and he would give an instance which would, he thought, bring the matter to a test. In the Memorandum of the First Lord of the Admiralty of this year it was stated that delay had occurred in the delivery of the guns, and the programme of Dockyard work had been deranged and prevented from being completed owing to the delay. He (Captain Colomb) asked if the noble Lord would name or fix the blame for this delay on any individual, or say what departments and individuals were to blame? In the statement made the other night by the Secretary to the Admiralty respecting the shipbuilding policy of the Government, he informed the House that the War office had found it necessary to return to the Treasury a large sum of money which had been taken for naval ordnance last year, and. which they had been unable to spend. He wanted the noble Lord to say who was responsible under the present system for asking Parliament for money to get guns, not knowing that the resources of the country were unable to produce them? Did the system shield the men, and, if not, would the First Lord name them? It was, he thought, so serious a question that it ought to be raised in that House. Parliament was asked to give money in order to supply guns, and then it turned out that the country could not produce them. Everybody knew that our mercantile ports were liable to attack from armed cruisers in war. The Secretary of State for War laid down a basis of assumption upon a doctrine which he himself defined. On page 9 of his Memorandum he said— The recent improvements in guns have completely altered the conditions and the power of a naval attack; and it has in consequence appeared to Her Majesty's Government that a thorough examination of the general state of our defences should no longer be delayed. But there was not a word in the First Lord of the Admiralty's Memorandum as to a corresponding increased power of naval defence duo to the same cause. Was it because the Government had not got, and could not got, sufficiently rapidly the guns required, and if the Navy could not get the guns required, how were the forts to get them? That was a matter which was very germane, us showing the results of the present system. They wanted to know distinctly what the policy of the country was, because one could not say whether the organization was adapted to the country's wants or not. It had now for some time been the habit of the officials of the Admiralty to use very vague phrases, and to make general statements. A statement was made the other night by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty which exactly followed in the footsteps of the utterances of his recent Predecessors. What the country wanted to know was, if our naval forces were sufficient to secure us from attack? He and his hon. and gallant Friends asked the Admiralty officials to give them information on that point, and the noble Lord got up and said— 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, 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. But that did not prove anything with regard to superiority. He (Captain Colomb) submitted that superiority was the power necessary to keep the enemy's battle ships in their harbours, and that to estimate its power all abstract comparisons were absolutely valueless. He did not blame the noble Lord at all, but he did blame the system. He complained that there was not a department so organized for war behind the noble Lord as would prevent the noble Lord making abstract comparisons as a standard of measurement of our safely. Now, in following that out, the noble Lord told them, and comforted the country by saying, that we had 21 battle ships in commission and reserve, that France had 16 of such ships, and that Russia had five. The noble Lord thus argued that in naval strength we were only equal to Russia and France put together; but let them take France alone. Could the 21 ships of England keep the 16 similar ships of France in French ports? It could only be done by British relative superiority in war outside the ports in which those ships were. This was not merely a question of ship for ship, because the ships which were inside did not consume coal, while the ships that were outside were consuming coal every hour and minute. There were other causes besides coaling that would necessitate their leaving their position, and therefore one could not base calculations of superiority merely on the abstract question of numbers. He asked the noble Lord to take the 16 ships of France and the 21 ships of England, and to give the House an illustration of how he supposed we could keep continuously a superior force outside during any period of war. Take the five French ports of Cherbourg, Brest, Rochefort, L'Orient, and Toulon. Were France to mass the 16 vessels in Toulon, was our policy to evacuate the Channel? If her policy was to mass her 16 vessels in an Atlantic port, was it the naval policy of this country to evacuate the Mediterranean? Suppose she distributed the 16 vessels among all her five ports, how could we keep the five ports continuously blocked with a superior force with only 21 similar ships to do it with? The whole question was not one of the number of ships we could put there, but of the number we could keep there, and that was a question of reliefs and reserves. In no case, and under no conditions, could we, on the First Lord's representations of the 16 and 21 ships respectively, attempt to mask the battle force of France, and have any effective reserve fleet in the Channel at all. He wished, in conclusion, to say one or two words upon principles of organization, in respect to the protection of commerce, and under two heads that must be divided—the commerce off the coasts, and the commerce on the high seas. Now, the issue of armed vessels—he meant vessels temporarily armed for purposes of attack—the issue of armed vessels from an enemy's ports was not met by blockading the war ports. All experience of recent wars showed that the mercantile ports of an enemy and neutral ports must be observed very closely, and that even then armed cruisers would slip out. He did not find in the utterances of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty any mention of the protection of our offings by arming our mercantile vessels in a suitable manner. Now, two forces, different in their natures, would attack our commerce—the improvised marauders, commissioned and turned into war-ships for that purpose, and such war cruisers of the enemy as might be at sea, or might escape from their ports. He did not believe we had to fear so very much the war cruisers of the enemy; what we had to fear were the improvised armed cruisers, commissioned for the special purpose of preying on our commerce. The First Lord of the Admiralty made use of language in his speech which very much astonished him (Captain Colomb). He would read the whole passage, because he felt it was a matter which should be commented upon. Alluding to the remarks of the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), the First Lord of the Admiralty said— My noble 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 exercised,' and that ' nothing but actual experience could justify any confident prediction us to now a thoroughly effective protection can be given by any fleet' to our enormous Mercantile Marine, and then he threw down this challenge to the House— Will any single naval officer got up and answer how that can he done? That was a very remarkable challenge for the First Lord of the Admiralty to make, and he (Captain Colomb) intended to comment upon it, because he thought that, by an examination of it, it would be seen that under our present system the Admiralty had not thoroughly examined even the rudiments of the question of the protection of commerce, otherwise such a challenge would never have been given by the First Lord. The First Lord then went on to say— 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 he 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? Now, the noble Lord surely know, or rather if they had a proper system at the Admiralty he would know, that the reason there was this great diversity of opinion among naval officers was that naval officers, under the present system, were not supplied with information as to the movements of the commerce which in war time they were to protect. They were not informed even as to the distribution of the commerce, nor of the laws and circumstances which governed its movements on the ocean. He reminded the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) that on the 8th of August last year he asked the hon. Gentleman whether the Admiralty supplied information to the Admirals and naval officers at home and abroad as to the distribution of commerce in the area entrusted to their charge for protection in case of war; and that hon. Gentleman, as he (Captain Colomb) knew he would be obliged to say, did say that such information was not supplied to naval officers. The hon. Gentleman, however, in the language he used, held out a hope that naval officers would be informed that arrangements would be made some day for informing Admirals in charge of stations what were the interests, and where were the interests, they had to protect in time of war. It was rather strange that the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty should expect that any man in the House should get up, and toll him in a few minutes how we were to arrange for the protection of a commerce on the sea amounting in value to £1,000,000,000 sterling a-year, a commerce with ramifications, varied, and very great, and yet governed by fixed laws. That was the commerce which the Admiralty and the Navy were responsible for, and it was not merely the commerce of this country with foreign countries. This was a complicated problem, and for this reason—there was the interchange between this country and our own Possessions; there was the interchange between this country and foreign Possessions in every sea; there was the interchange between the outlying Possessions of the Empire and foreign countries independent from that of the Mother Country; and there was the interchange of the different parts of the outlying Empire with each other. The laws of supply and demand ruled not only the direction but the volume of commerce in different parts of the ocean in different times of the year. There was an accumulation in one part of an ocean at one season of the year, and the accumulation would be found in another part of that ocean at another season of the year; and it was, he could assure the noble Lord, a matter which alarmed him more than he could say that our system had produced nothing for the protection of our enormous commerce but a challenge from the head of the Admiralty that some Member should got up and tell the Admiralty how our commerce was to be protected. He was not, as he had said, blaming the noble Lord, but was merely trying to enforce on the House and on the country the gravity of the situation. No further proof was wanted that, so far as the protection of commerce was concerned, the existing system had not produced, and did not know how to produce, an organization for war. Perhaps the most interesting and the most important part of that Memorandum was the paragraph referring to the creation of an Australasian wing of the Royal Navy. The noble Lord told them in that paragraph of the arrangements in which the Australian Colonies joined with us in increasing the naval protection of British commerce in the South Pacific Ocean. Let him draw the attention of the House to a few figures relating to the extent of our commerce. The annual value of British commerce in the South Pacific Ocean in the year was £120,000,000 sterling, and it was because there was such a vast amount of value in trade there that this increase of force had been created. But between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean lay the Indian Ocean, and the annual value to the Empire of the Indian Ocean was £160,000,000 sterling—that was £40,000,000 more than the South Pacific. These values were obtained by the total export and import values of all the Empire with ports, British and foreign, within that area. Therefore, when he said that the value of the South Pacific Ocean was £120,000,000 sterling, he meant that the interchange between all British Possessions beyond the area of the South Pacific with all ports, British and foreign, in the Mouth Pacific, was in the year of the value of £120,000,000 sterling. But there was another point to be taken into account. Commerce in its transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic and from the Atlantic to the Pacific had to pass over the Indian Ocean; therefore, while the local value of the South Pacific was annually £120,000,000 sterling, and the local value of the Indian Ocean to us was £160,000,000 sterling in the year, a portion of the Pacific and Atlantic commerce passing and re-passing added to the value of the Indian Ocean. The value of the extra amount so passing through the Indian Ocean was, roughly speaking, £50,000,000 sterling a-year, so that brought the value of the Indian Ocean up to over £200,000,000 sterling a-year. He asked the attention of the House to this. We had increased our naval force in the Australasian Seas and South Pacific, because we had there a commerce of the estimated value of £120.000,000 sterling a-year, but he asked them to recollect that the Indian Ocean was worth to us over £200,000,000 sterling a-year. Now, the increasing of our naval power in the South Pacific would have the effect of keeping the hostile cruisers we feared off, but where would they go? Into the richer area of the Indian Ocean, and what were our preparations for an increased naval force in the Indian Ocean? He was sorry to say that in the same year that this measure was produced for increasing the naval force in the Australasian waters, and in the same Estimates in which provision for that increase was made, they found that there was a decrease in the contribution towards the Indian Fleet of £31,000. On page 25 of the Estimates the reason of that was given. The reason was that four vessels would be maintained in the Indian waters in 1888–9 in lieu of six vessels in 1887–8. He was afraid he had hardly made himself sufficiently clear to the House; but he would point out the broad fact that while we increased our forces in the South Pacific on account of having goods there annually to the value of £120,000,000 sterling, we had cut down our force in the Indian Seas where the value of our commerce, amounted to £200,000,000 sterling a-year. One word more, to come nearer home. Let them look at our naval dangers nearer home in connection with organization for war. The Secretary of State for War told them that they might assume that the mercantile ports might be attacked by naval forces, and that they must be prepared to defend them, and that they would be asked for money for forts, guns, and for submarine mines. The right hon. Gentleman made that statement on the Report of a Committee, which Report was in the hands of every Member of the House. In that Report he (Captain Colomb) had read that the defence of our ports resolved itself into two parts, the active and the passive. The active included the provision of gun-boats and, in a few cases, of iron-clads. It was proved to the Committee, so said the Report, that the effective protection of many ports was practically impossible, unless an active defence were provided. He presumed the First Lord of the Admiralty agreed with that. If so, why was he in his Memorandum so silent on the subject of active defence? Why was there not provision in the Estimates for this active defence which was essentially necessary to all ports, and without which some ports, according to the Committee, could not be protected at all? The Secretary of State for War further told them that— The great change, precision, and penetration of the new types of heavy guns absolutely require that all ports likely to be subjected to their attack should possess means of keeping them at a sufficient distance. The distance was the range of the guns and no more, and all that we got by a passive military defence of a mercantile port without an active naval defence was that the enemy's ships would take up a position just beyond the range of our shore guns. What was the effect of this? Why, it was that ingress and egress to and from that port would be stopped. Until we got the offing clear, all the operations of the port were suspended. Therefore, he thought there must be something terribly wrong in our national system. In one week we had this statement made and recorded in the Secretary of State for War's Memorandum, and yet absolute silence upon it in the First Lord of the Admiralty's Memorandum this week. He said again, he did not blame the First Lord of the Admiralty, but blamed the system; he was pointing out some of the great, broad results we had from the present system, which, in his opinion, were most unsatisfactory. It was, he believed, the improvised armed marauders which would prey upon the accumulation of shipping at home, as well as in foreign waters, and the areas of the greatest accumulation in the home waters were the offings of our ports—we had no organized system to keep these offings clear. We were told that these ports in time of war might be attacked by hostile cruisers, and that we must provide against this; but we had no arrangements whatever to prevent, as the Secretary of State for War pointed out, hostile cruisers taking up their position just outside the range of the shore guns, and stopping traffic coming in and out of our ports. What, did this mean for this country, what did it mean when we remembered how we were totally dependent upon the ingress and egress of our trade? It meant this—that the system did not provide us with an organization adapted for war; it meant that we ought to begin at the beginning, and look at the necessities of the case and adapt our forces to meet those necessities. He was sorry to have detained the House so long; but it was exceedingly difficult to deal with such large questions in an intelligible way in a short space of time. In parting with the question, and before he resumed his seat, he desired to ask the House to remember that there was a continuous stream in and out of the ports, and if we had no organization for the protection and security of that stream, even from mercantile marauders improvised and armed for the purpose, much damage would be done to our commerce. What was the force and volume of that stream? It might be briefly brought home to the House in this way. The entering and clearing of ships at our home ports was at the rate of 21 tons per second; two ships went in. and out per minute, and therefore one could get some idea of the effect of a want of arrangement for securing free ingress and egress to this commercial stream. When they had abstract comparisons between the number of ships we had and the number of ships other countries had, lot it be borne in mind that we had duties to perform with respect to the protection of commerce which other countries had not. For instance, the sea trade of London was in value three times the total sea-borne commerce of Russia, and the London and Liverpool trade put together largely exceeded the total sea-borne trade of all France. These were grave matters, and they required consideration. He trusted the House would forgive him for prolonging the debate; he would not have done so had he not felt the circumstances to be grave. He confessed that, much as he suspected the want of organization for war before, he had never been so convinced of it as now, when he compared the Secretary of State for War's Memorandum with that of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and when he heard the First Lord of the Admiralty ask any independent Member of the House to tell him off hand how England was to defend her commerce.


said, the appointment of the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) to a position in the Admiralty was a popular one, and his resignation had been viewed with regret. He could not understand, if half of the noble and gallant Lord's statement was correct, why the noble and gallant Lord should have forsaken his guns instead of sticking to them until they had been able to introduce the reforms in the Admiralty. The noble and gallant Lord must have known when he was at the Admiralty that sweeping and important changes were being made in the administration at Whitehall and at the Dockyards. Indeed, the Memorandum of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) was one of the clearest expositions as to the state of the Navy which he could remember. It was evident from the Memorandum that there must have been sweeping changes made in connection with our Dockyard system as well as other parts of the administration. He observed that the reforms began in 1885. No doubt they had arisen, in a great measure, from the Report of the Committee of Experts appointed by Lord Northbrook. He wished to know, as regarded the administration at Whitehall, whether any change had been made in the powers and the responsibility of the Controller of the Navy. He had often felt that the Controller of the Navy was not suited to the administration of the Dockyard system. He was a naval officer without technical training, and, however much one might admire his talents as a naval officer, he ought not to be hold responsible for the details of shipbuilding to the First Lord of the Admiralty. Again, in his opinion, there ought to be a more direct communication and responsibility thrown on the Dockyard Chief Constructors and taken away from the Admiral Superintendents. Those who had the control and responsibility for building ships and for their repairs ought to have control over the workmen. At present they had none whatever. If a workman had misconducted himself, he usually had a reprimand and was sent back to work, the recommendation of the Superintendent of the Dockyard in the matter being wholly passed over. A large sum of money was squandered in connection with the repair of ships, and he wished to know whether the recommendation of the Committee had been carried out as to doing all the repairs in the Dockyards? No doubt the recommendations in regard to preparing designs and specifications before laying down a ship, and that when once the designs and specifications were settled the vessel should be completed without delay, had been followed. That, no doubt, had prevented and would prevent Supplementary Estimates, and it would also be the means of avoiding a great deal of friction to the overseers. The Memorandum of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, in dealing with the shipbuilding programme, was rather hard on private contractors. He said— This programme has been very nearly realized, and would have been actually carried out but for delays in the delivery of contract-built ships, the non-completion of guns by the promised dates, and the difficulties that have arisen in completing some of the contractors' steam trials. He hoped that the noble Lord would remember that private shipbuilders were the pioneers in shipbuilding and in engine building in connection with the Navy, and that it was through them that they obtained high speed and economy of engines. The House was informed that they had now arrived at more accuracy in the Estimates. He wished to know in what way it was proposed to deal with incidental charges and national charges? There was a certain proportion of wages in the shape of pensions, and he asked whether the pensions were brought into the cost of construction? If that was not so, the comparison between the cost of building ships in the Dockyards and in private yards was as fallacious and absurd as it was formerly. That pension system was not consistent with the reform of the Dockyards, and it was subversive of all discipline as regarded the men. He hoped that the day was not far distant when the Admiralty would take a strong course, and put the workmen in the Dockyards on the same footing as those in private yards. Turning to another point, he asked whether the Admiralty proposed to contract for their stores in the latter part of the year and before they knew what their shipbuilding programme would be, as they had hitherto done, in consequence of which stores were ordered that were not required, and put away and left to rot, or sold at a very small price afterwards. Again, they had been told that the staff of designers would be brought forward for gun mountings. He asked had that been accomplished, because the Navy had been dependent on private yards for these designs? With regard to the torpedo question, the First Lord of the Admiralty might attach some blame to naval experts for not having informed him before that the class of torpedo boats was unsuitable for navigation with the Fleet; and if they were condemned by seamen, as he believed they would be, he hoped that the noble Lord would utilize them, for the defence of our commercial harbours. He congratulated the noble Lord on having taken a new departure in reference to shipbuilding and having omitted the iron-clads. In that he believed the Admiralty had done right, though naval opinion might differ from it. Foreign Maritime Powers were acquiring fast cruisers, and vessels of high speed and capable of keeping the sea for a long time were what we wanted in order to protect our over-increasing Mercantile Marine. It was of no use talking of iron-clads in connection with our Mercantile Marine. They might do at certain stations; but what we wanted was a large fleet of fast belted cruisers to go all over the world. With a radical reform in the Dockyard system, and with the class of ships which they were now proposing to build, he believed that they would receive more for their money, and the country would be much more contented than they had hitherto been with the state of the Navy.


said, that a great deal had been said as to the responsibility and the control of the Admiralty; but he thought that the country and the House would continue in the future, as in the past, to hold the First Lord of the Admiralty mainly responsible for everything that took place in the Admiralty, and for the conduct of all matters connected with the Navy. They were all agreed that it was essential that every man in the Admiralty Department, whether he be an admiral or a clerk, should have certain defined duties, and should be expected to give a strict account to the First Lord. He was sure that they were all agreed in regretting the absence from the Admiralty of the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), and in hoping that the noble Lord would soon be able to see his way to rejoin the Board. They all knew that the noble Lord was a brilliant officer of the Navy, and that he was fully acquainted with all matters concerning the Navy, and had the interests of the Service at heart. It was a matter of national regret that the noble Lord had found it necessary to resign his post. He (Sir John Puleston) admitted, however, that they could put against the disadvantage of losing the services of the noble Lord the advantage of having had a discussion in the House and elsewhere which probably they would not have had but for the noble Lord's resignation. He was fully persuaded that good would result from the very interesting and instructive discussion which had taken place. But, after all, the public would dwell more upon the practical question as to whether our Navy was in an efficient condition, and as to whether it was large enough to cope with all the great and growing interests of our country. He did not think it was quite sufficient to compare our Navy's tonnage with the tonnage of the Fleets of other nations. In making such a comparison they naturally took into account a large amount of tonnage which would be absolutely useless in time of war; but, assuming that the calculation was entirely admissible—which he contended it was not—he still said that was not the way in which they should dwell upon the necessities of our Navy. They should compare our Navy with the measure of our great commercial interests, which were greater than those of all the other countries put together. Our Fleet should be in proportion to those interests rather than in proportion to the Fleet of any other Power. There had also been for years past a great deal of discussion in the House upon the condition of our coaling stations. He understood that our coaling stations were still unprotected. Measures had been taken to remedy to some extent the evil which had been the subject of discussion; but, even now, if war broke out, a good deal of our effective force would be used in protecting stations which, by the adoption of a far more economical policy, could be made to protect themselves, and in this way release in times of great emergency our active forces for other and more important duties. The First Lord of the Admiralty stated that if there were any deficiency in the Navy it was not a, deficiency in money or in ships, but in guns. That was a very serious statement for the noble Lord to make. They were able to understand the gravity of the statement by recollecting what had happened in the case of the Collingwood. That vessel was to have been fitted with new guns in a few months, but it had taken two years or two years and a-half to complete the work. He would like to know whether such a question as the supply of guns could be gone into before the Committee on the Naval Estimates? If not, he presumed it could be gone into fully by the Royal Commission. It was important to know whether they were able to go into a matter of such serious consequence before the Committee on Naval Estimates; therefore, he trusted the First Lord would give them some information upon the subject. With reference to the economies in the Naval Estimates, he agreed that the Navy Estimates ought to be kept down to the lowest minimum consistent with the efficiency of the Service. But everyone who had spoken in the debate had urged that the Navy was not what it ought to be. Neither in size nor in quality was it adequate to any great emergency. Might he suggest that they could arrive at a means of improving and greatly enlarging the Navy without placing a burden upon the taxpayer by increasing the Naval Estimates? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had, with great credit to himself and great advantage to the country, just promoted a scheme of converting the National Debt, under which the country would immediately save £1,500,000 sterling, and prospectively save another £1,500,000 sterling. If the right hon. Gentleman would appropriate, for the purposes of national defence, out of this saving a sum of not more than £350,000 a-year, that would be the measure of the annual charge on £10,000,000 sterling, repayable by means of a Sinking Fund in 50 years, which could be at once raised without cost to the country. He ventured to say that there was not one hon. Member of the House—and that there was no one in the country, no matter what his politics might be—who would object to such a use being made of so small a portion of the amount which was to be saved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer's conversion scheme. He trusted that his noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton) would consider the suggestions worthy of some thought. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Jarrow Division of Durham (Sir Charles Palmer) had referred to the Dockyards. He did not understand whether the hon. Baronet was in favour of extinguishing the Dockyards altogether, or of making more use of them; but he rather imagined that the former plan was in the hon. Baronet's mind. The hon. Baronet referred to the pension system in the Dockyards, and remarked that the pension system was part of the cost of the National Dockyards, and ought to be taken into account in estimating the cost of the shipbuilding and other work done in the Dockyards. His hon. Friend failed to make a comparison between the wages paid in private shipbuilding yards and the wages paid in the Dockyards. There were times when the wages in private shipbuilding yards had beau double—they were frequently one-third more—than those paid in the Dockyards. There were many persons present, including the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Palmer) himself, who were far more competent to discuss this subject than he was; but they would admit that he (Sir John Puleston) was quite within, the mark in making the statement that the employés in private yards got far more wages than men employed in the National Dockyards. Under such circumstances, how was it that men undertook work in the Dockyards? It was simply because of the pension system. Men were willing to accept a lower rate of pay when there was a certainty of a pension or of a gratuity as they grew old. It was for this reason that the establishment of the Dockyards was one of great consequence to the Government and the country. In estimating the cost of the Dockyards, it was a mistake to suppose that the National Dockyards existed only for the building of ships. The other day it was said that the Magicienne and the Marathon had cost £140,000, whereas the sister ship the Melpomene, built in the Portsmouth Dockyard, cost £15,000 or £20,000 more. To compare the cost of ships in this way was a very delusive mode of estimating the cost of maintaining the Dockyards, because the Dockyards existed for other purposes besides the building of isolated ships. The existence of the Dockyards was a matter of national consequence, and certainly they ought never to be abolished; but better abolish them than leave them at great cost without full work, while the work was given to private yards. He regretted very much to see from the newspapers that another large discharge of men, hitherto employed in the boiler establishment at Sheerness, was contemplated, not on account of the want of work, but because, as the newspapers asserted, the work had been given to private contractors. He asserted—and he was persuaded every business man in the country would agree with him—that it was not business, at all events, and it could not be profitable finance, to allow plant and property, such as we had in our Dockyards, to remain idle, while work was given to private contractors. If the work could not be properly performed in the Dockyards, it was the fault of those who had the control of the Dockyards. Men in the Dockyards did their work well. No one in the Admiralty had over ventured to say that Dockyard work was not well done. There was another reason why comparisons might not be drawn between the cost of building ships in the Dockyards and in private yards. It was a fact that a very considerable number of ships built by private contractors had had, after a very short time, to be overhauled in the Dockyards. Besides, there were times when it was impossible to get work done in private yards at any reasonable price at all. It was not very long ago—not further back than the time of the Russian War—when it was very essential to have certain vessels then being built, that private yards by themselves had been unable to do the work required. What happened at that time? There was a great strike, owing to the great pressure and demand for labour, in the private building yards, and the Admiralty had to send drafts of men from the Royal Yards to Millwall to put the vessels then being built at Millwall in a sufficiently forward condition to enable them to be brought to the Dockyards to be fitted. Such a state of matters might happen again in the time of a great war, and, if we had no Royal Dockyards to fall back upon, it was quite possible to conceive that the consequences might be most disastrous. The fact was that the amount of what was called control at the Dockyards was so great, and the discharges of men had been so large, that only a very simple mathematical calculation was necessary to enable us to come to the conclusion that the supervisors and controllers would soon be greater in number than the employés. No one who had ever occupied the post of First Lord of the Admiralty was more anxious to do full justice and lo act equitably to everybody in the employ of the Department, and at the same time to do his duty to the Service itself, than the noble Lord who now occupied the position of First Lord. No man had so well mastered the difficulties of the position as the present First Lord, and he (Sir John Puleston) thanked the noble Lord for the courtesy he had always displayed in his dealings with what were called "Dockyard Representatives." There was no one more unwelcome to the Admiralty than a so-called "Dockyard Member." Whenever the Representative of a Dockyard constituency approached the Admiralty he was treated with the greatest disdain, though his suggestions were so reasonable that the Admiralty could scarcely refrain from adopting or considering them. The officials of the Admiralty seemed to regard their Department in the light of a close Corporation, and for that reason he seldom approached the Admiralty. A great deal had been said about the control at the Admiralty. No doubt, too much had been made of the matter, but there was certainly something in the complaint. There was an exhibition of the want of control the other day in Devonport. There was a great scare and tremendous excitement in that town because an order, signed by an official at Whitehall, had been sent down to the Controller's Office to prepare an Estimate for providing for 1,100 or more fewer men at Devonport, and this, hon. Members would note, was after the assurance had been officially, as well as privately, given by the First Lord of the Admiralty that no more discharges were contemplated, as was shown by the programme of work. He thought the First Lord's assurance was quite correct, because, judging from the amount of work to be done, there seemed to be no question that fewer men would be required. As a matter of fact, in Portsmouth they were already taking on more men. The First Lord very kindly and promptly said there was no truth in the rumour that these discharges were contemplated; but he could not have been aware of what the officials at the Admiralty were doing in the matter. The town was thrown into confusion by the rumour. The Admiral Superintendent at Devonport was appealed to at once in order to allay the excitement; but he, a man of secretive mind, refused to give any information. It was impossible, however, that such a serious order like the one he had alluded to, having, as it had, to pass through so many hands, should not leak out. He read it, as the public generally read it, in the newspapers. That did not speak very much for the control; and he thought that the sooner the First Lord of the Ad- miralty had a little more, rather than less, control over the Controller's Department, and every other Department of the Service, the better it would be for the Service, and everybody connected with it. He trusted that the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty would give his serious attention to the suggestion which had been made as to an alteration in the hours of labour in the Dockyards. It had been suggested that in the summer time work in the Yards should cease at 5 o'clock. By this means there would be no lessening of the hours of labour; but the change would, he thought, conduce to the well-being of all the men employed in the Yards. When the Committee stage was reached there were a few other matters to which he desired to refer, and especially as to some points of importance affecting the warrant officers, a body of men reflecting so much credit on the Service; also as to the shipwrights, whose Petitions had not been even noticed; and also the engine-room artificers, whose position now should be more compatible with the increased and increasing importance of their duties.

MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)

said, he held that the first effect of war would be to drive nearly all our commerce into neutral bottoms, and that the only remedy was an extension of the Treaty of Paris on the lines formulated by the late Mr. Marcy, who was the American Minister deputed to attend the Conference when the Declaration of Paris was signed. With reference to the speech delivered on a former occasion by the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), he agreed that greater responsibility ought to be imposed upon the heads of the Departments at the Admiralty, provided that the responsibility of the First Lord remained the same as now. While an improvement had been made with regard to the mode of completing new ships, no improvement had been taken with regard to repairs, and the system ought to be seriously considered. At present, neither a commander nor chief engineer had the power to order on his own responsibility as much as a pound of candles. The result was that when a vessel was taken to Sheerness or elsewhere for some repair, however small, the commander or engineer must make a requisition, which was forwarded from Department to Department, with the result that work which could be done in 48 hours was not completed until after the lapse of 12 or 14 days. How, he asked, would that system succeed in a time of great emergency? An instance of the delay for which this system was responsible occurred only a short time ago, when the machinery of the Buzzard broke down, and when the work of repair which could have been executed in a few days was spread over a verymuch longer time—nearly three months. Work which could be done by the crew of a vessel on her return home for next to nothing often cost hundreds of pounds. Not long ago, the captain of a ship desired that some little alteration should be made in his cabin, and suggested that it could be done by his own carpenters. The suggestion, however, was not acceded to; a gang of joiners were sent on board, the cabins were pulled to pieces, and thus work which could have been, done for 5s. cost the country a very much larger sum—he (Mr. Gourley) believed £1,300. He was sorry that the Board had not taken a new departure in the matter of designs. He should like to see a Constructive Council consisting of three Naval Lords, two shipbuilders, two engineers, and the Financial Secretary, and presided over by the First Lord; and to this Council the Chief Constructor and the Chief Engineer should submit designs and costs for shipbuilding in the Navy. They should consider those designs, and when once a design had been passed, no alteration should be allowed to be made during the progress of construction; and the Chief Constructor and the Chief Engineer should be absolutely responsible for any defect which might arise in the construction of a vessel as between the original design and the final completion down to the time of the ship being commissioned. This would be a means of preventing such mistakes as had occurred in the cases of the Ajax, the Agamemnon, the Impérieuse, and others. He did not find from the Memorandum that any provision was made for exercising control over the consumption of coals and stores. Many commanders and engineers were more extravagant than others, and there ought to be a system of checking them. [The SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Forwood): So there is.] He was glad to hear it, but there was no mention of it in the Memorandum. Every year about £20,000 was demanded for Coastguard buildings in which we now had invested £1,000,000 or £1,500,000, which represented £300 per house per man. Surely the time had come when the pruning knife might be applied to this expenditure; and it would probably be as well if half the men were kept afloat. He recognized the great reforms in Dockyard administration under the régime of the present First Lord, one result of which was that ships were now built so rapidly that they had to wait months for their guns—another matter in which reform was required. He saw no reason why we should have four Dockyards—two great Yards in full work were, he thought, enough, for their multiplication added greatly to the cost both in London and in the Yards. With fewer Yards we should diminish the expense of supervision. Why should we have four if France could do with two? It was said that when Woolwich was closed the Navy would go to the dogs; but it had not suffered from that step. Replying to the First Lord's statements regarding the comparative strength of the British and French Navies, he held that the comparative strength of Navies was to be tested by the power of guns, the speed of vessels, the armour of vessels, and coal endurance. Comparing our second-class iron-clads with those of France in these respects, he inferred that the superiority was possessed by France, because all her second-class iron-clads were armed with breech-loading guns, whilst ours were of the old muzzle-loading type.


said, that it was time the discussion now ended, and in the hope of accelerating the time when the Speaker might leave the Chair he would answer some of the questions that had been put by hon. Members. He fully recognized the value of the testimony of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Sir Charles Palmer) as to the improvement in the Dockyards. The hon. Baronet was the head of one of the largest shipbuilding firms in the Kingdom, and his approval was all the more valuable on that account. He could assure him there was no disposition on the part of the Admiralty, as the hon. Member for Devonport (Sir John Puleston) seemed to think, to unduly reduce the Dockyard Establishments. They had now made arrangements by which they hoped hereafter to be able to give work permanently to certain establishments; and if it was necessary to increase the number of men at any one Dockyard, these men would be taken on for casual work, and when that work was over they would be discharged. At the same time, it was not intended to make any reduction of private work. Considering the magnitude and novelty of the work which private yards undertook in 1885, the work had been done with great rapidity; and if there were firms that, in consequence of the novelty of the requirements, had not been able to complete their contracts within the specified time, the firm of the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Palmer) was not among them, for, indeed, his firm had delivered their ships some time in advance. With regard to the number of iron-clads waiting for guns there were four so waiting, one of them being the Collingwood, which had been waiting for them since October, 1886; but it was not through any fault connected with the Department at Woolwich that the delay at occurred. There were also four bolted cruisers nearly ready for guns, and they would practically be quite ready by the time the guns were ready to be put on board. Great pressure had been brought to bear on the Admiralty to induce them to spend a large sum of money in increasing the number of torpedo boats. So far as torpedo boats were concerned, we had only sufficient to protect our fortresses at home and abroad. The hon. and gallant Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex (Admiral Field) was very anxious that the Naval Lords should be put in a better position than they now occupied. He (Lord George Hamilton) was bound to say that he could not exactly understand what the hon. and gallant Gentleman was driving at. They were told that the great principle to establish was that of individual responsibility. The Board could not be in its collective capacity a good executive machine, because responsibility could not be brought home to anyone; and the hon. and gallant Gentleman had struggled to revive the old system by which all business was done by the Board day by day, and under which no man was responsible. The system now was that each Naval Lord was responsible for his own Department. In regard to what had been said as to the responsibility of the Naval Lords, the executive business was transacted outside the Board, and all questions of principle and policy were discussed at the Board, which was a most useful Council for consultative purposes or for dealing with questions of policy. The Naval Lords must retain in their own hands the power of dealing with executive questions in their own Departments, and be responsible for the Departments under them. To go back to the old system would not only cause an enormous amount of delay, but would result in the Board over and over again having to reverse its decisions. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bow (Captain Colomb) referred to a certain statement in the Memorandum, in which he (Lord George Hamilton) declined to say precisely in what manner the Navy in time of war would most effectually protect commerce. That was not a question on which they could speak with confidence, because there had been no great naval war in recent years. Therefore, experience upon the subject was wanting. One thing, however, was perfectly clear—that our commerce was in the greatest danger when it passed through the land-locked seas, or where the great stream of commerce passed nearest to the land, which would afford protection to hostile cruisers; and it was, therefore, clear that it was the policy of the Government to husband their strength by having a large force in reserve at home. That was the policy which the Board pursued. They had often been attacked for not sending their first-class iron-clads to foreign waters; but there were but few iron-clads in commission on the high seas belonging to foreign nations. If they excluded the iron-clads in the European seas, there were only two belonging to Foreign Powers on the high seas on distant stations. That being so, and the policy of other nations being to concentrate their forces at home, we must do the same. The policy of the Government was opposed to any wholesale building of vessels, for if the Admiralty laid down a large number of ships at one time, so rapid was the change in design and in the development of speed that they would probably in 10 or 15 years be obsolete or useless. Therefore, nothing was clearer, if we were to maintain our strength continuously, than that we should year by year lay down a certain number of vessels. He was, therefore, altogether adverse to wholesale outlay; but what they believed to be absolutely necessary for the efficiency of the Navy was that the expenditure should be continuous, and kept, if possible, at the same level; but the difficulty at the present moment was not the want of ships, but of gun-producing power. The desire of the Admiralty was that ships should be built and pushed on as rapidly as possible; but it was no use putting an excessive amount of money in ships, if those ships had to wait for guns and ammunition. Last year they estimated that £1,800,000 was the minimum amount to be spent year by year to make good depreciation and waste in the Fleet; but this year they were spending £2,070,000 in shipbuilding, and £2,970,000 for depreciation, in addition to £500,000 on the Australian Squadron. Their object had been throughout, both in framing the Estimates and in establishing the depreciation fund, to insure continuity of policy, so that, whoever might be First Lord, if he attempted to diminish the amount spent in shipbuilding below that fixed for depreciation or waste, or if he chose to increase the amount, he should give his explanation to the House. By this means he thought that they would succeed in gradually, but effectually, raising the strength of the Navy to a point which, he hoped, would bring assurance and confidence to the minds of hon. Gentlemen. He was glad to inform the House that, with regard to gun mounting, they had been very successful. Only yesterday the two large 110-ton guns of the Benbow were thoroughly tried and tested with their new mountings, and the result was most satisfactory. He quite agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex that it was very important to have a Dockyard at Bombay, on the East Indian Station, capable of holding the largest iron-clad in Her Majesty's Navy. The hon. and gallant Member had, however, very much underestimated the cost. The Board were in communication with the Indian Govern- ment on the subject, and it appeared that the adequate enlargement of the existing docks would involve a much larger sum than that mentioned. But he quite agreed that it was essential there should be a dock on the East Indian Station which would take in any vessel in the Navy that was likely to go there for any purpose, and the hon. and gallant Member might rely upon it that they would take the necessary measures to insure that result.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.